January 21, 2005

I know, already, that its gonna be one of those nights

We are dining tonight with some friends in the City, NYC, that is. The friends are Turkish and we are being taken to a Turkish restaurant. I happen to love Turkish food so I'm kind of looking forward to it.

I also happen to like going to ethnic restaurants with representatives of that ethnicity. You eat differently, I believe. You see that in Chinese or other Asian restaurants. Some things are just not meant to be eaten by the Gringo, or so the waiter or manager believes. And the tables around you get things brought to them that you cannot identify but which smell good and look, well, somewhere between yummy and interesting. You can try to remonstrate with the waiter and even try to break out a little phrase book to help communicate that you must, under doctor's order, have a portion of the scallop udder that the table next to you is having, and you want it steamed with chili sauce and then fried, just like them, but they never believe you. Sometimes, they may be doing you a favor but you resent the inherent paternalism just the same.

But, back to the Turkish place. I suspect we will eat things I've never seen before and I know that we will get better service than we usually do. The restaurant is reputed to be the finest Turkish restaurant in the City and our friends are probably regulars.

I am excited.

I am also aprehensive. Do you know why? Have you ever heard of Raki? No? I have. *Exagerated, but not without good reason, shudder* Raki is distilled.

Raki was first produced from the residue of grapes left over from wine making. When a shortage of residue started, spirits from abroad were imported and processed with aniseed. This went on till the First World War when, for want of raw materials raisins were used in the production of raki and sometimes even dried figs and mulberries. For good quality raki, seedless raisins and aniseed in Cesme (Izmir) were preferred. As the raki industry developed, aniseed agriculture grew and developed with it. When alcoholic beverages were prohibited at one time, underhand producers lost no time in taking steps. The administrative authorities, especially in small towns, turned a blind eye to the illegal production of raki so long as it was made in accordance with the technical rules. In many houses meat grinders were used for mincing the raisin, large basins formerly used for daily washing were now used for fermenting the grapes and oil cans were converted into distilling apparatus. The raki which was usually without aniseed and which often contained materials harmful to health were distributed to by children, in the evenings, when the streets were no longer crowded.

Today in Istanbul, drinking raki has its own traditional rituals. Most important is what it is to be partaken with. White cheese is the main and unchangeable "meze" of raki. Raki is usually drunk with cold dishes like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and seafood. Fish is also a favorite, especially mullet and mackerel. Due to the aniseed it contains, raki changes color and becomes a milky white when water is added and a glass of pure water to go with it gives a distinct pleasant taste.


Distinct pleasant taste until it knocks you on your ass and makes you its bitch. That's what it should have said there.

Raki is an important part of Turkish dining. I suspect that it will play a role in tonight's dinner. This is why I booked a car service to drive us home and why I am front loading on the water, now.

It is going to be a long night, filled with food I may not be able to recognize, drink which has already declared me a hostile combatant, and sub-arctic temperatures outside.

I can't wait! Have a great weekend, y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at January 21, 2005 05:32 PM

I just started reading you a couple of weeks ago and I must say I'm quite taken with your writing. Thank you for sharing your random thoughts with us.

Posted by: C at January 22, 2005 12:09 PM

So nu, how was it?

Posted by: Rachel Ann at January 22, 2005 01:34 PM

Yes, how was it? You had my mouth watering.

Posted by: ALEX at January 23, 2005 04:12 AM

I, too, am waiting for an update/postscript. So, HOW WAS IT?!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at January 23, 2005 11:20 PM

Can't wait to hear your tale.

Alcohol seems to be the way to get the "gringo" (or, in my case, gaijin) to eat what he's not supposed to. Even raw sea urchins and natto (fermented soy bean paste) can taste just fine after an adequate amount of sake...

Posted by: JohnL at January 23, 2005 11:58 PM

Distinct pleasant taste until it knocks you on your ass and makes you its bitch.

I have the same love/fear relationship with Slivovitz.

Posted by: Jim at January 24, 2005 10:15 AM
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