One of my favorite experiences when visiting new places is dining with the locals at their homes. Thanks to The Atlantic Institute and Hizmat or the Gulan movement, the Yavuz family invite me and my fellow travelers from Atlanta for a traditional Turkish dinner. They lived in a modern flat in a posh residential area of Konya. Located in the central Anatolia region of Turkey, Konya attracts visitors to Dervish school and tomb of the famous poet, Rumi.
We were greeted by Ahmet (father), Munire (mother), Seyma (daughter) and Neskihan (daughter). Ahmet has a grain business and spends most of his time overseeing his farms outside the city. His wife, Munire is a homemaker and an amazing cook (as we were to find out that evening), and his daughters are educated and ambitious young women.
As we walked into the small but comfortable living room, neatly decorated with crystals and leather furniture, we couldn’t help but notice a grand setup prepared for us. On the floor of the living area was a round table with cushions spread around. Carefully set china and silverware were laid out, suggesting a multiple-course feast about to unfold.
We went around the room introducing ourselves to our host, Mr Ahmet, who was a little conscious about his English, but always smiled in agreement. It was nice to have a few bilingual diners with us, including his daughters who spoke English fluently. When he found out that I was a food critic, he alerted his wife and told her to “up her game.” Then he started addressing me as “Miss gourmand.”
It wasn’t long before we were served a variety of freshly baked breads, stuffed with meat and cheese, and topped with black cumin seeds. Munire had painstakingly prepared, Gozleme, a speciality layered flatbread of this region. This giant pizza shaped platter was devoured within a matter of seconds.
Next came Ezogelin Çorbası (aka bride’s soup), the famous red lentil soup served at every Turkish dinner. Light and flavorful, the staple soup has a delicate lemon and mint flavors.
The family outdid themselves when they brought out a whole roasted lamb in our honor. It was served with bulgar rice pilaf, stuffed bell peppers, green beans, fruits and more.
When there was no more room in our bellies, we had to get a bite of the honey dipped shredded wheat called Kunefe (Künefe) along with Turkish tea. And as if the lavish dinner prepared for complete strangers was not enough, the family gifted each of us a goody bag to take home. I received a wall hanging with Rumi’s sayings and a box of sweets. We also gave them some tokens of appreciation we had brought from the US.
I was extremely moved by the generosity of our Turkish host family and the amount of effort they put to give us a dinner experience. They did it solely out of their good heart, to be good citizen diplomats, and keep on living the mission of Hizmat.
Click here to read more about my travels to Turkey.