#Middle East is the only caption necessary.
Welcome back to part one of the four part series on 'the price of eating clean in Turkey'.
What a week!
I started my Kamp Kamila Fitness Challenge and with that the diet to go with it.
As I said in the last post, the introduction to this series, I will be updating you on my food choices, options available to me here in Turkey as well as the costs incurred and the types of dishes that I was able to prepare with the foods bought.
So here goes... reveal time!
Shopping at an International Grocery Chain, Migros, and a National Chain, A101, I picked up these items mostly comprising fruits and vegetables.
- 100% Whole Grain Bread
- Fresh mixed Nuts
Considering that I bought from an International chain as well as from two national chains, it was pretty affordable.
These items like most fruits and vegetables are priced by the kilo. And as a result, I was able to buy stock that would last more than one week.
So, let's take a look at the round up, shall we?
Grand Total? ... 126.09TL
Of course the kilo of mixed unsalted nuts spiked the price because without this item which is considered a delicacy in the Middle East, the bill would have been 76.59 TL.
I am still pretty impressed with what I got and with what I paid.
Many of these items after being used in my meals for the week are still in my fridge guaranteeing me a second week of use.
The bag of spinach for about 7TL surprised me too... in a good way. It was pretty dense and full so I was not cheated on the contents and certainly came in handy in pretty much every meal from breakfast to dinner.
Compared to Barbados
As for Barbados comparisons, I certainly think that Turkey was way cheaper by at least 60%. Items like pomegranates of course are not a staple in the Caribbean and so would cost an obscene amount of money. Obscene.
Let me explain. If you want to buy another 'specialty' item like asparagus, that will usually run you easily into the 100 BDS range ... for 10 stalks. That's is about 50 USD. The pomegranate would price similarly for maybe around 25 BDS for just one.
So with a kilo of apples and onions coming up to below 5TL, you must understand that there is no comparison on price in terms of looking for any similarities.
Turkey is as cheap a place that you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Again these items were bought in one International Food Chain and two National chains. The majority (90%) were bought in Migros and the rest, (eggs, bulgur, nuts and bread) in the other two.
Sooo... what did you have cooking?
Pictured, we also have pomegranate seeds and pear for a light snack/meal; bulgur rice, steamed broccoli, carrots and steamed fish; sauteed spinach with onions seasoned with black pepper, stir fried potatoes with chicken and lastly some of the fresh kilo of fish that I bought.
These meals and snacks, pretty much made up my week of menu items.
I thoroughly enjoyed each meal as they were seriously as tasty as they were pretty to look at.
I hope that was useful for you as I continue to explore the price of eating healthy in Turkey. Next week, I focus on market prices and goods to learn if buying straight from the farmer is better.
I thought that I would get the ball rolling on my fitness regimen straight out of the gate for 2016.
I have always been pretty health conscious, at least, I would say for the last two years or so when I started exercising regularly and also learned in doing so, that exercising was but one part of the battle to staying healthy.
Of course, diet counts too. In fact some would say that those flat toned abs are really a product of what you eat and not how much exercise you do.
So, coming from the Caribbean, you would think that flat toned abs are in abundance, right?
Don't ask me, I don't look.
What I do know for sure is that even with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables many Caribbean people don't eat clean and healthy.
Well, over the last four decades or so most Caribbean islands, Barbados included, have moved away from agricultural based economies to services industries economies. As a result, farms and the trade are certainly becoming less in numbers and profit.
As a result, most of Barbados' fruits and vegetables are imported.
Of course imported goods always come with an added cost to the consumer. Such to the case, that eating clean and healthy has become a very expensive endeavour.
Furthermore, as more people, particularly women have joined the workforce, most families don't have the privilege anymore of home cooked meals; most content to settle for the convenience of a drive-thru.
How different is Turkey?
It is as different as it could possible be.
First of all, Turkey is perhaps one of the most self-sufficient and sustaining countries in the world. Everything and I do mean everything is grown in Turkey.
So much so is agriculture a part of their culture and day to day life, that after speaking to anyone for 20 minutes you will often learn that their father, uncle, brother or son is a farmer. It is just an integral part of Turkish (Eastern) life.
Furthermore, as most Turkish women become and remain housewives after marriage, most households have the privilege of home cooked meals daily to the point where most Turkish homes don't have or want for a microwave.
And you can bet that with such a strong focus on home cooked meals, that Turkish cuisine is very distinguishable and dense. But clean though- always clean.
Even their most hedonistic meal, monti, a pasta, ravioli dish served smothered in yogurt is 'pretty healthy' considering the ingredients.
This distinguishable characteristic can be seen even further in their fast food.
A Whopper in Turkey is not a Whopper in NYC.
After eating one in Turkey you feel like you just had a light snack.
So, given the strong agricultural base and lifestyle in Turkey, is it possible to eat healthy in Turkey?
Remember, I cited that cost and lifestyle were impediments to most Caribbean people eating healthy.
While I did suggest that Turkish food is relatively cheap because of its high production of fruits and vegetables, you must understand that that is just a generalisation based on an assumption often construed as fact.
How possible (and cheap) is it to really eat clean in Turkey... every day for 30 days?
Kamp Kamila Fitness Challenge
Well, I am about to find out.
I started my fitness regimen two years ago in Barbados after I was introduced to Kamila McDonald-Alcock's 10 Pound Pledge workout series.
Now for 2016 she is back at it again with a new fitness program.
And you guessed it, I signed up.
This program is not only for exercise but also for diet. As a result, for the next 30 days I will be challenged to eat clean and healthy for every meal using Kamila's approved list of food items.
As a result, I will give you a weekly update and breakdown of my diet. That includes the breakdown of costs and the types of dishes that I have been able to prepare with the foods that I bought.
Supermarket vs. market
In Turkey, well the entire Middle East for that matter, all prices are negotiable when buying from the seller face to face. As a result, markets always fetch the best bargains.
But sometimes it is just not practical for me to get to a market.
However, I will try to do so about twice during this four week program so that I can compare supermarket prices with market prices, because again it is just an assumption to believe that market prices will be cheaper. They just may not be.
So starting next Monday, I will bring to you the first part of this series breaking down how I eat healthy in Turkey.
At this point I want to take the opportunity to encourage you to make a good start to 2016 by incorporating healthy foods into your diet.
Trust me. It works!
Pizza is Turkish; not Italian.
Sure, it is known as pide in Turkey, but it is nonetheless the most authentic pizza you will ever have. It should be noted that Turkish people do not consider pide as pizza. Lahmacun is the officially Turkish pizza. However, pide, I really do believe, is what most Westerners would consider to be pizza based off the template 'set' by Italians.
Given that the Ottoman empire at its height stretched to the south of Italy, I am not surprised that pide has been claimed by Italy. True Italian pizza does not mirror its subsequent derivatives found in America and elsewhere. True Italian pizza is the thinnest, flattest hearth baked dough, topped with a dainty medley of toppings all packed with amazing flavour. If I did a good job of describing Italian pizza, then I am yet to do an even better one of describing pide.
Made fresh for each customer, dough is rolled and hand pressed to a thin layer of perfection and then oven baked with a medley of flavours so simple in ingredients but complex in taste it is almost blasphemous. Thinly sliced sweet peppers, tomato, lettuce, beef and onions sprinkled with the perfect herb complement are evenly spread on the flat pide and topped with the slightest topping of cheese. Cheddar is not popular in Turkey. Rather, goats cheese is usually the order of the day, which certainly is less intense in flavour than cheddar.
I think what overwhelms me about pide is that no one ingredient is center stage. Rather all ingredients are necessary to create this insanely cozy warm rewarding culinary experience.
Unlike western pizza which is thick, hard and plastered in tomato paste and cheese, pide is the canvas on which, I think, the Ottoman culinary aesthetic shines. No olives for me though. As a result, you are not left with this overwhelmingly heavy feeling that the consumption of Western pizza almost always guarantees. And for that, I am most grateful. It is refreshing to have a reminder of your day's meal on your tongue and not felt in your stomach many hours after eating.
I think what also adds to the experience of pide is that many times you can watch the whole process from start to finish. The making of the dough, placing of the ingredients and the placing of the unbaked pide into the authentic stone hearth oven. It is a must see and must try experience.
I wanted to share with you a few bits and pieces of what I consider to be condiments even though Turkish people may not, as well as my favourite Turkish grain. I say condiments because these things don't make a meal on their own, they are added to make the meal complete and Turkish ready. As a result, they are sure to be found in every Turkish home and restaurant. Keep on reading to find out more. From left to right: A tray of Konserve, Yeşil Zeytin, Salça; Tulum, Menemen, Ekmek, Bulgur, Bulgur and sarımsak; Konserve with Patlıcan and Bulgur.
I can say with authority that konserve is a must have in every Turkish kitchen. It is made of tomatoes, onions and green peppers. While the onions and green peppers are diced in medium sized chunks, the tomatoes are whole and stewed along with the aforementioned ingredients. When cooled, the mixture is bottled for later use.
It is one of the most important Turkish kitchen must haves because it is used as the main ingredient in a traditional Turkish breakfast dish called mememen.
However, it can be added to pretty much anything- meat, pasta or other vegetables as a side dish.
In the Caribbean, I don't believe that we have anything comparable- well I should say Barbados. Yes, we do stew tomatoes, but it does not feature as part of every day Barbadian cuisine in the same way that konserve does in Turkey.
Furthermore, the diverse way in which konserve is used is what makes it so intriguing to me. I must reference mememen again when I speak of intriguing, as you will find out why in the next section.
"What happens when two men cook breakfast? You get menemen!"
This is a Turkish joke about this very interesting Turkish breakfast meal. There are only two main ingredients: konserve and eggs!
I had heard of menemen for quite some time but had never tasted it despite its popularity in Turkey. However, I recently had the chance to eat menemen not knowing much about how it was made or of what is was made.
"Mmmm," I said to the person with whom I was eating breakfast.
"This is really good," I said again, surprised at its simplicity and balanced medley of flavours.
"So, it is just konserve?" I enquired.
"Yes, konserve and eggs," replied my friend.
"It is there," they insisted.
I couldn't believe it. The mixture maintained the consistency of konserve all the way through and because eggs always have a fresh taste to it, I was completely bowled over that I could not smell or taste any of it.
In fact, I never would have noticed by just looking at it.
However, on closer inspection, I with my pieces of bread in my fingers, I mopped up some of the menemen and could see little bits of scrambled egg in the mixture. I love my scrambled eggs wet as I detest the 'fried over done' version. However many times it is easy to end up with my hated version. Menemen is smooth and fluid; the perfect scrambled egg and the flavour of the konserve requires no copious amount of salt or other 'normal' scrambled egg spices like black pepper or thyme.
I still don't believe it.
To eat menemen only one utensil is used, bread. The traditional long loaf of Turkish bread is cut up or torn apart with your hands according to your preference and used to mop up or pinch the menemen on to the bread before being devoured.
As I have said before, fresh Turkish bread is simply the best. No butter is needed, it is that good.
But like all the other listed items in this post, Ekmek is definitely part of Turkish life- every day, all day. It is used morning, noon and night with everything.
Many times on afternoons you can see people coming from bakeries with fresh loaves of breads numbering in the tens. I swear, I have seem some people with as many as 80 loaves of bread, for every person in the family is guaranteed their own loaf during a meal.
Olives are used pretty much all the time across the Middle East, Turkey being no different. Green or black olives feature prominently in breakfast especially, but can also be found in lunch and dinner too. They are served as a side dish.
These green olives were pickled.
This cheese is to die for. I am not exaggerating. Crumbly and almost reminiscent of Parmesan cheese, its flavour is not overwhelming and its texture makes it a cheese that can be seamlessly incorporated into any meal, particularly casseroles.
I tend to use it with fresh ground beef, or on top of pasta or even baked potatoes.
When the heat hits it, it doesn't get tough and opaque, neither does it magically dissolve. It simply just gets better.
