Monday, May 19, 2014

Enjoying Olga's #Istanbulbreakfastclub

Watching the passing ships
in the magical morning light
I knew it was going to be a magical day just from the weather. The morning light was sublime. I missed the ferry just as it pulled away from the dock and didn't mind a bit. To sit down in this beautiful little ferry terminal, and watch the passing ships, was a moment of Zen stillness.
Passing by Maiden's Tower
and the Üsküdar Mosque
The half hour of still calm was broken only by my own laughter at myself when I looked down and realized my own silliness. I was carrying dress shoes across continents to wear to breakfast, forgetting that no one wears shoes in Turkish homes.
Enjoying the passing parade
of ferries on the Bosphorus
I was on my way to Olga Tikhanova Irez's home in Moda, a fashionable neighborhood on the Asian side of the straight. Olga is originally from Russia and is married to a Turk. She used to be a strategic management consultant and gave it all up when she realized what really made her happy was exquisite food: sourcing it, buying it, cooking it, and sharing it. She blogs at Delicious Istanbul and tweets at @Delish_Istanbul. 
Olga slicing the first of four
homemade loaves of bread
served that morning.
This was the third time I had been to Olga's breakfast. Once a month, she hosts a breakfast cafe in her home and 14 very lucky people get to come to breakfast. It always sells out. It is always hard to get a reservation and be one of the 14 (you have to fill out the form on her blog, and do so immediately when she posts her monthly invitation).

The first time I went I met all kinds of interesting locals, both Turks and expats, from all over the city. It's such a small intimate gathering that everyone had a chance to learn about everyone else there.

The second time I went she was just back from Morocco where she had gone to learn Moroccan cooking and she prepared a Moroccan breakfast for us. I pinched myself for being there!

One of the things that distinguishes Olga is her standards. I tease her that she could be the princess and the pea, so sensitive is she to any product that in less than top notch, and therefore unworthy of her table. If you sense a certain snobbiness...well, you are right.
Olga began to assemble her buffet.
Turkish breakfast is famous
for consisting
of real actual food.
Look at those fresh-baked savory pastries!
And that homemade hummus
made with lentils.
Oooh, and three different kinds of jams.
And not just any cheese,
but cheese sourced direct
from the farmers themselves.
The final magnificent spread.
Afiyet olsun!
Marc Gulliet, of @TurkeyReport
deserved a great breakfast.
 He and his wife had been reporting
from Soma, Turkey
all week
on the mining disaster.
Orhan Bozkurt,
near the Küçük Hagia Sophia
in the Sultanahmet area,
gave Olga's cooking the 'thumbs up.'
This month I co-hosted Olga's breakfast with her. She cooked breakfast and I shared with our guests how to use Twitter to update and globalize your personal learning network (PLN). It was great fun to compare experiences with people. Their energy completely uplifted me for the rest of the day - actually even now, as I write this.
At the end of the meal,
Olga hand-roasted and crushed
cumin, cardamon,
and other spices to make her
final batch of tea.
"It's a wonderful detox," she said.
I floated out of Olga's home, well fed, completely and spiritually uplifted; it just seemed to me that all of Istanbul was gloriously, gratefully 'alive.' 

After a week of horrible news from Soma, I felt a sense of gratitude for the sheer gift of life. It gave me a new energy to live to the fullest and take pleasure in small things.
I stopped on the way home to
'take tea' at the Moda Tea Garden
along the Bosphorus.
It's an Istanbul tradition to while
away hours here over a glass of Turkish tea.
I was too well-fed to join the long line
at Famous Ali's Ice Cream Shop,
another Moda neighborhood
beloved, weekend
tradition in Istanbul.
The trip home across the Bosphorus
was quiet, contemplative & joyful
thinking about the
amazing friends
and food
I had experienced that day.
I was and am grateful.

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Patty Walmann said...

Hi Karen, Such fun meeting you at Olga's breakfast. Although Jim and I too were full, we had to stop for ice cream. It's our special weakness. We leave Istanbul tomorrow and I can't believe our month is at an end. We are already planning our next trip. I've subscribed to your blog to help me keep my finger on the pulse. Write often!

Karen said...

Thank you Patty! I'm glad you and Jim had a fun, interesting month while you were here in Istanbul. I was glad to be a small part of it. I'm glad you had some of Famous Ali's Ice Cream too!

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