When C was a baby we, like many (many) parents often read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle to her. To this day, one of my favorite “Baby C” words (which she still sometimes trips over) is “calipitter” which we heard again and again as “Read calipitter!” We are LONG past that book (we’re more into Percy Jackson and Wings of Fire now), but the lessons of making our way through apples, pears, plums, oranges, strawberries, chocolate cake, ice cream, a pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipops, cherry pie, sausage, cupcakes, and watermelon (we’ll skip the leaves, thanks) seems to be the story of our lives lately.
The epidemic and its “knock on effect” for a lot of people, including us, has been to spend more time baking at home, cooking at home and, not surprisingly, eating at home. We had one glorious weekend early in our time in Istanbul when we joined a visiting friend of ours at a couple of scrumptious restaurants (one of which was a “gerçek” (real) American” BBQ place called The Rusty Fork – baby back ribs, pulled pork and bacon – a rare and wonderful treat in a predominantly Muslim country). We also joined her on a food tour in the back alleys near the famed Istanbul Spice Bazaar where we were treated to dürüm – a Turkish wrap usually filled with kebab meat – and pide – a “sort of” Turkish pizza (but not really) – in local haunts that we would never have found on our own.
On that tour, we also tried roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, a traditional pumpkin dessert with a tahini dressing (not so sure we’ll be tasting that again…) and we had a çay (tea) at pretty much every place we went. The Turks love that C drinks tea and she loves that they make sure to always give her lots of sugar cubes to go with it. It was all (except that pumpkin thing) delicious.
Eventually we wound our way back to the Spice Market and I bought WAY too much fennel seed (you’d think I would be adept at using the metric system after 2 years in Australia and 18 or so years in Canada, but alas…) while C was treated to various candies and sweets by the vendors lining the historic covered alleys.
In retrospect, we have been desperately glad that we had that opportunity to do some “outside” eating, because, since then, we’ve been pretty much confined to our apartment for meals. We are very (very) lucky to have a small café in the complex from which we can order pretty good food to be delivered directly to our front door, as well as the myriad of apps in Istanbul that will deliver food to you faster than I sometimes think possible. The delivery from “Getir” is so fast that last week I realized I had forgotten to buy pasta for dinner (spaghetti, so somewhat necessary) and Getir delivered it to me before the noddle water had boiled.
This easy access to ingredients – both from Getir and, every Thursday, from our local bazaar – has fueled our eating/cooking frenzy in the last few weeks (the hours of bingeing on The Great British Bake Off might have had some influence as well…). I’ve made challah several times with our upstairs neighbor, and since my recipe makes two loaves, I’ve also make challah cinnamon rolls several times. Last weekend B decided he was going to master puff pastry – from scratch – so we’ve had two straight weekends with sweet and puffy palmiers for breakfast. I’m working on perfecting my homemade dill pickles, bagels, hummus, ice cream, and chimichurri, and I’ve made it my mission to try to make every type of cake I can find and figure out which one is best. So far I’ve managed angel food, a butter cake, a genoise and a classic “sponge.” Next on my list is a chiffon – but I’ve got to take a bit of a break lest I have to buy a whole new wardrobe for me and B.
All this cooking and eating has been a respite – and joy – in the midst of what continues to be for us – and so many people – increasingly difficult and sad days away from our families and friends. The vaccine for COVID has been a light at the end of the tunnel, but with the new variants causing chaos in so many places, it feels a bit as if the train has stopped moving with that pinpoint of light still unreachable in the distance.
Luckily, today I received a copy of Modern French Culinary Art in the mail which, apparently, is the bible of French cooking – so I’ve got a whole new crop of recipes to try. I’m not sure how many of the savory dishes I’ll attempt (open faced pickled tongue sandwiches or chicken mousseline forcemeat (!?) anyone?). But I’m willing to stay home just a little while longer to try out apple (charlotte), pear (à l’Imperiale), plum (pudding), orange (tart), strawberry (chantilly cream), chocolate cake and all the others right through to watermelon (cocktail with wine). With any luck by the time I make it through all the sweet things I want to try we will be able to emerge from this COVID cocoon and our “calipitter” days will be behind us.