Showing posts with label Rick Steves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rick Steves. Show all posts

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crossing Continents with a Covered Dish

I belong to a Facebook group called Cook's Corner for Expats in Turkey that is a collection of 700 home cooks living in Turkey from all corners of the globe. People use the group to ask each other where to find the elusive ingredient from home (cilantro? black beans? celery?). People also use it to share their excitement when a beloved product from home becomes a regular import in Turkey; I remember the Brits getting really excited about some sort of malt vinegar potato chips.

People post photos of their latest cooking and baking creations. Do you find cooking motivation by seeing what other people have made? I do. So many of the foods are things new to me, especially the Asian dishes. One day I exclaimed: "we need to have a potluck - I want to meet your food - oh, and you too." The idea took off and we instantly filled a roster of 23 people to meet together and share our creations. This is the second potluck of the group.
This is what I brought:
Spinach and Exotic Fruit Salad

 Brooks, an American and cofounder of the group with Virginia,
brought the rice dish
that his family always demands:
Indian Rice With Peas
I was so grateful to Helene
for bringing this Southwestern Salad.
I hadn't tasted a black bean for three years!
You don't know what you miss until you can't have it.
I loved meeting Kuraishini,
an expat from Sri Lanka,
who regularly gives
Sri Lankan cooking lessons
here in Istanbul.
She brought Sri Lankan fish cakes.
For the potluck, she toned down the spiciness.
Ha, bring it on Kuraishini.
 I want to see if I can handle it.
This is a dish from Aura's
hometown in Turkey, Sarma Aşı, 
a particular twist on stuffed grape leaves.
The bulgur, which has walnuts in it,
is stuffed into the grape leaves with a gherkin.
It's called Burdur Sarmaaşı.
Oh, this was so delish!
Underneath that spinach roll
was homemade dark and nutty German black bread.
The above food and the next two photos of food
were made by
a lovely young Pole named Aleksandra
who probably bakes and cooks
in the five or six languages she speaks!

 Gluten-free mini Zucchini Pizzas
made by Nicki from Long Island, New York
 Virginia, an American who used to own a popular café
in Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood,
brought Hoppin' John, a traditional Afro-American dish
made with ham hocks.
Ham hocks weren't available in Istanbul
so Virginia used home-raised bacon from Serbia.
She had a non-pork version there too for the Muslims,
which was nice, as our hostess Kathy
was an American Sufi.
Kathy has a personal shopping business
and had just shown travel entrepreneur Rick Steves
around the bazaars earlier in the week.
 Salmon Quiche brought by
 Hawaiian Island native Becky from Maui.
I hadn't had scalloped potatoes in years either.
Western civilization comfort food!
an Australian with Cypriot heritage
brought this.
A traditional Austrian Sacher torte,
a chocolate cake
with a rum-apricot glaze
and a Pariser Crème glaze.
It was to die for.
An American named Franklin Orosco made this.
He used to own a café in Lithuania.
He made these
 Powidl Taschl, Mohn Plunder
and Apfel Plunder too.
These were so warm and wonderful.
I could just imagine Austrian children eating them
and becoming emotionally attached.
Franklin's creations were made with such
skill and pride.
You heard it here first (it's still a bit of a secret)
but Franklin Orosco is going to be offering baking lessons
here in Istanbul. Sssshhh. That's still on the QT.
This delectable dessert
is called an Eton Mess.
It was brought by a proud Englishman, Michael.
It was so fun to hear about the history of this dish.
American readers, what should I bring next time that represents American culture? My spinach salad couldn't burn or scorch and I thought of bringing an Arabic fattoush salad next time for the same reason. But I so loved sampling other people's "national dishes" that I feel I should 'represent' American food heritage.
I do make an amazing guacamole that used to make an appearance every Super Bowl game. I could bring that. What other dishes would you suggest that 'represent' American culinary heritage?
This is the first time I've ever taken a ferry and a cab to a potluck. I crossed from Europe, where I live, to Asia, where Kathy lives. What a lovely neighborly experience: crossing continents with a covered dish.
Photos courtesy of Brooks Emerson
Here are some other cooking posts you might enjoy:
Why yes, I'm on Facebook, you should 'like' my page: Empty Nest Expat!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

'Backwards Day' in Istanbul: a news junkie's paradise

I have a Kurdish friend, now of European citizenship, who says, "when I lived in Germany, I tried to be interested in everything happening there but it was all so boring. It just wasn't engaging." Having lived in Istanbul for a couple years now, I completely understand.

The Levantine area is a news junkie paradise. There is more absolutely fascinating news happening in any one week here, than in a year somewhere else. This last week had to be THE MOST fascinating week since I first came here in 2010.

Indeed, it felt like an event teenagers often create called "Backwards Day." The teens do everything backwards for one day from wearing their clothes backward to saying the opposite of what they usually do. The news that happened last week was so unexpected and so "backwards" of what one normally hears and it all happened in the same week!

An Israeli apology

The Mavi Marmara
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the Mavi Marmara incident. As an American citizen, I frequently feel that if a US citizen ever has an opinion that is contrary to the Israeli point-of-view and they publically express that view, they will be bullied into silence. The American media never has an honest dialogue about Israel and it rarely explains to Americans that Israelis are settling on land that belongs to someone else in violation of international law.

So when Israeli military forces boarded the Mavi Marmara and shot Americans and Turks at close range, killing nine of them, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded an apology.

An apology never seemed like an unreasonable request. Erdoğan's been demanding an apology for three years. He sought justice for the Americans and Turks killed much more vocally than my own government did.

This week, Erdoğan got that apology when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him up and expressed regret. Apologies are so powerful! It was like hearing Netanyahu and his nation say "we accept responsibility for this. We were wrong." It was the exact opposite of what a bully would do.

Backwards Day.

The PKK declares a cease-fire

The PKK, declared a terrorist group by both the Turkish and American governments, declared a cease-fire with the Turkish State. This opinion piece from Friday, March 23rd,  "Hurriety Daily News" explains just how different this is than the normal course of events in Turkey.

Backwards Day.

The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church attends the Ordination of the New Pope

When something happens for the first time in 959 years, that's amazing. Such was the excitement with the Istanbul-based Patriarch of the Orthodox Church was welcomed so warmly by the new Pope Francis when Barthalomew went to the ordination. Just even the idea being expressed that various strands of the Christian Church could be reunited is fascinating. Also worthy of note, Turkish newspapers expressed not one iota of anxiety over this. In America, if there was specualtions about Sunnis and Shia reuniting in some future generation, it would send Islamaphobia anxiety into overdrive.

Backwards Day.

Cyprus Decides to Give Bank Depositors a Hair Cut

The Flag of Cyprus
Holy Cow, what a fascinating story. It was incredible to watch it unfold and of course, it's still unfolding. If you need any proof that one should never trust a government that says "your deposits are insured" this is the story. The depositors in Cyprus banks, who had thought their deposits were insured up to 100,000 Euros, were told instead that there would be a tax on all deposits held in Cypriot banks because of all the bad loans these banks made to Greece. The depositors didn't make those choices, the bank's owners did!

As Planet Money put it, "it is like your car insurance company, like Allstate, running up to your Suburu, smashing the window, and stealing your stereo."

The odd place this put this Cypriots with their money is beautifully summarized here.

The EU was supposed to make the Cypriots feel safer.

Backwards Day.

Does this mean I want drama in my own domestic news? It does not.

I agree with Rolling Stone Magazine writer Matt Taibbi (who is so eloquent on all things financial-crisis related) who wrote this about the American budget sequestration:  "The whole situation reminds one of a family so dysfunctional that its members can't communicate except through desperate acts."

 I want my domestic news to be boring. That means there are adults in the room, taking care of business, and the citizens can spend their time creating, discovering, and solving problems in a way that moves the economy forward and not worrying about stuff like whether or not their money is safe in a bank.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, those Germans with their boring news, are kicking everyone's butt economically.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"The Flip Side of Fear is Understanding"

European travel entrepreneur, Rick Steves gave a powerful interview to asking his fellow Americans to get out and see the world so they can "get over themselves." I promise you there is something, probably many things, in this article that will make you think. It's worth your attention.

My favorite part of the whole article is when he talks about how Americans and Iranians are letting their fears trump their values.

He even might have taken a swipe at David Cerny's infamous Turkish toilets depicted in the sculpture Entropa. Here's a smidgen of what Rick had to say:

Interviewer: What's the most important thing people can learn from traveling?

Rick: A broader perspective. They can see themselves as part of a family of humankind. It's just quite an adjustment to find out that the people who sit on toilets on this planet are the odd ones. Most people squat. You're raised thinking this is the civilized way to go to the bathroom. But it's not. It's the Western way to go to the bathroom. But it's not more civilized than somebody who squats. A man in Afghanistan once told me that a third of this planet eats with spoons and forks, and a third of the planet eats with chopsticks, and a third eats with their fingers. And they're all just as civilized as one another.

Click on my title to read the full article.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two great spoofs

Rick Steves, an American TV host on PBS famous for his shows about travel in Europe, has found a new travel expert that he is really excited about...someone who may be able to tell you more about Europe than he can! Where else would you find someone this skilled but YouTube. Enjoy:

And daughter #2 has sent along an Obama spoof that perfectly captures America's joy besides being completely hilarious. I can just imagine the dance floor filling up with everyone singing along when this video gets played:>

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Medals Per Capita

A staple of American Olympic reporting every four years is the medal count. Right now, Americans lead in total medals and China leads in gold. But a perfect example of how everyone's media tells them what they want to hear is this blog post by Rick Steves describing his deflation when a Dutch friend asked him to consider her country's Olympic accomplishments. We should include this reporting method in America because it's equally as impressive (if not more so) than number of medals won. Link to the post via the title.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Armchair Traveling with Rick

Who is this Rick Steves guy? The guy who gets an entire bay at Barnes & Noble for his guidebooks? Doesn’t he know when he retires, if he’s ‘the brand’ he’ll get less money for his travel company when he sells it because there won’t be a Rick Steves there anymore?

I shouldn’t have worried on his behalf. I get the feeling Rick Steves is doing just fine. And having watched four or five of his travel videos I can see why. One should never underestimate the power of enthusiasm. Rick Steves is so ENTHUSIASTIC, it’s infectious.

Rick Steves looks like a guy right out of my childhood: a good, Scandinavian Lutheran small businessman who could be carrying his wife’s dish to the church basement potluck. He instantly inspires trust. His celebration of European small business people and his constant reminders that if you ‘corporatize’ your travel (with hotels, food, travel companies, etc.) you are missing out on the real Europe. It’s very rare to hear someone in America media urging viewers to spend less money!

Occasionally he’s likely to show something that is so culturally shocking to me, it makes my jaw drop. I haven’t been to Europe in thirty years so I soak up every bit of it. What I really appreciate about his videos is that 1) you can tell there are tons of political opinions that he’s trying hard to hold back while he focuses on teaching us about Europe, 2) you can see the educator and life-long learner in him. It’s not only with the content he shares in his shows, but in his appreciation of the retired educators leading small tours all around their own European neighborhoods.

Rick is forever pointing out the “fantastic new European infrastructure” that makes mass transit so easy. It’s true too! One of the most surprising things to me is that no matter what country I investigated for a possible move to teach English, a car appeared to be completely unnecessary. It’s incredibly easy to travel the length and breadth of these countries without one! I wish we had that. I am currently estimating my transportation costs in Prague to be 1/10 of what they are in America.

When he shows naked sculptures of humans in European museums, he makes it understood that it’s risky to show these things on American TV because so many people will object. Unbelievable.

He constantly urges his viewers to not have a “dumbed-down” travel experience. He alludes to, but doesn’t explain, about the forces dumbing down our culture. What forces??? Name them! I want to hear every single political thought gained from the constant comparison and contrast between both these two continents!!!!

Luckily, I can. Off camera, it turns out, Rick Steves is not shy in the slightest about sharing what he thinks when he compares American and European culture. To be honest, his politics are so thoroughly documented on his web site and blog, that I’m surprised he’s given access to Public Broadcasting for his shows during the current administration. We need more people like Rick Steves in American media challenging us to do better.
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