Dilara and I leave the restaurant and make our way through the fish stalls that line the Bosporus. She tells me it's the first time she has brought an "occidental" to the restaurant I am honored. We climb the steps on to a bridge that spans the Bosporus (Galata or Haliç,I don’t recall?), Dilara and I walk a ways when she turns and hails a cab in the middle of the traffic.
We drive across passing fisherman whose lines and hooks fall anchored below in the water. She gives instructions, but it seems this driver has other plans to give me a tour along the roadway; they commence arguing while we slowly wade through crowds of women covered in various styles of the hijab.
Dilara and the driver argue as we stop on the bottom of a hill, it seems he didn’t like her tone when she told him he screwed up her directions choosing the worst route instead of taking her where we intended to go. Dilara remarks how men in this country have such a stupid eastern mentality as she disembarks and the driver continues yelling as I leave the taxi; I remark that most men are that way all over not just here. We walk up a steep hill that is covered with various stalls of vegetables and fruits too clothing. Dilara leads as I gawk at the incredible variety of foodstuffs and their bright colors. The stalls are shaded by canopies overhead, I ask Dilara about this and that vegetable or fruit that I don’t recognize, what a bounty and the market seems endless as it winds down through the alley ways like a snake.
We reach a particular merchant that Dilara tells me is her regular vendor from a farm within Anatolia, a weathered woman who offers yogurt that we taste. Dilara passing food to me feeding my senses making my occidental mind open to the range of flavors that my palate so accustomed to a certain taste jumps with excitement with every sample. She tastes at every stall without hesitation, from fresh yogurt to fruits, some unrecognizable so mysterious. I let myself fall into her command of “taste!”
We hire a friendly porter who encourages my snapping pictures of the food, he later shows me a photo that someone had given him while he was working. He tells busy kebab seller to turn around while I snap, he seems less than interested even as I capture him slicing a portion from a skewered slab of layered meat I notice the large majority of vendors are men save a few women; Dilara seems to know all of them. Along the way I peer into a bakery with flat breads and pides as well some white looking batards loaves, I snap a bread porn picture for my bread forum friends.Dilara wants to buy cheese and we enter a bustling dairy store filled with various counters, large different colors of butter, cheese, yufka, honey are displayed. The men at the counter busily weigh, cut and bag the food attending multiple customers who dodge the picture snapping occidental fellow in the midst.
Dilara asks for samples of cheese and I taste a very salty cheese, when the clerk slaps a piece of yellow butter and makes me understand that I should taste both of them together to appreciate the way they marry and compliment each other. The butter is sweet and calms the saltiness
it is good and rich. Dilara waiting for her packages starts to trim the edges of the layers of yufka neatly stacked next to the window, she smiles like Cheshire cat as I notice the store owner looking at her, she has no fear nor scruples I think! We stop to buy red and ripe tomatoes from another farmer, she rips off the tips of chilies, the vendor scolding her she laughs all the while yelping from the intense heat of the chilies sting.
As we pass several stalls, Dilara ask me to find something inspiring for a meal I will prepare for the specials she wants me to make tonight for the restaurant. Eyeing figs we decide that will be our dessert course, maybe some cornmeal? Polenta? She concurs, as polenta is not a typical dish that is known in Turkey. We fill a basket full of produce and hail a cab in the busy street and head back across the Bosporus to the restaurant, I am about to cook my first meal in Istanbul!