TCK Life: Finding Time to Teach Passport Language and Culture to my TCK

So, you’re not a teacher, but you want your TCK (Third Culture Kid) to be able to go back to her passport country for a semester of school, university, or perhaps just the option for her to live there easily when she is an adult. One of the benefits of cross-cultural life is having perspectives from multiple backgrounds, but you’re afraid your TCK is so disconnected from her passport country that she may not be able to assimilate to her “own” country. 

A big part of that is language and culture. Your TCK likely picks up her passport language from you or your spouse, but not everyone feels confident teaching their child to read, or homeschooling to ensure their child has the education their passport country requires for university. If you’re not a TCK yourself, it may surprise you how much language and culture is taught by the community you live in. There are idioms that your uncle taught you, a way of behaving in certain places that you learned by being there with other members of the community: the way one behaves in school, on public transportation, in a shop, at a funeral—these things are culturally informed and taught by the whole community with a shared culture. 

This may feel overwhelming as a parent of a TCK. “How am I supposed to replace an entire community of teachers for my kid?” you may wonder. Don’t worry. You can’t. And you don’t need to. Sure, you need to be intentional about teaching language and some culture, but one of the gifts of being a TCK is having an outside view of a culture that is seen as your “own.” So, do what you can, remembering that your TCK will have different struggles and advantages because of their upbringing, and that’s okay. That said, there are some ways you can teach your TCK her passport language and culture abroad.

Here are three tips to help teach your TCK her passport language and culture:

1. Take (even small) opportunities as they arise.

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When your child asks why you do something one way while all of her friends in your host country do it another way, take the opportunity to explain culture. This helps your TCK differentiate between the host culture she interacts with daily, the culture of their home, and the culture of their passport country. It can lead into a conversation that teaches your child more about the values you hold as a family.

2. Small, regular lessons are better than trying to shove a bunch of information in your kids before you visit your passport country.

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Say your child is enrolled full-time in school in her host country. Fifteen minutes daily of working through some free printables from Pinterest can seem like an insignificant amount of time, but if she’s getting that manageable amount of exposure, it can really make a difference over time. This is especially true if you are intentional and strategic with what you are doing with your child in those fifteen minutes a day.

Trying to do a crash-course over the summer isn’t working with the grain of your child’s brain, and ultimately won’t yield the results you or your child want. That will just frustrate both of you. Growing slowly and steadily is always best.

Once your child is able to read in her passport language, exposing her to books (and e-books) that are classics from her passport country, or history books will allow her to grow in an understanding of that national narrative and culture.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

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What are the most important goals for your TCK? Is it knowing the language their grandparents speak? Is it university opportunities in your passport country? Is it life skills in a passport country? What is the importance in ratio to the learning your child needs in your host country? That ratio should show up in the time they spend learning. If you haven’t read my blog post on helping TCKs through culture stress or in figuring out how to choose educational plans for your kids, check them out here and here, respectively.

Essentially, list your long-term goals for your child in order of importance, and put the effort in. Be prepared to sacrifice to make those most important things happen. Maybe it’s worth hiring a tutor for your TCK. Maybe it’s worth changing your educational plan to incorporate more of your child’s passport language. It may even be worth moving to a city with an international school, or sending your TCK to boarding school. Do the research to find out what’s best for your family. 

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Remember, it is worth the investment of time and effort of thinking strategically about your kids’ upbringing. As you’ve chosen a non-conventional lifestyle overseas, your children may require non-conventional approaches to their education. And an investment in your child’s future is never a waste. 

Your turn!

  • What are some ways you are helping your TCK learn her passport language?
  • How do you find balance in your family?
  • If you don’t have a TCK, what are some ways that you or your kids’ can learn more about another culture?
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Turkey Turkish Asure Noah's Pudding

FOOD: Aşure, a beautiful community tradition

Perhaps you’ve heard the story before: a great evil, a divinely sent flood, and a man with a zoo on a boat. 

