I’m not sure if this is the case with British pensioners, having not fully explored the subject, but I can say the Turkish retirees we met recently certainly have no intentions of passing their days baking and knitting. Unless it’s for a profit.
During our holiday in the village of Sıacık, some 50km from the city of Izmir, we eat pancakes from a stall staffed by octogenarians, bought bread baked by grandmothers and I nearly parted with cash for a pair of knitted slippers because the lady selling them looked like my Aunt Bernie.
There’s this entrepreneurial zeal among the elderly that I greatly admired. And so it is with our new friend Adnan, a former weightlifting champion and deep-sea diver among many other adventures, who at 72 has decided to renovate a near delelict house in the mountains to potentially rent out as a holiday home.
We met Adnan while staying with his friends Umit and Alison in their beautiful B&B, which overlooks a tangerine orchard that sadly was not in season. This was our first trip to Turkey and Adnan extended his invitation to a BBQ at his mountain Grand Design project so we could see more of the area.
With Alison, Umit and their son Alex, we headed to the house where we found Adnan chasing goats off his roof. Apparently sometimes he chases them into his freezer! Also, if you ever wondered why the chicken crossed the road, it’s so she didn’t end up on one of Adnan’s BBQs.
This wonderfully friendly man speaks better English than many a South London teenager thanks to his years as a teacher in the Turkish Air Force and he was so charming that he almost had me convinced that I should buy the abandoned Sheppard’s hut near him so we could be neighbours.
With the British summer approaching I’m expecting a fair number of BBQ invites but not one will compete with the evening we spent with Adnen. If not because of the fantastic company and stunning view from which we ate our coal-cooked chicken, but also the discovery of new dishes.
Alison had prepared a cold buckwheat rice salad. I’ve never tasted tasted buckwheat rice, which the Turkish have as a sort of alternative to pasta, but it is now on the shopping list. Alongside this was a mezze of the herb purslane mixed with plain yogurt. Again, I had not heard of let alone tasted purslane, which is classed as a weed, and found it to be delicious with a slight peppery taste.
Herbs are an essential part of the current trend in Turkish cooking, known as Folk Cuisine. It’s the revival of traditional and regional dishes being led by Turkish born but British trained chef Vedat Basaran. The cuisine only uses seasonal ingredients, nothing is imported. However, I have not yet found anywhere that sells seeds for purslane so I may have to ask Alison to import a jiffy bag of the greens so I can grow my own in time for the next BBQ invite.