I once had a horrible English teacher, Mrs. Cunliffe, who was strict and, of course, had it in for me. There is only one thing that, to this day, four decades later, rings in my ears: “Enough is enough and too much is plenty.” In other words, “Goldring, I have had enough of you.”
“Our” family, courtesy of my wife, invited us to a lunch before a family wedding. Some of us (not my wife, of course) were wondering if this was getting to be a bit much. I mean our holiday is being somewhat transformed into a Meet the Fockers come Turkish emersion experience. But, being who we are, the extraordinary compliment, our love for new experiences and the need to appease SWMBO, we were going.
Of course, we had no idea what to expect and were not sure that it was a good idea. I mean we aren’t really family, other than my wife we don’t really know any Turkish (though my mate’s wife is giving it a real go) and, of course, barging in a lunch of unknown size, location or formality…and not even knowing who was getting married was, as my children say, “awkward”.
So we organize a thank you gift (a box of salt water taffy from Asbury Park, New Jersey), I put on my Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville shirt (the most formal thing I brought with me), and met the family at Place of Huseyin’s at 11:00 a.m. for a seven kilometer ride up through the mountains. Meryem, the 16 year old, tells us to follow her and she drives with both of the mothers and the two young children.
My mate and I had ventured up the mountain a few days ago and “discovered” some ancient Lycian tombs, a small beautiful pine forest and then the top of the mountain. When we reached the mountain top that day we did a quick survey and said, “Well, there is nothing down there so let’s go back.” In once sense we were correct, but in the true sense, we were so very wrong: An entire community lives on that side of the mountain and that is where the lunch was being held.
We begin our decent down the mountain and then at a very modest and rustic home we turn in and parked. We are met by an uncle, the family dog, some chickens and a feeling of, “OK, now what?” I saw an old, and well used, cush (Turkish sitting area), but nothing else and certainly no lunch. We were then directed to walk down the road (obviously we were honored with private parking rather than parking on the road).
We walked up a dirt path and there was a group of women under the cover of a porch on of a larger, but still rustic, house. We were offered seats under a tree. OK, but now what?
Minutes later we were walked over to an open area with old canvases stretched into tents with tables and plastic chairs. We walk past the “kitchen” which consisted of six or seven women, each with a large cauldron in front of them, sitting on the ground, happily making enormous portions of each dish. Not wanting to be too nosey, I just took a quick look and hope for a better view later.
When we go to sit down, the young boy, Ali, positions himself so that he sits next to me and he lets it be known that he is the man of the table and is going to be taking care of me. He is a good boy and, I think, is enjoying being teased and tricked by me. What is interesting is that we are hosted only by the women and Ali, None of the men are with us. I am not sure if it is a separation of men and women or the men were hung over from a party last night. OK, but now what?
Newspaper is placed over the table, bread in large bag is placed on it…and then a huge tray of food is brought over…And the Feast begins! Bowl after bowl is placed on the table: Cicik (this time made with ayran – a local yogurt drink), fresh salad, a hot and sweet milk soup, beans, a lentil porridge, rice with chicken and roasted goat in a tomato, olive oil and spices, and a sweet dessert which tasted similar to the inside of a Cadbury’s Crunchie candy.
This is a true “family style” affair: You are given a single spoon and you just share the food one spoonful at a time. The food was delicious; especially the roasted goat. It was truly a feast. And just as the goat was almost finished, they brought another bowl over. Absolutely amazing and very touching.
What was really interesting to me was not only how warmly we were treated…just like the other villagers…but how many people were there. I only saw a few cars, but there were dozens and dozens of people. From what I gathered, they were almost all relatives.
As we left we stopped by the “kitchen” the women were very welcoming, with big smiles, saying things I had not a clue about…but they never stopped cooking. We thanks them for a delicious lunch and then walked on.
We noticed that some of them had henna-stained hands. (It is a rural Turkish tradition to henna the hands of the bride, so that must have happened earlier in the day.) As we left I thought it was interesting that we never met the bride to be or the groom, but in a way I was relieved, because I just couldn’t help thinking that as welcomed and well treated as we were, that we were imposing on this family’s celebration.
But now what? We headed back to the cars. Ali takes me through a shortcut. He wants to show me his uncle’s goat and kid, so we slip through the back way. Just as happenstance, his mother –Durkadin- is reaching up, backlit, picking out a couple of bunches of dried tea (chai). It is just a beautiful moment. (I wish I knew this woman’s story. There is something special about her.) Ali tells me how good her tea tastes.
But now what? We were taken further down the mountain to a relatively cooler place (maybe 85 degrees?) for a cool drink and a chat under a large cinar tree. Before we sat down we were taken over to a marble fountain of sorts which really was simply two pipes that were outlets for the plentiful spring water to wash our hands and face. The local villagers were instantly deferential and moved away their water jugs so we could partake.
After we sat down, I made the mistake of ordering an ayran as I was just too full. Everyone else ordered a Coke. I have never seen any of the rural people drinking Coke…but then again, how many times to you see them being themselves?
It was then time for the women to break out the box of salt water taffy. It was a pretty good size box and in a matter of 10 minutes it was gone! They loved it. We took some photos of each other, went back over the water fountain for a second wash and then it was time to say goodbye and drive back to the villa.
As we entered it, it really hit me. Here we are staying in the luxury villa with awesome views and most every comfort (including running hot and cold water, air conditioning, satellite tv which we never turn on, etc.) and literally just up the road there is an entirely different, simpler…and in many ways, more difficult…world. What a privilege it is to experience both, no less in the same day and right next to each other.
And how do you possibly say, “Thank you” enough when you are given life enriching experiences like today’s? I think “our” family is probably thinking the same thing…at least I hope so.
Well, Mrs. Cunliffe: Enough may be enough for you, but I crave more than enough!