It’s one of the oldest stories told, a story that takes many different forms, but what makes it unique is its ubiquity. In every inhabited continent, there is a myth of a great flood: from the Inca’s tale of Pachakuti, to the Mesopotamian story of Gilgamesh, from the strikingly similar stories of Nu’u in Hawaiian mythology, Noah in the Torah, Tumbainot of the Maasai, and Nuh in the Qur’an, to the starkly different stories from the Egyptians, Chinese, Finnish, and Ojibwe

Stories are one of the beautiful things that connects us all as people.

Despite the variety of ways our different cultures play out in the way we tell stories, or even the focus of our stories, this diversity can lead us to see the unifying artistic and creative elements of story-telling. Stories can help us understand one another.  The more we look at the stories we all tell, the more we can see the similarities we share in our experiences and histories. The dish I want to introduce you to today has a similar unifying quality. 

Aşure [pronounced “ah-shoor-eh”] is a Turkish dessert that has its roots in this story of the flood as found in the Qur’an. It is said that when the passengers of the ark were on the brink of starving, Nuh (Noah) mixed together all the leftover grains, nuts, beans and fruit to make what would be dubbed “the oldest dessert.” Together he and the other passengers ate, celebrating the end of the flood, and the next day Allah (God) made the waters of the flood recede.  

Today, while this day is celebrated differently by different sects of Islam, Turks generally share this dessert with neighbors, family, and friends in goodwill and kindness in the Islamic month of Muharram, especially on the 10th day of Muharram [Ashura]. This year, that landed on August 29th. Some Islamic traditions hold that a variety of miracles and divine interactions happened on this day throughout history, including the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. 

Aşure, like the flood narrative itself, is a picture of unity and diversity.

A dessert meant to be shared with neighbors, coworkers, friends and family, aşure is one unified dish made up of surprisingly varied ingredients (like fruit, grains and beans!). Likewise, despite the vast differences in the details of the flood narratives around the world, they all hold a unified history, and are shared from generation to generation. Each tells of a great being acting in response to some provocation to flood the world, leaving a few survivors. While the details of who that great being was, what provoked the flood, who survived, and how they survived differ greatly, those same differences helped create the variety of cultures we see in the world today. 

As easily identifiable markers of culture, food and story-telling have always had this unifying effect. What culturally significant moments do you participate in that involve food and/or story-telling? Is there a holiday that your family celebrates with specific food? Is there a time when neighbors, friends or family gather and share stories of religious, familial, or national significance? Aşure is a religiously significant dish shared with neighbors and friends regardless of their religious background. What’s one way you can invite someone new into your traditions this year?

What’s in Aşure?

Turkey Turkish Asure Noah's Pudding

Aşure is a porridge with a lovely fall taste (similar to cinnamon oatmeal), and a wide variety of textures. if you are an expat in Turkey, you may find yourself easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount you receive from your neighbors. But since it is full of whole grains, beans, and fruit, you can eat this dessert with less guilt than my previous cookie recipes!

The very nature of aşure is that it doesn’t have one specific recipe. Everyone’s aşure is slightly different based on personal taste and what’s on hand. Here are the general categories of the ingredients of aşure, and some options of what you can put in yours. Mix and match! Try some different combinations and let me know in the comments what your favorite is!

  • Grains: Barley, Wheat, bulgur, and/or rice
  • Beans: White beans and/or chickpeas
  • Dried Fruit: Dates, dried figs, dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, and/or other dried fruits
  • Seeds + Spices + Seasonings: Anise seed, sesame seeds, black cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, rose water, and/or orange blossom water + a sweetener like honey (one could also use maple syrup, sugar, turbinado, or a sugar substitute like stevia)
  • Nuts: Pine nuts, walnuts, almonds and/or pistachios
  • Fresh Fruit: Pomegranate kernels, orange (or orange peel), lemon (or lemon peel)

Start with soaking the beans, raisins and grain separately overnight. Then cook the beans on the stovetop in water, add the grains, and let it thicken. Then add fruit, spices, and nuts until the porridge comes together. Here are links to some more specific recipes if you struggle not having a specific recipe to work from. 

