Monday, March 14, 2011

Paring it Down

via tasteoftanzania.com
Last Monday I wrote about olives (because I just couldn't think of anything exciting) and you loved me anyway. Thanks!

Anyhow, Jacqueline Howett shared her experience with olives: On our vactions from England to Greece to visit my Yaya who lived in a olive grove, we got stuck with the chore of slitting each olive with a knife for selling to market.

That comment got me nostalgic for the days I spent with the other women of my husband's Turkish family, coring, chopping, and preparing all sorts of veggies for the dishes we created. We sat around the table in the kitchen or out on the balcony, drank lots of tea, and read many fortunes. Don't get me wrong, I love climbing ruins and all that...but this one rite of passage into the lives of my in-laws was priceless.

Not only did I learn to make some yummy things, I also got an earful of stories. (And sagas, but we'll pass on those for today.) Little tips, like rubbing the tomato with the flat side of the knife before peeling to release the skin. (I blanche mine now. Tomatoes here aren't the same.) Or, my favorite: Put your thumb at the base of the blade, so the knife doesn't come out the other side of the (baseball-sized) eggplant. And the one I won't ever forget - Just because the chile seeds aren't burning you right now, doesn't mean they won't. (Spent several hours dipping my digits in ice water for not listening to that!)

Some days, ana anne (grandmother) would open out the dough for manti (imagine tortellini). Believe me, stuffing one million teeny strips of dough with meat is more fun when you have help.Then there were the dilemmas: aunt x says to use paprika, mother-in-law says cumin is better. I don't like cumin. Use paprika. Pay dearly. Yes, I laugh about it today, but it wasn't so funny then.

Just like with fishing, carefully paring the tops off okra the size of my thumbnail, without breaking into the seeds, taught me something. If you want to absorb another culture, it's important to slow down and smell the spices.
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13 comments:

Sarah said...

Chopping vegetables is probably my least favorite thing to do in the kitchen, but I don't think I'd mind if it was a social affair. My husband's family is from the island of Madeira, and they definitely move at their own pace there as well. As an American, it's hard to get used to, but on vacations, it's definitely a healthy way to be.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is very cool. What a great way to get a know a culture, and some people!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

lovely story!

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow! I can so visualise you sitting with the various women-in-laws and being completely absorbed in such a wonderful rich and spicy culture!! Brilliant!! Take care
x

Katie Mills said...

lol. I love how women cook together in so many other cultures. It's a time for laughing and gossiping and enjoying company. We don't do that enough in the U.S.

Carolyn V said...

That is just so cool. And the chile seed thing...so true. =D

Jules said...

Ah yes, slow down and smell the spices....just don't sneeze :)

Love the womanly gathering part, I agree we need more of it here in the US
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

The Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like a great experience!

Colene Murphy said...

So neat! I love your experiences and stories...

LTM said...

see, this is just an awesome post. And it reminds me of those parts in movies where they show people cooking and stuff. Mesmerizing... :D Why is that?

So that's a tomato up there? Only once have I been asked to peel a tomato~ ;p <3

Holly Ruggiero said...

Nice story.

I can't believe I missed the olive post, but I went back and checked it out. ;)

Medeia Sharif said...

I never got into cooking, but I remember hearing wonderful tales sitting with those who cooked.

Deniz Bevan said...

I miss making manti with my anneanne, her sister, and my sister. My sister and I tried it alone here a couple of years ago - it took us twice as long to make half as much!

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