Eating in Turkey

Interestingly, perhaps the tastiest meal I had in Venice was in the airport as I waited for my flight to Turkey. It was just a wrap, but the lettuce inside was so cold and crisp, the bread outside so warm and crisp, with melted cheese, or perhaps something mayonnaise-based, and warm ham inside. It was a good start to a tasty segment of my travels. Though, admittedly, all of my travels have been pretty tasty. Meals in Istanbul started with some kebabs, one of the best (and cheapest, at just over a US dollar) was at a little hole in the wall place near my hotel. At the time, I had no idea what kind of meat “urfa” was, but it was delicious.

While in various tourist squares, there were always three kinds of carts selling three kinds of snacks. We first tried some grilled nuts, which looked pretty good. They were incredibly disgusting. Despite appearing to have just been grilled, they were cold, soggy, and tasted like cardboard. Cheap cardboard, not that nice stuff companies package smartphones in. Another day we tried one of the other stands, which was simply grilled corn, how could you go wrong with that? I’m not sure how, but they figured it out. Maybe I’m a corn snob, or the corn subsidies have gotten to my brain, but this corn was awful – chewy and tasteless. We never tried the third stand, having been so discouraged by these first two, but it sold what looked liked a dry, round, bready-pretzely-thing. I tried a similar looking thing from a store at a later date and it was pretty good, but I suspect the stands selling them in tourist areas would have found a way to ruin them as well.

We had Chinese food a few times, with varying degrees of success. The first, a restaurant in Istanbul was quite good, despite the “green pepper” in my “green pepper chicken” being some kind of spicy chili pepper and not a green bell pepper as I was hoping for.

One lunch was accompanied by a cat that very politely stood his distance and stared back whenever we made eye contact.

Having a traveling companion often made it easier to order healthy, as we could order one delicious sounding meaty dish and one dish of fruit or veggies and get a relatively balanced meal.

When we started our group tour, the food options changed quite a bit, as our breakfasts and dinners were almost always buffets at the hotels we were staying at. Always delicious, and a surprisingly large choice of delicious looking veggie dishes and fruit, means that I ate slightly more balanced meals than usual… but much larger meals. I have no self control when it comes to buffets of interesting and/or delicious food! One buffet even included some pretty good Indian food, as there was a large Indian tour group staying at the hotel.

Our lunches were at restaurants selected by our tour guide, and were all pretty good. At one, a “pancake” place (something between a pita and a crepe), our tour guide dragged us into the kitchen ostensibly so we could see them making the food, but really so he could place our order before another large tour group placed theirs. On our last lunch with the tour, I had an Iskander Kebab which was fantastic, probably because they drizzled some melted butter sauce all over it.

The first “ice cream” I had in Turkey was pretty pathetic. There are shops which put on a bit of a show as they scoop your ice cream, flip it from cone to cone, do magic tricks with it. Though interesting to watch, the ice cream is a bit chewy, as they must add something to it to make it the right consistency for their fun. It was not great. Later, we found some good ice cream in Pamukkale. Another tasty treat was my favorite breakfast dish, not sure what it was called other than “breakfast pastry”, but it tasted a bit like rich noodles with layers of butter in between, but I think it might have been some kind of bread. It often included some goat cheese and spinach as well, though it was best with a minimal amount of those.

Back to traveling on our own, we returned to the usual Turkish fare (when not eating the Chinese shown earlier), or snacking on fruit while out and about. In Agva we had some fantastic meals, and our hotel (“Park Mandalin”) had a wonderful breakfast spread including home made jams and preserves, delicious honey, and lots of kinds of cheese. I was pretty sick of goat cheese by this point, so some good old cow cheese was a welcome sight.

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