All Recipes Asure

TurkishFoodie Recipe

Personally, I really enjoy the flavor of aşure. The first few spoonfuls are fascinating as I work my way through the high complexity of textures. But, I can quickly become overwhelmed by the complexity, so I tend to only eat a little at a time. Try making aşure yourself, and tell me what you think! Do you enjoy the complexity of flavors and textures? Which ingredients do you use? 

I hope you make some aşure this fall and winter, and share it with a good story, unifying the people around you.

Now tell me:

What are some ways you bring unity to your community through food and story-telling?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Turkey Kalkan Roads

EXPAT KID: Help your expat kid in a Global Pandemic!

Your Road Map to Working through Culture Stress with Your New TCK (aka- Third Culture Kid)

September is well underway, which means that a new school year is upon us. This year in particular, school may look very different from years prior. You may find that your kids tire quickly, are more easily frustrated, and gravitate towards their comfort items more.

*[Ahem… You may notice that you do as well!]

One of the reasons for this is with so much changing in the day to day ways we interact with our world (geez, thanks COVID-19) that our brains no longer work on “auto-pilot” and now have to spend more energy to make decisions. 

The same is true for those entering a new culture, which is why this blog post is helpful for not only ex-pats raising TCKs (Third Culture Kids), but also all parents during the coronavirus pandemic.

This concept is explored more in this article shared about how the stress of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is comparable to culture shock.  Also, I recently read Lauren Wells’ book “Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids” and I highly recommend it for any parent of a TCK.

In this post, I want to share a guide for working through culture stress with TCKs that I learned from this book and from my research and observations of TCKs in general.

Read on for your 3 tips to work through culture stress with your TCK.

Turkey Kalkan Roads

What’s the destination for TCK? What is the goal of working through culture stress?

The first step to reaching any destination is knowing where we are going. The goal of working through culture stress with our children is that in the end, our children are integrated aTCKs who love diversity, are highly adaptable, resilient, and emotionally healthy

Let me break down what I mean by that a bit.

  • Integrated: our kids are a part of the community in which we live, they have a place and feel a sense of belonging and capability in their environment.
  • Love of diversity: one day our children will be adults who either fear or are excited by diversity. In working through culture stress with our TCKs, we are teaching them to become people who see the beauty and effectiveness of diversity, and who cultivate diversity in the spaces they occupy. 
  • Highly adaptable: by teaching our kids how to adapt to their new culture, we are giving them tools to adapt to any culture and any circumstance that life may throw their way.
  • Resilient: children are not naturally resilient in the way we often assume. They have to be taught resilience, and that’s where parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors come in! We can teach our kids how to handle difficult situations.
  • Emotionally healthy: Children who can name and regulate their emotions will become adults who are not ruled by their emotions.

Now, how do we get there? 

A destination is a good place to start, but without a plan, it’s very hard to arrive where we want to go. So what is the “roadmap” to reach the goal stated above?

Below I walk you through 3 tools that will enable you to reach that goal.

1. Prevention: 

“An ounce is better than a pound of cure,” the saying goes. And it’s true!

Having a car that has been maintained properly makes getting to your destination SO much easier, and prevents innumerable disasters that could come up along the way. 

But what does prevention look like for culture stress?

The most important thing is to have systems in place to talk about feelings without invalidating those feelings, but teaching kids to work through emotions in a healthy way.

What does that look like?

  • Make space for kids to voice their needs and listen to what they’re really saying.
  • Have a time during the day when you check in with each of your kids; what are they experiencing, and how do they feel about it?
  • Practice asking good questions of your kids and really listening to their answers.
  • Maybe every night at dinner, everyone in the family shares the high and low points of their day.

Another prevention tool is helping your kids set expectations. Verbally prepare your children when you are going into a new situation, and give them ways to appropriately communicate their feelings to you.

  • Maybe your self-conscious child gets stared at for their different skin or eye color when you walk to school with her, or even has her skin or hair touched by strangers.
  • Maybe your sensitive child gets overwhelmed by the all the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the market.