My preferred grain- Bulgur
Now, Turkish cuisine is really a protein rich. With the exception of their breads, at any one point in a Turkish meal, you are not going to find that much starch on the table.
While, Bulgur is not quite a starch, because it isn't really rice, (wheat grain) I still treat it as a starch.
In the Middle East, pure white rice is a custom and it is ok.
However, Bulgur has a depth of flavour that is irresistible. The flavour is quite nutty and that is why I prefer it. Served with beef or lamb, it is to die for.
What we have here is the perfect amalgamation of Bulgur and konserve to make a typical Turkish dinner meal. Here the konserve is given some more depth with Patlıcan/eggplant.
It is deceptively simple but incredibly good.
All photos taken by Petra. All rights reserved.
Turkish Coffee is not considered just a beverage by many, but also an experience that should not be missed while in the Middle East. Turkish Khave is so synonymous with Turkish life and cuisine, that it has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey. Yet, it has been replicated in many Middle Eastern countries; producing many variations of the drink.
Due to the fact that I aim to recreate and share experiences of my life in this blog, I will not focus on the making of the coffee in this post, even though that is an experience in and of itself. Rather, I will focus on the experience of drinking it. I consider it important to share the experience of drinking Turkish Khave, albeit in a series of photos, in relation to my own cultural background, which is British Caribbean colonial.
The English are not known for whetting the appetites of the world, but they are almost synonymous with tea- high tea. High tea or Afternoon tea carries with it a certain amount pomp and delicacy of a fine art to be mastered.
And while the practice of this fine art is slowly waning in this fast paced digital world, it is the only 'tea' experience that I could find comparable and more importantly that I can claim some cultural affiliation to.
High tea or Afternoon tea conveys a certain sophistication as mentioned before. However, having experienced Turkish Khave, I don't believe that I can have another experience whereby I have no choice but to feel like a Queen.
In these photos, I hope to convey that experience to you.
Presentation is everything
I have had khave several times, and I have to admit every time the presentation blows me away. From bronze to silver to gold plated, the khave is presented in the most beautiful nickelised copper sets that one could imagine.
All the pieces to the puzzle
As I said, the presentation is always beautiful. But what about the elements that go into making the presentation so inspiring?
As you can see, the presentation is a large part of the experience. I find myself many times when my Khave is presented just sitting looking at it and finding no excuses whatsoever to refrain from taking as many photos as possible.
"Cok guzel" is my guaranteed response to my waiter.
It takes my breath away every time.
It is true that afternoon high tea in England is served in beautiful tea sets, which when presented can evoke feelings of sophistication, but I still contend, not quite like Turkish Khave. sets.
The bottled water presented is always served with Turkish Khave. Why? Usually drunk after a meal, the water is necessary to cleanse ones palette. After drinking the water then you can begin drinking your Khave.
How much sugar?
Before ordering, it would have been requested by the waiter just how sweet you like your coffee. In Turkey there are four intensities of sweet: sade (no sugar), az şekerli, orta şekerli and Çok sekerli. Most people order orta, which is not too sweet and or too bitter. It should be noted that no spoons are served with the Khave set.
Last but by no means least, the bowl, which always contains some kind of sweet to be munched on as you drink the Khave. Popular favourite is the Turkish Delight, but pictured here, is a medley of chocolate: white, milk and dark covered nuts and coffee beans.
I guess the high tea equivalent would be scones, slices of cakes and tea biscuits.
Conversate or Meditate?
I think one of the reasons that I have always loved drinking 'tea' i.e. any hot beverage is because it is always an opportune time for me to think about what is going on in my life, daydream, read or talk with my mother or sister. The drinking of tea for me, back home in the Caribbean has always been associated with these behaviours.
Luckily for me, Turkish Khave supports these behaviours too as a matter of tradition. However, it errs more on the side of conversation. As said before, Khave is usually served after a meal and at any time that a Turkish meal is served, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can be assured that most people don't eat alone.
Meant to be savoured over a long period of time, it is up to you to decide if you will choose to drink it over an engaging conversation or quietly ruminating.
