On the Menu
My last post kicked off an ongoing series called On the Menu. I shared a bit about my first experience with Tost. A key desire for our family in moving to Turkey is learning to live in a foreign culture and learning the foreign culture. Turkey is so intriguing to us, but we are discovering that engaging a totally new culture is a massive endeavor. I realize that it isn’t something to do over a weekend, or even in the month that we have lived here.
The way I have seen it, there are two key entry points for engaging with the culture, especially as an expat who has just moved here. One is language and the other is food. A culture isn’t contained in language and food, but so much of the culture is displayed by and woven into these things. Needless to say, I am eagerly engaging both.
Today, I want to share about a tiny intersection between these two things. I am enrolled in a language class 20 hours per week. There is nothing easy about learning Turkish, but the class is fun and it is helping me climb the mountain of learning to speak and understand Turkish. Every hour, we take a 10 minute break. Right across the street from my class is a little Börek shop.
The way I figured it, I am spending half a day each day learning the language. I might as well take the opportunity to start exploring the local cafes and shops around my class during my breaks and commute time. My favorite little spot is the Börek shop.
There are 4 main kinds of Börek. “Ispanaklı,” “peynirli,” “patatesli,” and “etli.” Those are “spinach,” “cheesey,” “potato,” and “meat.” Essentially, it is a long croissant, with one of those fillings, chopped up and served warm. It is light, flaky, and delicious. I prefer it for breakfast, but I have had one for a snack mid-day, as well as for lunch. It never really felt out of place. So far, I have only tried the meat version. I’ll be trying other kinds too.
- Börek – 15 TL ($1.00)
- Çay – 3 TL ($0.22)
It is absolutely worth it. Starting with Tost was a very simple, familiar start into Turkish food. Börek is a small step forward. One of my favorite parts about the food and drink at this little shop is actually the opportunity to say hello and begin speaking some basic Turkish with the owners. They are very kind and friendly people and they are patient with my elementary language abilities. They wave at me when I walk by their shop too.
Like I said at the outset, this is one example of food being a gateway to culture. It is offering me taste, environment, language opportunity, and new relationships. These are the things I’m here for (in reverse order!).