As a member of the international organization of Slow Food I have my share of ideals about the aims and future of this organisation but one of my ideals came to fruition in Turkey: To be able to travel the world and link up with other Slow Food members and even better – to get to know them over a shared table.
To be visiting a town when a special Slow Food function is being held was one of the highlights of all my foodie travels. We were visiting Bodrum, in the south of Turkey and the local convivium of Slow Food were holding a Meze luncheon. We were invited but in the true spirit of Slow Food, we were expected to contribute a dish, an invitation we accepted with alacrity.
The Leader of Slow Food in Turkey, Frank Marciano (originally from the United States) and his Australian wife, Robyn Rae said the lunch would be at a local restaurant but its members were asked to bring a dish each.
The ‘restaurant’ was in a small rural property that the owners open to the public. We were told that their living room is regularly turned into a dining room but in good weather tables are set outside. It was definitely not the kind of place any tourist would ever find.
As the theme was Meze, small dishes usually served as a first course, I decided to take Kofte and cook them by adapting one of my favourite Italian methods of grilling where I cook meatballs flattened between fresh lemon leaves.
Fortunately for us, buying the meat turned out to be the easiest task as we discovered the local supermarket made up fresh batches of Kofte (ground meat with spices) daily and all I had to do was find fresh lemon leaves.
We were staying in one of Frank and Robyn’s farmhouses (no lemon trees there) but along our dirt road to the farmhouse, we had noticed that at a little school lemon trees were higher than its surrounding stone wall. After school hours we conducted a covert raid. Maybe this school could be the start of a Slow Food School Orchard and garden for Turkey.
With the ingredients sorted, my next task was to find the right cooking equipment. I never leave anything to chance, so the day before the event we set out on a hunt to see if anyone in this part of Turkey stocked similar metal sandwich style grilling racks, the type with handles so you can easily turn the over on the hot coals.
We could not believe our luck when we drove no further than down to the local hardware store and found exactly what we needed for a thrifty $AUD2.00 each.
With the guests being able to concentrate on perfecting one dish each, it provided us with an instant culinary education on how good Turkish Meze can be. Just when we thought all the meze we had eaten that day had already constituted several courses, the hosts brought out a side of lamb roasted to perfection and to accompany it, a huge fruit and nut spiced rice pilaf.
After our sumptuous meal we had a choice of desserts, either a slice of rich chocolate torte brought by a member or a delicious creamy pudding with chocolate sauce provided by the hosts.
We could not have asked for better company, all the Slow Food members had travelled regularly or lived outside Turkey at various times and speaking with them offered perspectives of their country we would not have had the opportunity to learn. If only the Meze luncheon had been at been at the beginning of our journey, but it has encouraged us to return.