05.03.2010 10 °C
1. Turkey is a Muslim country.
2. Turkey possesses an inordinate amount of pastry, cake, cookie, chocolate and baklava shops.
3. Turkish people are so hospitable, they will OFFER you FREE pastries, cakes, cookies, chocolates, and baklavas if you so much as come NEAR their shop.
4. ‘Easter’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Lent’, and ‘giving up dessert’ are not part of my Turkish vocabulary.
5. Temptation is everywhere.
6. Lent will be my undoing.
My roommates and I have developed a delightful routine of going out for breakfast at one such sinful shop, “Pasta & Cafe”, at least 4 mornings a week, (yes, usually more than 4). It’s simply too good, and too easy. We jump out of bed, sometimes brush our teeth, sometimes not, run down two flights of stairs, and grab a table at the wonderfully cozy cafe right across the street. Our own Cheers, if you will. Warm lighting, wooden furniture, rows upon rows of sweets and delicacies, warm croissants, and the best fresh squeezed orange juice this side of the Marmara. The day I hear them call my name, I know I will have come home.
Be that as it may, we have developed a close relationship with the staff. They say ‘welcome’, we say ‘happy to be here’. They say ‘how can we help you?’, we point and say, ‘one please’. They say ‘Paket?’, we say ‘no, for here’.
We have moved past the superficial conversation typical of new acquaintances.
But it’s not all fun and games. This budding friendship has come with its share of responsibilities. Responsibility to accept the baklava that is offered me. Responsibility to eat the chocolate éclair placed in front of me. Responsibility to enjoy said éclair and lick my fingers once I am done. It’s a hard job, but one that I am willing to do. If only to be culturally sensitive. Why should I impose my religious tradition on my host country? I am already refusing tea and coffee, refusing dessert might be considered a triple offence, and will likely have consequences I am unprepared to face.
As I write this, I see my mother’s eyes reading ahead in concern, thinking I have already given in, broken my no-dessert vow, only two weeks into Lent!
But no! Rest assured mother!
This heavy responsibility to eat sugar has led me to develop certain tactics and strategies. Should you find yourself in a similar position, consider the following options:
1. Always try to be accompanied by a non-Lenting friend. Such a friend can eat the offered treats without you having to break your vow. Crisis = none.
2. If alone, consider eating out rather than dining in. Treats are only offered in house, not to go. Crisis = averted.
3. If options one and two cannot be done, circle your hand over your belly, miming that you are satisfyingly full. Then ask if proffered sweets can be taken in a ‘paket?’. Take paket home and distribute to non-Lenting roommates. Solidify friendships while NOT alienating Turks. Bonus!
4. If all else fails, grab a napkin, wrap the sweets in it while no one is looking, and try not to squeeze too much when stuffing the package in your pocket. You don’t want to swap one crisis for another! Creamy coat pockets are no fun for anybody.
Anyway. Perhaps Lent is not so bad after all. While helping my waistline in general, it has taught me many useful skills, such as tact, resourcefulness, and diplomacy. If I can only find a way to add that to my resume, I will be golden.
Only four more weeks of torment to go...