Some interesting curiosities about Turkish culture and food – Portuguese’s point of view

Some interesting curiosities about Turkish culture and food – Portuguese’s point of view

INÊS MOITA is a Portuguese who spend some time in our lovely city Eskisehir. She decided to share her experience so she wrote article for us. This article in entirely written by Ines and we are sharing with you here her point of view on Turkish customs, traditions and food:

Natural yogurt with meals. Tea with everything. Bread, also with everything. Street dogs (lots of them). Taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home (don’t forget). Breakfast should not be just milk and cereals; what a waste of an important meal. Ayran. Kebap (and not kebab!).

This is Turkey. It has been one month since I first arrived here, and even though those facts and traditional food already seem ordinary to me, it’s been a good learning process to incorporate them in my lifestyle.

As a Portuguese citizen, I had to learn and adapt to some small details about the Turkish daily life and decisions. When I arrived to the apartment, it was expected of me to take off my shoes before passing the door, which I wasn’t used to; in Portugal, and European countries in general – as far as I know – it is not a disrespectful thing. Actually, if someone would take off their shoes in someone else’s home, right away and without asking, it would be seen as quite strange and too comfortable – my grandmother would think something like: Where does she think she is at? Her home?!. Exactly; alert ⚠️ different culture! However, and one month after that, I see myself continuing this tradition when I go back home, because the house is much cleaner this way!

Source: Turkey Tour Organizer

Another curiosity: while walking through the streets of Turkey, you will see a lot of cats and mostly street dogs, laying down. Don’t worry! The majority of them were controlled by the government and vaccinated. Fun fact: There is a documentary about this exact situation! Stray shows the relationship between the streets of Istanbul and its many stray dogs. It brings awareness to how the Turkish people see the dogs as their friends and fellow citizens. As a Portuguese person, who thought had seen many dogs in Lisbon, this was a surprise! Made me happy to see how the government made effort and cared about its street animals.

Source: The New York Times                                                                                         

Changing the topic for the food, Portuguese people are very used to their 3 daily meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We even have what we call “lanche”, which is the meal in the middle of the day – between lunch and dinner. The majority of us never skips any meal, and as we really like to eat, the bigger meals are privileged. We are also known for being late, and on weekends that can also translate to being lazy and waking up close to the lunch time, which means either one of these two options: 1) breakfast in a rush: do I have any cereals or will I just drink some coffee with bread or cookies?, 2) no breakfast, straight to lunch, or as we really like to do – go for a brunch /mix of breakfast and lunch, because of all the mix of food that it includes.

The thing is that, after arriving to Turkey, I realized that, here, the “breakfast” is actually a brunch. Always. Which leads to skip the lunch, I would say, at least as a Portuguese person; I would have to wake up pretty early to have the need to eat a normal meal after that, at the “lunch time” – which, in Portugal, is always around 1pm.

Source: The Guide Istanbul                                                                                 

Continuing with the food curiosities, I found very interesting (and strange, I have to admit) to incorporate yogurt in meals. Sure, we all ate pasta with some yogurt sauce before. But here we are literally talking about a package of yogurt. A big one. Which you eat directly with a SPOON. A surprise was when I tried mantı, traditional Turkish dumplings, which has yogurt and hot pepper oil on top. It is a very delicious food! Just like ayran is. Ayran is a natural yogurt drink, very popular among the Turkish – it is even a drink option at Mc Donalds! My first thoughts were “Are people really eating burger and fries while drinking YOGURT?”. But guess what? It is also good! A mix of water and yogurt, slightly salty, which feels fresh and is a good combination to Turkish meals, which are, in its majority, spicy.

Note: Be careful while wanting to buy milk at the market! One time I almost mistaked Ayran for milk because of their similar packaging (begginer’s mistake!).

                                                           Source: Yeni Is Fikirleri

Kebap and not kebab? That’s a shame but I have to admit: my whole life was a lie. Eating kebap here is a whole other experience; European countries try their best to make this food but it will never be as delicious as the real, Turkish kebap. Döner, Adana, Urfa, (…), a whole kebap world for you to try!

 (Döner kebap)          

Source: Wikipedia                                                                                              

Other food you should definitely try when coming here:

  • Turkish delight – small cubes, with the texture of gum, made of corn starch and sugar. Many flavours can go along,therefore there are many different Turkish delights: pistaccio, coconut, (…) you name it!
  • Baklava – type of pastry with a paste of crushed walnuts, and there are also different varieties that incorporate pistaccio, hazelnuts, sesame seeds or other grains, being the first (pistaccio) the most popular one.
  • Kumpir – this is a personal favourite. A big potato stuffed with butter and your favourite food! You can choose to put sosis (Turkish sausage), carrots, Russian salad, kısır (a type of Turkish salad), (…) anything can go well.
  • Açma & Poğaça – soft type of breads. The first one is bigger and softer, but both can be either eaten simple or stuffed! Potato, cheese or olives are some of the options for its filling.
  • Simit – very popular Turkish bread rings. Go along with melted cheese, jam or yogurt. You can find it easily; it’s a delicious street food.

As a conclusion, come with an open mind! Give Turkish food a try, you will want to bring it back to your country. It is not my time to leave, yet, and I am already thinking about it! Also, be aware of the culture around you, learn the small things that you can do and the ones you can avoid doing, to feel in harmony with this beautiful country.

Inês Moita