As much as possible, give them a way to know what to expect and how to communicate what they are feeling in those moments with you. Of course, since you are also still learning what to expect in your host country, it is important to do the work of learning together.

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2. Partnership:  

When I’m taking a road trip, I always prefer having someone with me, experiencing things alongside me, helping me navigate my way to the next pit stop, and just for the company on what could otherwise be a lonely ride. 

The same is true of entering a new culture.

We can do the work of being a student of our host culture together, alongside our children, rather than excluding them.  Talk about your observations of the culture with your kids, being careful not to pass ethnocentric judgment. “What is something you’ve noticed today that happened differently than you expected?”

We can learn together how to navigate this new way of life, and present it as an exciting opportunity for our children.  You may be surprised…kids are incredibly observant! Two (or three or five) heads are better than one. Your kids can be great assents to your own culture-learning process, and you to theirs, if you partner together in this opportunity. 

Also, help build a community for your kids with local friends who can help you and your kids learn more about the culture you’re adjusting to. Making friends with families with kids similar ages as your own can be helpful in allowing the whole family to enjoy time together in your host language and culture, making your kids feel more at home in their new culture.

Basically, the more you can do together, the better!

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3. Parroting: 

Teaching by modeling to your kids is like giving them a clear map with a highlighted route, or clear road signs that show our kids what to expect ahead. 

When it comes to parenting, you already know: much more is caught than taught.

With regard to cultural learning, it is especially important to remember this. Your response to culture stress informs the way your children will respond to culture stress in a greater way than the way you tell them to respond to culture stress.

In other words, kids are much more likely to “parrot” your responses to the culture, whether they are positive or negative. When you are frustrated with the stress of the overwhelming feeling of just wanting one thing in your life to feel normal again, remember to be careful with how you respond. 

Be honest with your kids about your feelings: “Mom is feeling frustrated right now because I’m still learning to navigate the systems in this culture. But I’m going to take a few deep breaths and try again tomorrow.” Narrate your own feelings as well as your child’s, and remind them (and yourself) that emotions in themselves are not bad, but are indicators to us, like road signs.

Just because we are frustrated with the way our host culture does something, doesn’t mean that your feelings or the culture are wrong. The more we can identify our emotions without attributing blame to our host cultures, the more healthily we can interact (and model interactions for our kids) with our host culture.

This also works with narrating your kids’ emotions. “It seems to me that you are disappointed right now. Would you like to talk about what you were expecting and what happened instead?” Keeping the door open for communication is key to parenting, and especially when navigating a new culture. 

Let’s sum it up!

The more we learn to read the road signs, the more aware we become of our subconscious beliefs and motivations. Using these three tools of Prevention, Partnership, and Parroting will ultimately, enable your TCK (AND you too) to become the most emotionally healthy TCK they can be!

Your Turn!

  • Do you have TCKs?
  • What do you find is most helpful when working through culture stress with them?
  • What books have you read on the topic?
  • What from this blogpost have you found most helpful?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

FOOD: Let’s ‘Do’ Turkish Breakfast [Kahvaltı]

Note: I, Catie, am so excited that Nia’s amazing article will be partnered with a video coming Friday via FollowingTheFunks YouTube! Stay tuned!!! But until then you can get a quick peek at another Turkish Breakfast we had in Kalkan too here.

A Turkish friend asked me one day if Americans really wake up at 6:00 am to an alarm clock, have cornflakes and coffee for breakfast, and then head off to work like they do in the movies. A laugh erupted from my lips. Compared to the sprawling table of a traditional Turkish breakfast, a bowl of cornflakes must have seemed insufficient to count as a meal.  

When you talk about eating a meal in Turkish, you use the verb yemek for “to eat.” However, when you talk about breakfast, you use the verb yapmak for “to do/make.” It has a similar feeling to the phrase “let’s do brunch.” And in fact, Turkish breakfast can be much more of an event than a simple meal.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Of course, on a workday, one may grab a simit (bagel-like bread covered in sesame seeds) or a breakfast sandwich on the way to the office, and there are even pre-packaged breakfasts with the essentials, or single person plates at restaurants. But, the true kahvaltı experience, like much else in Turkey, is shared. Late on Saturday or Sunday mornings, one can easily find a family of several generations gathered around a great spread of foods in the center of the table feasting together. 

What makes a Turkish breakfast so delicious is the freshness of all the ingredients.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

From the fruits and veggies to cheeses and honey, a good breakfast is a smorgasbord of incredibly fresh homemade ingredients… this is perhaps why people in the city will travel to surrounding villages for a village breakfast in a garden surrounded by the plants from which their breakfast has come.  It can be a treat for kids to be greeted by the chickens and goats from which their eggs and cheeses came.

I mean, you can certainly settle for the café in an airport or bus station to get a decent breakfast, but if you’re visiting Turkey, you MUST find your way out to one of these village breakfasts to get the best and freshest kahvaltı available.

If you haven’t ‘done’ Turkish breakfast before, let me take you on a tour of the kahvaltı table.   

Kahvaltı is the word we use for breakfast in Turkish, but it literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee.” It’s the meal you eat before you drink your first cup of Turkish coffee.  Like me, some Americans can’t imagine breakfast without coffee, and may wonder what people drink in Turkey to wake up. This brings us to the first essential part of Turkish breakfast: çay. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

The Essentials

Çay

Usually, a çay damlik (the double kettle that Turkish tea is brewed in) is left at the table so everyone can have countless refills of çay as they slowly graze on their breakfast. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Bread 

Bread is the vehicle of Turkish breakfast and the highlight. Turks have perfected the art of bread making, and kahvaltı can be a show of some of the best breads and pastries. The range is from simple white bread slices, to soft rolls, whole wheat, sourdough, village bread, pita bread. I’ve even had French toast with kahvaltı! Pastries vary just as much, ranging from fluffy and light pastries stuffed with ground beef, cheeses, spinach, potatoes, or eggplant to heavier lasagna-like pastries, from the bagel-like sesame-covered gevrek (also known as simit in the rest of Turkey) to the light and fluffy pişi (fried dough pictured above) which is my personal favorite. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Pişi: Fried Bread
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Gevrek/Simit
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Sigara Boreği: Fried Roll with Cheese in the middle

Raw Veggies 

Tomatoes and cucumbers are traditional, and are often accompanied by fresh greens like arugula. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Eggs 

There are a plethora of ways eggs are prepared for breakfast in Turkey. Boiled eggs are popular, as are fried eggs, which can come plain or include sucuk [pronounced “soo-jook”] (Turkish sausage made from beef with a good helping of garlic) or other cuts of meat. Other options include: scrambled eggs, omelets, and the lovely menemen (a mix of eggs, tomatoes, peppers, salça and spices, pictured above).

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Olives

Usually both green and black olives are available at kahvaltı. As someone who never ate olives in the States, the olives here have slowly begun to grow on me. One place I’ve been for kahvaltı even had pink olives!

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Cheeses

Cheeses range widely in hardness, saltiness, and sharpness. Sometimes, you can even find fried cheese, or a melty cheese and cornmeal dish muhlama to dip your bread in. There are usually at least a few types of cheeses when you go out to a restaurant for kahvaltı, but in someone’s home, there may be fewer options. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Savory Items

Salça 

A flavorful tomato and/or pepper paste that can range from mild to spicy. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Fresh Butter

Sometimes the best toppings are the simplest.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Olive oil + Breakfast Spices 

The combination of fresh olive oil and this mix of spices is not something you’ll find at every kahvaltı place, but it is certainly one of my new favorites.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Zahter Spice: You dip your bread in the olive oil then into this spice.

Yogurt

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Cooked Veggies 

Potatoes may take the form of French fries, roasted potatoes, or even boiled potatoes with herbs.  I also particularly enjoy when roasted eggplant and peppers are a part of the spread. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Sweet Spreads

Honey + Kaymak (clotted cream)

Tastes like decadence first thing in the morning. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Jams

Whatever is in stock or in season. Strawberry, cherry, fig, apricot, blackberry, mulberry… the possibilities are nearly endless!

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Nutella

Because who doesn’t want to start their day with a little chocolate?

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Tahin & Pekmez

Often times the tahini and grape molasses are poured into the same bowl and need to be stirred to get the right combination of sweet and nutty. 

Ok, we have to hear from you!!!

  • If you have had Turkish breakfast, what else have you had that I didn’t write about?
  • If you haven’t had Turkish breakfast, what is something you haven’t tried for breakfast before that you might try after seeing Turkish breakfast?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

FOOD: Learning to Love Eggplant [Karnıyarık]

Before I moved to Turkey, I never bought an eggplant at the grocery store.

I loved to cook meals with lots of fresh vegetables, but I had NO IDEA what to do with this weird, rubbery purple thing. I’d had eggplant parmesan before, and it was tasty enough. But, to be honest, I’d prefer the chicken version. With the amount of imported produce available in the States, there was always such a variety of veggies that I never felt the need to attempt to do anything with eggplant.

I wrote it off as a food I didn’t like. 

Within a month of arriving in Turkey, my eyes were opened. A friend ordered a patlıcan (pronounced pot-luh-john) pizza and let me try a slice. The eggplant I ate didn’t squeak between my teeth like I expected. In fact, it almost melted in my mouth.

Was this even the same vegetable I thought I didn’t like? 

Several months later, my language tutor agreed to give me a cooking lesson for my birthday. I asked to her to teach me whatever she wanted to cook. She quickly decided on Karnıyarık, a stuffed eggplant dish. I was excited to learn how to make eggplant in a way that I would actually eat it. As a girl born and raised into a Southern American cuisine tradition, I should not have been surprised that the secret was in frying it. 

If you’re interested in falling in love with eggplant, grab a kilogram of eggplant, some ground beef, and try out the recipe below.

Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (about 2 lb.) eggplant
  • Sunflower (or other light) oil for frying
  • 3 liters cold water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 500g (1 lb) ground beef
  • 1 large white onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 ½ Tbsp + 1 tsp tomato paste
  • ½ bunch of fresh parsley, minced
  • Boiling water
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
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Instructions:

  1. Wash eggplants and chop off stems. If eggplants are a larger variety, cut in half so they are about 15 cm (6 inches) in length. Peel four long stripes off each eggplant. Soak the eggplant in a brine consisting of 3 liters of cold water, and two tablespoons salt for 20-30 minutes. Then squeeze the excess water from them. 
  2. As you squeeze the excess water from your eggplant, heat up enough oil to deep fry your eggplant on medium to medium high heat. Fry each eggplant until it has a brown exterior and a soft interior. Set on paper towels to drain.
  3. In a frying pan, over low heat, brown 500 grams (1 lb.) of ground beef and one large diced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for 20 minutes. 
  4. Turn off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, ½ bunch of minced parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cover.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Place your eggplant in a large oven-safe pan, spacing them 2 cm (about an inch) apart. Slice open the middles of each eggplant, leaving 2 cm (an inch) on each end. Fill each eggplant with beef, using a spoon. 
  6. To create the sauce, add boiling water, little by little to 1-1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste. Stir as you add each bit of water, smoothing out any grainy feeling in the tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  7. Grate 4 cloves of garlic. Place them in between the eggplant in the pan. According to my tutor, this is the most important step to getting delicious eggplant. Then, carefully pour the sauce between the egpplants until it comes 2/3 to the top of the stuffed eggplants. 
  8. Cut a tomato in half, top to bottom, then cut thin slices. Place a half-moon shaped slice on the top of each stuffed eggplant to keep the moisture in. Top each eggplant with a little sauce. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. 
  9. Serve with red pepper flakes, rice pilaf and cacık. Afiyet olsun!
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What about you?

If you like eggplant, what is your favorite way to cook it?

Leave a comment below!

(Also, if you need a good dessert, make sure to check out Nia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and/or Easy Peanut Butter Cookies recipes to top off your meal!))

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.