At this particular time of taking these photos, I had the chance to sit and talk with a friend Amer. I wrote the story of our conversation in the blog post 'My Afternoon With Amer' .
The big reveal
The demitasse cup is usually covered with some ornamental top. Taking it off adds to the experience of uncovering a treat that was specially made just for you.
What we see here is a porcelain demitasse cup served in the copper engraved set. This presentation certainly adds to the experience of drinking Turkish khave, and done over conversation serves, as the perfect template on which to create memories.
All photos taken by Petra. All rights reserved.
During my birthday week, I was invited out by some friends to celebrate. They being Turkish, I thought that I had misunderstood them when I heard them say waffle. After all, we were going out at 7 in the evening and in the West, it is not at all usual to equate 7 pm. with a breakfast/brunch item.
Nonetheless, I was grateful that they were eager to celebrate my birthday with me and so was not too perturbed by a choice on a menu, whatever it could be.
After a five minute walk, we arrived to the intended destination, which was, again, to my surprise, an actual waffle house.
As you guessed it, the only thing on the menu that was not a waffle, was beverages.
I was cornered with no chance of escape.
You see I wouldn't have cared if my birthday dinner were a waffle, if it weren't for that fact, that it was probably the 100th sweet pastry that I had during my birthday week: I had been inundated with birthday cakes and surprise parties all week long.
So, with a pretty dense history of diabetes in my family, I was cognizant of the dangers of having so much sugar in my diet, even if it were just for one week. At any given time, when faced with a sugary menu choice, I always stay away from it. Far from it.
However, in this case, I could not make any excuses; to do so would be incredibly rude and insensitive to my friends who had planned and prepared in my honour . Therefore, a show of gratitude for their efforts, i.e. eating not one but several waffles, could be considered a decent excuse for jeopardising my dietary code.
Ordering a waffle
Let's just say, this was the most interesting and distressing part of the evening.
As I said, waffles were the only menu choice.
So, what made the process of ordering the waffle convoluted was deciding the toppings and the medley of toppings in keeping with one's tastes.
Furthermore, I think it was the number of toppings from which to choose that made it even more difficult.
You had five choices, of syrups, sprinkles, ice cream flavours, nuts, marshmallows and the list went on.
To ensure that there were no mess ups in our party's order, the waiter came with about ten forms listing the topping choices and ten pencils.
We would have to individually look at the form, tick the boxes of the flavour and sign our name.
It was all written in Turkish so I ticked the flavours that were obvious and known to me- Chocolate syrup and sprinkles and signed my name.
This of course took all but 30 seconds.
The rest of the party, heads down, were all in deep thought ticking and then erasing as they made their way further down the list.
After about five minutes of watching them, deliberate over waffle toppings one of my friends noticed that I was just staring at her doing nothing with my form.
She grabbed it from me, looked at it, looked back at me with a "Bruh, you fuh real?" set of eyebrows.
I shrugged "What?" What did I do?
"Ojam, you haven't chosen anything!
"Ok Ojam, I will do it for you"
Before I could say no, no, no, she ticked about 20 more boxes and immediately called the waiter giving the form to him and issuing instructions all in Turkish.
I was mortified. Twenty boxes of waffle toppings.
I smiled graciously at her, she smiled back, trying to find the words to say- You will thank me later.
I'm not sure of that, I thought to myself quite amused at the situation that I had gotten myself into.
I quickly forgot about the waffle though, engaging with my friends in as much English conversation as possible.
They were happy to learn about my experiences in Turkey so far and about my life back home as I was just as interested to learn more about their lives too. With the constant exchange in dialogue, punctuated ever so often with cell phone translation apps, it had not seemed like much time had gone when our orders started coming one by one.
Waffle Time and Birthday Girl
Sitting, I could not see the contents of my plate when the waiter brought it to our table. Placing it before me, I think that I was too busy talking to someone to have realised the amazing- no spectacular presentation of my waffle with 20 toppings.
Looking down, I immediately gasped and with my mouth still open, looked at my friend who had filled out my form.
She nodded accepting my gratitude with a "I won't ever put you wrong" smile.
