Following on from yesterday...
Finding new ways to fill my stomach is one of the better reasons why I travel so much and most countries have at least one dish that can send you into raptures of gastronomic delight, some culinary magic that makes you want to settle down, marry a local girl and have kids just so that you can keep on indulging yourself until your dying days. You can find sate fit for a king on the streets of Indonesia, Philadelphia cheesesteaks in the U.S. while in Thailand, just about the entire menu would qualify.
Here in Turkey, it's the bread. Or rather, it used to be the bread. During the time I was here, the country was in the midst of a public uprising against new laws regarding the distribution of bread. Previously, you could pick up your loaves, still warm from the bakery, from large bins at most stores but to meet new E.U. sanitation standards, bakeries were now required to wrap them in sealed plastic bags after having let them stand for at least six hours to avoid any condensation in the packaging. No more fresh bread. Turks were being forced to eat cold, lifeless bread just like the rest of us in the modern, sanitary world and they weren't happy about it!
At three in the morning, however, no-one bothered with such nonsense and we were able to get our bread straight from the ovens. After the gig was over and the last customer had staggered off home, one of us would order bowls of soup from a kitchen around the corner while another pedaled off to the bakery on a rickety old bicycle to get a bagful of loaves, timing it so that the two would arrive back together.
And while the soup was good, the bread was sublime, enough to bring tears to the eyes of even the most jaded World Traveller. The hard, shell-like crust crackled satisfyingly as we broke open the loaves, releasing clouds of steam into the cold night air. It was quite a shock to our poor noses, long frozen over during the lengthy wait and the aroma of fresh bread - there's nothing quite like it, is there? - swirled around, teasing us. The bread was far too hot to eat and we waited impatiently for it to cool, using the time to prepare our soup, adding dried chilli, salt & pepper, slicing up tomatoes, breaking apart fresh onions.
A frantic silence fell over the table as we plowed into our food, broken only by the slurping of soup and the occasional groan of sheer delight. No-one said a word since opening your mouth to speak would require you to stop stuffing food into it. There was a constant buzz of activity as people reached over one another for bread, more onions, more chilli, more bread, until every last bit of food was gone and we were left staring at the debris on the table, wondering if we could possibly persuade someone to go get more bread. Sated, we would sit back and give thanks to our respective Gods that life could be so good. One can only imagine what Paradise must be like but surely the soup kitchens of Heaven are run by the Turks. Now all I have to do is find me a nice little Turkish girl.