Adrift in the Culinary Doldrums

Something bleak and oppressive has taken hold of me.

It’s the cook’s version of writer’s block, and it’s tormented me for weeks. The cupboards are a barren wasteland of half-empty spice packets and spilled lentils. The burners are cold. The kitchen smells of…nothing. A couple days ago I wandered through the aisles of the local Migros and emerged empty handed.

I’m out of ideas.

“What’s for dinner?” my family usually inquires around 5 pm.

“Um, I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s in the fridge?”

“Two wizened cucumbers, a kilo of rotting spinach, a heel of farmer’s cheese, some Chinese curry paste and three eggs.”

This grim reply silences my interrogators and casts a pall over the apartment.

Now to be fair, I’m dealing with some limitations. In the first place, we don’t have an oven. In the second place, meat isn’t a huge option. Being in a Muslim country, there’s no pork, unless I want to shop at the overpriced and culturally questionable “Pork Shop,” a local business that caters to English expats. Beef, lamb and chicken are available, but the beef and lamb are pricey; as for chicken, well, let’s just say I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than eat more chicken. And it doesn’t help that the sublime fruits (figs, nectarines, peaches) and flavorful tomatoes of summer are long gone, replaced by the duller, more stalwart offerings of winter.

Come to think of it, my culinary inspiration always dries up this time of year.

But enough whinging. I need to snap out of it before the kid runs away from home.

Fortunately today is Tuesday, which means the sprawling Fethiye farmer’s market is on.

Although the bounty of summer is over, bins still overflow with onions, potatoes, carrots, peppers, unfamiliar leafy greens, leeks, cabbages, herbs, green beans, radishes, zucchini, pomegranates, chestnuts, tangerines, plums, apples, melons and more. Opened sacks of dried legumes, grains, nuts, and mysterious spices and powders punctuate the produce tables along with cases of locally produced honey, cheeses, yogurt, and olive oil. My culinary cup is not half empty but half full.

But what to do with it all?

Before hopping on the dolmuş and heading down the hill, I’m going poke around my favorite Turkish-recipe websites for some new ideas, something I should have done weeks ago. The Turks work magic with grains and vegetables, so by focusing in that direction, it should be easy enough to reinvigorate my repertoire. After all, these Ottoman green beans I made a couple weeks ago were a hit, and the kid couldn’t gobble them down fast enough.

These are my favorite Turkish-recipe websites. Let’s see if they can help me out.

Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook

Ottoman Cuisine

Turkey’s for Life

Wish me luck! I’ll report back after the market.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason @Travel Junkies November 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm

At least you have beer! How are the restaurant or street food prices over there? Too expensive to eat out all the time? I have heard that it actually cheaper to eat out for every meal in Thailand than it is to cook yourself.


2 Mark November 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Jason, I always enjoy investigating the local beer where ever I travel. Efes is particularly good. Though one of my favorites is Singha. Street food here can be reasonable. The other day I had a döner sandwich (on great bread) with fries and drink for 3.00 lira (about $1.50). They threw in a çay for free. Nice deal.

Though most restaurants in Turkey are not too expensive, they can add up. Since we have relocated to this fab apartment in a local neighborhood, we have been enjoying a proper kitchen for a while. The three weekly farmer’s markets in Fethiye are excellent and few restaurants are in our immediate vicinity. But don’t get me wrong. We have been getting out plenty.

Thailand is exceptional when it comes to vendor food. We miss it. Eating out in Thailand makes more sense. And it’s always an adventure.


3 Turkey's For Life November 30, 2011 at 6:06 am

Ha ha, I was just about to suggest a good blog for recipes to you. 😉 I love the Ottoman Cuisine blog you recommended and have since bookmarked it. Have used Binnur for a while and there’s also another good one I use a lot which is my favourite.
Burcu is a great cook. We’ve cooked loads of her recipes in the past and they always come out well.
Hope you did lots of cooking with your market bounty.


4 Renee December 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

Cheers, Julia. So glad you are liking Ottoman Cuisine. Did you see that scrumptious-looking recipe for Lor Tatlisi?

Heading off to check out Almost Turkish now. It sounds familiar….


5 Jenn December 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I had to giggle because I’ve gone through this too. I’ve done toast and eggs for supper so many times when I was feeling uninspired. I loved the farmer’s markets and always tended to buy too much, then our veggies/fruit would go bad before we got a chance to eat them. The Efes is nice though! ;=)

Thanks for sharing the recipe sites. Going to play around with some of them!


6 Renee December 2, 2011 at 7:59 am

I can’t tell you how many veggies I throw out. It’s an absolute scandal.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: