Yesterday I went to the pazar. When I first moved here I went to the pazar almost every week. It was fun and exciting. It still is, but it is also a lot of work. I have to come home and wash and process it all. I also tend to buy more when I am at the pazar and it is hard to consume it all before it spoils. I am very careful to try to avoid wasting food. But yesterday I dragged myself out of the house and headed to the pazar. I was pleasantly surprised. It was pretty cold yesterday, and scattered throughout the pazar were bonfires. Some in barrels, some not.
In Ankara, in the winter the smell of black coal usually covers up all others. Coal is cheaper than gas, and is burned quite frequently in lower income areas. It creates a distinct smell and a dark haze in the valleys. Often times in the winter, when I go out I come back smelling like coal. It is not particularly pleasant.
But last night I went to the pazar, and besides the normal sensory experiences the pazar usually offers, there was a new scent. Wood fires. Being from New Hampshire, I am well used to the smell of wood fires. Almost every family I knew, ours included, had a wood stove for winter hearing. I find the smell of burning wood aromatic and homey. The smell, plus the ambient light, made the pazar WICKED FUN! The pazar is definitely back on my list of fun excursions.
We came back to Ankara the Saturday before school started. We had been away from the house for so long there was a lot to do, cleaning, food shopping, and getting ready for work the next day. Since we went vegetarian we pack our lunches, so we also had to do some food preparation. Due to the time constraints, it took a while to get back into the normal swing of things. But by last weekend we were back, and by that, I mean I was back at the pazar.
I wanted to make some hot pepper jelly, and found a great hot pepper stand. I spent quite a while tasting this pepper and that pepper. I bought some really spicy green peppers and he gave me quite different kinds to try. Just as I was leaving I realized there was another type of pepper at the stand. I hit the jackpot! He had a couple of plastic tubs of fresh jalapeños! Normally you can only get jalapeños pickled, which do not have the full flavor of fresh. I immediately started picking out the best ones, and chatting with him about the peppers. The pazarci gave me some more peppers as gifts (probably five different types), and then a mandarin orange as he was concerned about how many hot peppers I had tasted. I told him about my plans to make hot pepper jelly and he was very interested. We talked some more and then I headed off to scour the pazar for the best figs for jam.
Yesterday I got around to making the jalapeño pepper jelly. I haven’t tasted it yet, but at least it jelled, so that is a step in the right direction. Yum! I can’t wait to try it with some labne. I left some seeds in so it actually should be pretty spicy.
It only took two weeks for life to get back to “normal” in Ankara. I am glad we got there because our schedules are pretty packed for the next two weeks. Bülent’s sister is getting married this month. She is doing the nikah (legal marriage contract) with her friends and co-workers in Antalya next weekend, and the weekend after that is having the reception in Ankara. We are looking forward to celebrating both with her.
This year, I am trying to have a more balanced life. After the stress of the last couple years, it has been great to just enjoy life. Things are going well. I have been going to the gym three or four times a week, and walking on the weekends. I have been taking time to live. For example, going to the pazar even when it would be quicker just to go to the grocery store. The quality of the produce is so much better, and I really enjoy getting out and looking through all the wares.
Bülent and I are also eating and living cleaner. We are mostly vegetarian and I have been trying to use natural cleaning products, like this vinegar orange cleanser. I have also been preparing food for the work week during the weekend, which makes coming home from work and getting dinner ready less stressful. It also reduces the temptation to order take-out. I have even been packing my own healthy lunch, rather than eating the free (fairly unhealthy) meals at work.
On the quest to have more balance, I decided to give up drinking for a month. I love wine as much as the next person, and have nothing against it, but I realized that a glass of wine after work was pretty habitual. I thought that if I abstained for a month, it would make me more mindful of appreciating what I was drinking, and make it a decision rather than a habit. Today my alcohol-free month is up. I will be buying myself a lovely bottle of wine for my birthday this week. Or, the makings for dirty martinis! Either way, I am sure it will be delicious!
Today was less stressful and the kids were fine. Also I have tomorrow off. That makes the world a better place in general. Today I also had a student write something very sweet and profound. The kind of thing that reminds me why I became a teacher, and why I bother with nagging the brats about doing their homework.
I managed to save the Craptastic Soup. It was supposed to be Ezogelin Corba. The proportions of the recipe were off, the bulgur in the soup soaked up too much of the liquid, and the flavor was flat. I split it in half, spiced up and revived one half as soup and the other half as a bulgur pilaf. So Yay! I hate wasting food, but as we all know, when you try new recipes or experiment with them every once in a while you get a dud. Thankfully I was able to save mine.
Tomorrow I will be hitting up the pazar. I usually go on Sundays, buy my produce and wash and prepare it for the upcoming week. However, I do not cook much during the week because I get home late. Then on the weekend, when I actually have time to cook, I run out out of fresh things to cook with before Sunday.* Our neighborhood pazar is open on Thursdays and Mondays, now that my day off falls on Thursday instead of Wednesday, I can take advantage of this. Another Yay!
* I could actually go to the grocery store and get what I want and I sometimes do. However, I prefer to buy my produce and eggs at the pazar. It is fresher and I feel I am helping support the local economy.
For 30 liras at the pazar I got…
2 kilos of village spinach
1 kilo of Ankara Pears
1 kilo of Amasya Apples
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of parsley
Bananas from Antalya
2 kilos of garden Strawberries
Red leaf lettuce
2 bunches of arugula
1 package of balsam bread
half a kilo of manti
1 bunch of tere (greens related to arugula)
1 bunch of (unknown) greens that taste faintly of lemon*
Oh Boy! So I bought all this stuff at the pazar then lugged it home and had to deal with it. If I don’t take care of the produce purchases on Sunday, I may not use it, and then have to throw it away, which is wasteful and heartbreaking.
To set myself up for the week I washed all the produce (you have to do this VERY well in TR to avoid Hep A.) After I washed it and dried it I packed it carefully so it will stay fresh as long as possible. Now all week we will have salads and veggie dishes that will be super quick to prepare because the produce is clean and ready. It was a long hour in the kitchen, but when I get home late during the week it will be great to have food ready to go!
*If you have any ideas what these could be please let me know. Also—What in the hell it yemlik, I CANNOT find an English translation. It is an herb sold in the pazar which looks a little like grass.
Pazars are great. They are the open air markets that sell fruits, veggies and household stuff like slippers, pots and pans, etc. There is a large one I got to on Sundays, however I saw a smaller one today in a different neighborhood. Pazars are not normally mid-week so I decided to stop by.
This pazar is smaller and has fewer choices, but because there is less traffic since it is on a Wednesday instead of the weekend the prices are a bit lower.
3 loaves (or pieces) of bazlama bread, a huge bunch of mint, a giant head of lettuce, a large head of mesculin, a bunch of parsley and a kilo of Ankara pears. All of this cost 8 lira, or $5. A super bargain. I wall be going back to that market for fresh greens, especially since it is so nice and quiet.
A note: I just discovered fresh bazlama bread at the pazars. It is now my favorite food. It is so soft and fresh, kind of like a chewy English muffin. I will endeavor to start making it myself soon. Though, for one lira for 3 pieces it may be cheaper just to buy it.