So, I was just washing the dishes and reflecting on how our lives have changed since we came to Turkey. Its funny how quickly people become acclimatised to new circumstances. Things that were once novel and exotic or strange, have become, for the most part, commonplace. And some things that at first seemed so difficult, frustrating, or even emotionally painful, have become much easier and a part of everyday life.
One change has been our diet. Now, for all of you concerned folk out there, I want you to rest assured that we are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet! But our diet has changed so much since we arrived in Istanbul. First of all, we don’t eat very much meat now. Very occasionally, we eat fresh fish, which is amazing, and if we were free on Sundays to go to the market still, I think we’d have fish every week. We haven’t bought meat to cook at home for months. Sometimes we do have a chicken sandwich in a shop nearby (for only 2TL!) or kebaps in a restaurant, for a treat. Overall, though, we don’t eat much meat. Instead, we eat a lot of lentils, to give us our protein intake, and because they taste REAL good. Or we have chickpeas, whole, or in the form of hummus or falafel. We’ve also been eating more nuts, which are full of nutrients and protein, and just taste so good. Surprisingly, nuts are actually quite expensive here, but I figure they are a healthy snack and if you’re gonna dish out money on something, it might as well be something that’s really good for you.
We also consume WAY less dairy. Way. Really all we have in the way of dairy products is yogurt. Turkish yogurt is beautiful and creamy and delicious. It comes in huge tubs, plain, and is great with some fresh fruit chopped into it or a generous swirl of honey. Part of this is because the vast majority of milk available in shops is UHT (which means its treated at a very high temperature to kill all the bacteria in it, so it doesn’t have to be refrigerated). I guess this kind of milk is common in various parts of Europe, and I don’t know where else. But I grew up drinking nice cold, fresh milk, and then after living in Ireland for nearly five years, drinking some of the best, freshest, most delicious milk ANYWHERE, I just have no desire to try this UHT stuff. You can get organic milk, so I’ve been told, fresh from the farm, but I think its much more rare and also more expensive.
Another thing I really miss now is cheese. Mind you, there is cheese here in Turkey, some really great cheese, but most of it is rather similar, kind of in the feta cheese category, just to give you an idea. It is good, tasty and satisfying, but again, I usually bought ours at the market, so I haven’t bought cheese in AGES. However, I’ve become used to doing without it, and I’m sure that not eating so much cheese is healthier for us.
What else… well, our diet isn’t the most varied. For the past number of years, I got used to having access to all types of amazing food shops: Middle Eastern shops, Asian/Oriental food shops, health food shops, fancy food markets with exotic ingredients, butchers serving a variety of meats… I had no problem finding ingredients for all sorts of mad, crazy recipes. It was great! But now, partly due to a different selection of common ingredients, and partly because our little kitchen is very basic and rather uninspiring, I don’t make very creative dishes anymore. Its a little more boring, but I think the food we do eat it is quite healthy and it does taste good. It just means when we get back to America and Ireland, I am going to go crazy and stuff my face with every sort of food I’ve been missing!
So, you might ask, what exactly are we eating if not meat, cheese, and strange exotic international foods? Well, we are eating lots of fresh, wholesome breads, TONS of fresh vegetables, potatoes, pastas, soups, casseroles, etc. The vegetables here are great. Maybe there aren’t tons of different varieties to choose from, but the things that are here are really, REALLY good. Tomatoes, aubergines/eggplants, courgettes/zucchini, peppers of all kinds, spinach and other fresh greens and herbs, cauliflower, etc. Beautiful and colourful and full of flavour.
I have also been (nearly) alcohol free since Christmas, and wasn’t drinking very much before then. This isn’t some kind of lofty moral choice. Turkish alcohol and me just don’t get along, and I’ve given up fighting it. Whenever we get out to have a nice meal in the future, I would still like to have a bit of raki with my food, because it tastes good and compliments the food here so nicely. But other than that, I’m okay without it. That being said, I am looking forward to getting my hands on a nice pint of Guinness when we get back to Ireland!
So, our diets have definitely changed quite a bit. We are, however, in no way deprived of amazing food. We treat ourselves to delicious Turkish breads and pastries, and eat LOTS of sweets, and enjoy meals out here and there, even if they are rather cheap meals. There is so much good food in this city and it excites the food-lover in me. But I think some of these food changes have been very good for me. I feel very healthy in general, and I’ve even lost a reasonable amount of weight in the last few months, without making an effort to do so. I feel pretty happy about that, although its annoying that my pants feel too big for me now! Its always something.
Anyway, its time for me to make dinner now. Its my new, super-cheap favourite: spicy lentil soup. Richie is a major lover of soup with bread, and its great on these cold winter nights to have something hearty and hot. So, off to the kitchen I go.