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New Love in Istanbul

My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [142] | Scholarship Entry

“Cockroach?” My nose wrinkles in disgust.

Kokoreç!” Laughs Çagri, my new found friend. “It’s a famous Turkish snack! You should try it.”

The war drums of my stomach blare in obscene cacophony, so I quickly nod my head without hesitation. I am ready to embrace every new experience, I tell myself. My glove covered fists clench in retaliation to the cold as I walk alongside Çagri, who seems rather oblivious. Like the weather itself, every bits and pieces of the city is a strange language that I’m struggling to decipher.

A massive metropolis painted by the long list of powerful empires, Istanbul is a gyrating world on her own. At the crossroads of two continents with a population of over 13 million people, the city knows no boundaries in cultural diversity.

Recurring footsteps and Babel-like voices that co-exist almost in rivalry to the blasting music of Sertap Erene and Emre Aydin from every shop lot reflect the night’s ever growing immortality. The sweet smell of Doner and Baklava makes its way into my senses, lifting me far beyond the starless city sky. Slowly, I am beginning to embrace the stranger that used to stand 5,174 miles away from me.

Çagri and I finally make our stop at a kebab stall of a size that seems disproportionate to the number of people queuing. Threads of fresh meats grilled horizontally over the blazing charcoal fire let out a smell that increases the tempo of my stomach’s war drums. Intestines, I soon find out, yet the smell grows inside me like morphine. In imitation of a hungry wolf, I stand watching as the vendor fries a slice on a thick crackling pool of oil, before handing the freshly hot grilled dish, now nicely wrapped together with his blessing: Alfiyet olsun. Enjoy your meal.

And so, like a woman who steals your heart on the first sight and a land that lingers in your memories for its distinctive air, my love for Istanbul’s exotic complexities is found and forever cherished upon having the simple pleasure of taking my first bite.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012

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