Beyond the incredible historical sights and alien landscapes, we spent an embarrassing portion of our first excursion eating. Since it would take several years to describe every food item we consumed over the course of the last week, here’s a general illustration of our typical meals. All of our meals come in courses. We sit down to a table already laden with bread (both normal white bread and a type of Turkish cornbread) and salad. Salads here consist solely of tomato, cucumber, onion, cilantro, pepper, and olive oil. Literally every time, without fail. There are often a variety of yogurts or yogurt-based dips for our ekmek (bread) and bottles of su (water) by every seat. Everyone helps themselves to bread and salad from the communal dishes, and then come the appetizers. Usually lentil soup or soup with rice, you pound that down assuming that the meal is over. But no, there’s more. Then comes the main course. For breakfast it might be Turkish omelets (very little in common with normal omelets, rather a plate of flat cheese and egg mixed with flour and sometimes chives or green onions) or menemen, a delicious egg, cheese, tomato, and pepper dish that you put onto bread. At the table there is almost always a delicious pomegranate mollases that goes well with olive oil on salads or for bread dipping. People consume olive oil in Turkey like it’s water. Alican told us it’s something like several liters a year per person. What?!
Lunch main courses are usually vegetables such as white beans or green beans cooked in, you guessed it, olive oil, with lots of spices and other unknown tasty things. A few of our lunches have also consisted of the Turkish equivalent of fondue, called kuymak or mihlama. This super healthy mixture of cheese, butter, and corn flour comes out in steaming iron pots and (unfortunately) tastes better than all the cheeses I’ve ever eaten in America combined.
Moving on to dinner, the main course is usually some kind of meat—I’m a big chicken so I have not been willing to brave the lamb or liver kebabs. I also have yet to take my chances with one of the trout served with bones, skin and head. Soooo for me it’s been lots of tavuk (chicken), mouth watering eggplant dishes, and green or white beans.
Ok so we’re done right? NOPE! Even though you feel like you’re about to vomit, you have to make room for Turkish dessert because, of course, YOIRTO (you’re only in rural Turkey once). Dessert is usually baklava, Turkish rice pudding, or a very strange classic Turkish dish called helva. Helva looks like and has the texture of sand, but tastes about as far from sand as is possible. It is utterly delicious and we’re all probably going to have to bring back a lifetime supply of helva to the States to fill our cravings. Dessert is followed by the delivery of hand towels so that everyone can cleanse themselves after the meal (although at this point I think we’d all be more down for the type of cleanse where we don’t eat for a week), and then it’s time for tea. Turkish tea, known as chay, is said to help with digestion and is served complimentarily after every single Turkish meal, no questions asked. I want to love it, but it makes you pee like a fiend and when a group of 17 girls spends hours at a time on a bus sans bathroom bouncing around the Anatolian hills, it’s a recipe for disaster.