“The base of your spine is going deep into the ground and sprouting roots” as soon as I visualised this in the centre of Lane Cove, I knew with certainty that my roots are firmly planted here. It’s pure magic how guided meditation, with a little help from delicious essential oils, can make you feel at home even when you’re so far away from where you were conceived.
I’d already established I’m or rather my creative energy is parsley. Parsley which originated in the Mediterranean – like me – has made it to the nether regions of the world like Australia. Those sprigs of fresh flavour bursts can be found in all sorts of dishes served up across the world.
Dear Eda, your roots are here and this is where you and your kin will be nourished. Like parsley, you run the risk of throwing yourself and energy into matters which don’t concern you.
To avoid a reputation as a garnish as opposed to an essential part of a melting pot, I must come up with a recipe for how I will be present in my home – as in the physical confines of bricks and mortar home as well as the surrounding community of Lane Cove.
How to establish my unique identity in these parts where diversity is celebrated? What cultural baggage do I have to unpack here? Being a Turk comes with the sticky labels of being a Muslim (98% of the Turkish population) and a follower of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. In Turkey, both the religious holidays (a throwback to the Ottomans) and state holidays defined by Ataturk are celebrated.
What do I choose to celebrate?
We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan, which entails fasting from sunrise to sunset followed by a special Iftar table. I thought this might be my answer to living in accordance with my culture. Surely I can organise an Iftar table?
Not as easy as I thought.
I have the challenge of living in a Christian community. Nonetheless, I found an Iftar picnic table set up by secular Turks. The problem? It was nowhere near Lane Cove where I’ve established roots.
OK, so maybe I’ll work on it for next year?
I was convinced that it’s a great idea to set up an Iftar table in Lane Cove. But was it? In my mind it seemed to be an obvious way to celebrate Turkish-ness but what about my friends and family in Turkey, what customs would they recommend for keeping in sync across hemispheres and time zones?
It turned out that Ramadan is the last thing in their minds about what defines the Turkish culture. Our culture is one of hospitality, connectedness among neighbours and we have many wonderful dishes that are palatable to those outside of our culture.
That gave me a framework by which to live my Turkish-ness in a way that overlaps with the values of my community in Lane Cove.
Tea, Coffee, Noah’s Pudding and Nur Dagi Salad
Nothing strengthens friendships and other bonds than a shared coffee or tea, in my personal experience. It doesn’t matter whether the hot beverage in question is Turkish, American, Italian, English or belongs to any other nationality. Bring some people together over something warm with a caffeine kick and you’ll have the warm fuzzies in your heart.
Another wonderful idea suggested by my dear friends Nergiz and Menekse is the celebration of neighbours on a special day of making and distributing Noah’s Pudding (or Ashure as it’s called in Turkey). Noah’s Pudding is a dessert porridge made with grains, nuts and rose water.
The origins of the tradition is Biblical as it’s to celebrate the day Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat on the eastern part of Turkey. According to the legend, the supplies on the ark were exhausted and whatever remained of the grains and nuts were boiled together to make the first batch of Ashure.
Thankfully, I don’t have to wait for Ashure Day, which falls between September-November each year, to share Turkish food with my friends and family. I have a parsley salad recipe (Nur Dagi, or Nur Mountain Salad) made with tomatoes, onions, capsicum, olive oil, sumac, cumin and my favourite, pomegranate molasses form Menekse’s family’s farm.
It’s now known as the “special Turkish salad” because it’s on the table every time someone comes over for a meal at our place. What better way to nourish those you love than with parsley (boosts the immune system), pomegranates (anti-inflammatory) and walnuts (a source of Omega 3s)?
Connect with Others
Human connections are a very important part of Turkish culture. While special days and dishes are a great way to honour one’s culture, I found an even simpler way.
I picked up my phone, and on social media found a group of Turkish mums in Sydney and simply asked who lived around Lane Cove. There was a whole bunch of mums, to my delight. I caught up with one yesterday and another one, Yasemin of Borulcenin Avustralya Gunlugu, a Turkish blog about life in Australia, organised an evening of drinking at the local pub, Longueville Hotel (or the Longy).
Now that’s the best of both worlds!
And…yesterday, after my Turkish mums’ catch-up, for the first time in Australia, I found myself speaking Turkish with my 2.5 year old in a public place, the local grocer.
I am home.
I’ve established my roots and next my leaves (of written paper) will come, then if I get a balance of water, sunshine, earth, vitamins and minerals, the fruits of my labour should appear in the Spring time.
Over to you…
What is your cultural background and how are you honouring it?