Pretty much all I’ve been doing since I’ve been back is meeting people for dinner, taking pictures of it, and eating it. Starting in the beginning of August it has been Ramahan, the holy month in Islam, where people are to fast (no food OR drink), to not smoke, and refrain from other pleasures, during the day time. The goal is not only to put themselves in the shoes of poor people, but also to show God patience and strength…self-restraint seems to be the key phrase for this time – don’t eat, drink, gossip, partake in unholy activities, look at sinful things, go to ungodly places and so forth. This is a time to focus on God and cleanse yourself. This doesn’t mean I agree with all of this but it is what it is and it is a special time for many people. I can’t believe how many of my students are fasting. I associated fasting with the more religious and uneducated class, but many of my students and friends who are fasting are modern, working professionals. One of the things I do like about this time is the iftar, the dinner when you break the fast. It’s a time when family and friends gather together to share this special meal. Time for you to see some pictures from several of them!
Yakup (Cengiz’s brother), Cengiz, and friends Banu and Birol. The meal always starts with soup (some start with a date, how Muhammed broke his fast, but it also helps the body replace much needed nutrients) as a way to ease food into the stomach. We later ate kofte (meatballs), white bean salad, rice, and bread.
Ahhh we all look much happier. And Cengiz and his brother were the only ones fasting, but their lethargy kind of affects the rest of us, and we also cut down on how much we eat in front of them during the day to be a bit more respectful.
The next iftar was the one I cooked, the day I decided to fast. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it – the no food part wasn’t scary, but no water for 16 hours?? I was determined to do it, and I passed the time by cooking. As I said in the previous post, it was kind of uncomfortable, my muscles got dehydrated in my shoulders and back and they ached like crazy. I’ve heard the first day is the worst but I really have no idea how people do it every day for 30 days, and also go to work! I got forgetful which was kind of scary, and every couple of minutes my body was like, Sally, drink water. Also, while cooking, I didn’t realize how much I snitched (have to clean up the bowls somehow…) and tasted to see if there was enough spice. Try to restrain yourself and you’ll see how much you do too. I think people were surprised I did it, some confessed they didn’t think I could. The support I got from facebook and friends here helped!
Ezogelin soup – red lentils and bulgar and other things.
Rice with chickpeas with chicken, and stuffed eggplant.
A little bit of lettuce, grated carrot, corn, and white beans, with olive oil and lemon juice and salt.
Classic tomato, onion, and cucumber salad.
This is kind of a guilty pleasure dessert. Cut up bananas, topped with nilla wafers or whatever you have that’s close to it, and vanilla pudding. It gets nice and soft in the fridge and even better when topped with whipped cream.
People’s schedules are different in Ramadan, they stay out much later because they are eating dinner late and also spending time sitting and talking with friends and drinking tea and coffee to help digest the big meal. Going out to walk around is a lot of fun because everywhere is very alive, lots of people out and about even past 12. The last meal before the fast, the suhur (?) is at 4ish and some people just stay awake until that!
Using the scooter makes going out at night so much more fun, we can park anywhere (a huge problem in Istanbul) and zip past the long lines of cars, especially along the 1 lane road along the Bosphorus. One of our favorite places to go to is Ortakoy, where there is a nice view of the Bridge.
Another fun place to go is Tophane, which is famous for the hookah. We’re not smokers by any means but every couple of months it is nice to sit in a big bean bag chair outside and relax and smoke a hookah for a bit, surrounded by the scent of many other hookahs, and drinking tea.
I’ve really written a lot this time, I’m sorry! I’ll stop for now and hopefully before too long I can post again – same thing – people sitting around tables and eating food!