I didn’t want to write anything about it. Because every word I type has the potential to make it all so real… Once it’s in written form where you can read it over and over again it becomes more real, doesn’t it? This week has been the hardest week I’ve had since I came to the States. The most challenging one. The one that pushed me to question my life and why I’m here instead of Turkey. The one that reminded me to work harder than I ever did so I can achieve my dreams and make myself and my family proud. Because then I can justify it in my head. Then I can justify why I’m so far away from people I hold dear to my heart.
I lost a piece of my heart earlier this week. A piece of my heart that belonged to a woman who spent her life raising every single person in my family. Everyone from her own siblings to her siblings’ children to her siblings’ children’s children. She was the mother. She was the mother to all of us. A mother who had fake tea parties under the table with you, who very secretly listened to every single detail of your boyfriends, who never let you do any work around the house even though she was sixty-two years older than you. One time we were caught playing with the cigarettes in the house so she and her partner in crime sacrificed themselves and smoked those cigarettes in front of us; coughing like hell the whole time, hating every minute of it; just to prove us that cigarettes were not something we wanted to use. Her partner in crime was my grandmother. She was my great aunt. But I never really imagined them as being two different people. In my head they were the same person. I was born into it, I never knew life without those two together; having their Turkish coffee every afternoon… I lost my great aunt this week whom I always thought as a grandmother. She always said God put her mother’s soul in me who died a year before I was born. I was her mother. I always tried to tell her that it was silly because she was my mother, but every time she stopped me and said “YOU are my mother. Her soul is in you.” I wish I could’ve been there this week. I wish I wasn’t six thousand miles away. I wish her “mother” was holding her hand when she needed it the most. My only consolation is that her real mother is going to take much better care of her now.
Mebrure. It was hard for little kids to pronounce her real name so they gave her a nickname, my mom and her cousins. They called her Meco. So we all called her Meco. It got to a point where even strangers were calling her that name. It stuck. That’s how she was known for years. The second you stepped into her apartment the endless feast would begin. You think only Harry Potter had crazy amount of food appearing from nowhere non-stop? Clearly you’ve never been to Meco’s house. My theory is that J.K. Rowling stole the idea from her place but magicians had to be involved because no one would believe it was possible for one woman to prepare and serve that much food. That’s how the book came about. You can google it if you don’t believe me.
So the first thing I had to do was go and get food to make meals that reminded me of her. For some reason I imagined her stuffed peppers. The smell of it in the kitchen. The noises coming from the loose lid bouncing on top of the pan. I had to make stuffed peppers. I had to make semolina halva. But most importantly I had to ask my family here in New York City to come over. That way I could feed them till they exploded. That was Meco’s profession. There was no way in hell she would listen to you when you said you were full. If you closed your mouth with a protest, she would stuff the food through your nose, and then your ears. There was no notion of full. You were not allowed to get full. Ever. Anything you couldn’t finish or really refused to eat would go in a doggy bag to come home with you. I find myself turning more and more into her every day. I find myself feeding everyone. Not listening to “I’m full” protests but just filling plates or doggy bags. I’m proud to be turning into her.
I had to use recipes online because I don’t have her recipe notebook yet, but I’m working on it. I called dibs on any notebook they might find that has her recipes in it. Although I’ve never seen her using any recipe, I’m hopeful there will be something there. Something with her hand writing. Something I can make for my children one day. Some flavor that will bring tears to my eyes because I miss her so much but joy to my children because they’ve never tasted anything better.
So I am putting the recipes for the stuffed peppers and the semolina halva I shared with Callie, Andy, and Rosario this week. They gave me a night filled with tears and laughter and love. We ate food, drank wine, made toasts for the woman watching over me now, and talked about our memories with our families. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a great family back home in Turkey and another great one here in the States. I don’t know how or when I will ever be able to pay both of those families but I’d like to think one day I will make them feel as lucky as I feel so they will all know what they mean to me.
As for my new guardian angel… I’m sure she can see my efforts to make food taste like hers and I’m sure she believes that one day I will actually achieve it. I hope she will watch me in a play one night, be there during my wedding to be my witness as I promised her to be, gently help me take care of my children; never letting me know it was her who gave the final push, always making me think I was completely on my own when I did all of those things and get cocky. I hope she will never ever leave my side, my mind, and my soul so I will sleep tight knowing she’s right there…
If you would like to take a look at the recipes, here they are:
8 green bell peppers (small)
2 slices of tomato
1 pound lean ground meat (beef)
1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice)
1 medium onion chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon dry mint
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cook in: 3 tablespoons of tomato paste that is dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Cut the tops of the peppers and take out the seeds. Make sure you keep the tops so you can use them to cover the peppers later. Mixed everything but the tomatoes and stuff the peppers with them, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top. Cut the tomato slices into quarters and put a quarter on top of the stuffing before placing the top of the pepper. Place all the peppers in a big pot, pour the tomato paste, olive oil, and boiling water mixture to the pot and cook on medium heat for 35-40 minutes.
You can test it by tasting the rice, when the rice is cooked you’re good to go. In Turkey we always serve it with plain yogurt.
Follow the recipe on this link: http://www.giverecipe.com/semolina-halvah.html