It was the most beautiful dessert that I had ever and I dare say will ever see in my life.
Written in bright syrupy lights, my name adorned the top of the plate. I did question why I had to sign my name on the form, but now I clearly understood why.
Seeing this decadent beauty of a dessert, anxieties about my health did go through my mind, but it also made me want to enjoy it to its fullest knowing that it would be a while before I had this again.
To be honest with you, I almost did not want to touch it. Who would?
The Last Supper
I was grateful to wait the five minutes it took for everyone's order to arrive, taking as many photos as possible.
Sitting in the midst of everyone, I could tell that their desserts were also quite resplendent; however being the birthday girl you can guess that mine was quite divine.
Indicating that we could all start devouring, I cut my first bite with my knife and fork anticipating a sugar rush out of this world.
It was not as sweet as I had expected, which was a good thing.
Because I had indicated only bitter chocolate, that topping canceled out much of the ice cream's and banana's sweetness.
I thought that with 20 toppings that it would have been too thick with sugar flavours, but my trusted friend did an incredible job of choosing the toppings that would create a very sophisticated medley of flavours not synonymous with cotton candy.
Also, the restaurant did a good job of balancing all 20 flavours with the proportions that they allocated for each. Some toppings had more of a presence on the plate than others.
They knew what they were doing.
For breakfast... really?
As we ate our dinner/dessert, I admitted to my party that I was somewhat skeptical about having waffles so late in the day.
They were equally confused at my confession as I was by their choice in waffles.
I explained that in the West, waffles were typically eaten for breakfast or brunch- which was usually a Sunday brunch. And of course, even though we had waffle cones for ice cream, it was still not quite the same as a menu option listed under 'Dinner'.
"Yeah, do you eat it for breakfast?" I asked.
"No, not really."
Responded one friend to my explanation and question. The others nodded in agreement.
Waffles in Turkey were an any time of day meal choice.
You could easily eat a waffle at 8 am as you could at 11 pm.
Drinking Turkish tea- with no sugar, after dinner, we had been talking for a few minutes, when my friends asked if I wanted another one. I of course declined giving the excuse of the time. By this time about two hours had elapsed and I was sure that everyone wanted to head home. As you know that was not the real excuse. Even though not ridiculously sweet it was soooo decadent. Waffle with whip cream and sprinkles and ice cream and coconut shavings and chocolate chips- just to name a few of the 20 toppings was a full month of sinful decadence for me in one evening.
Making my way home by foot after saying all of my farewells, I was amused to have found out yet another Turkish anomaly, of which I made a mental note, promising to tell my sister and mother back home about the night that I nearly committed suicide by waffle.
As good as these treats look, they taste even better. You just cannot beat Turkish cuisine. I really do think though that the farther you go from Istanbul, the better. I think you really get the true authentic Turkish experience. Not to say that you don't in Istanbul, but I find everything is so fast paced, or ready done presented buffet style- they serve you though.
These meals are from a restaurant chain in a city not far from Ankara. The restaurant is called Baloglu. Forgive me, I am using an English type pad, so I don't have access to the Turkish 'g' with the caron above it.
I will do a full review on this restaurant soon in another post, but until then feast your eyes on a few select items from their menu.
Left to right: Izgara Hellim Salata, cikolata puding tatli, Tavuklu Manntarli Krep, Cikolata.
Let me know if you would like the recipes to these dishes.
Photos taken by Petra.
From left to right: garlic; tomatoes and garlic; garlic and stuffed boiled eggs with tuna, chives, onions and garlic- garnished with black pepper.
I know I showcased quite a bit of garlic. But in Turkey you can buy garlic in hordes literally. I bought about 100 garlic bulbs with the stalks still on them. I questioned the practicality of doing so on my part. I can understand for typical Turkish families which can be quite large and those mom and pop restaurant businesses which use quite a bit of garlic daily.
But for my lonesome, it worked out quite well. And they stayed fresh. Of course I used cloves of garlic in almost every meal that I prepared including breakfast and snacks, hence the stuffed boiled eggs.