Friday, January 18, 2008

Ode to Kokorec and the Southern - Turkish Bond

Turks and Southerners have a lot in common. I've learned this well over the 23 years since I first met a Turk and started experiencing Turkish culture. For one, both American Southerners and Turks like to stuff their guests with food. I'd never met anyone who could compete with my Southern grandma for number of dishes she set on a dinner table...until I met my Turkish mother-in-law. Honestly, I think my grandma still comes out the winner, but not by much, and that's mainly because Grandma had a bigger table allowing her to cover more space.

Two, Turks take great pride in their cuisine, just like Southerners do--and both rightly so. The Turkish cook prides herself on a wide variety of fresh ingredients prepared in a healthy and delicious manner. All types of greens are cooked or eaten raw in salad, even those many consider weeds, such as arugula (roka), purslane (semizotu) and tere--a type of cress. The Southerner can identify with this with our love of collards, mustard and turnip greens, and for some, even poke salad. It's also been my experience that most Turks and Southerners love to cook their vegetables until practically mush. "Al dente" has no meaning here.

And finally, Turks eat lamb like Southerners eat pork--every part of it prepared in many different ways, including--some of you guys may want to cover your eyes a sec--the testicles. You may find this hard to believe, but the food my son enjoyed the most in Turkey this past summer was kokorec -- a street sandwich made of roasted lamb's intestines, sprinkled with cumin and red pepper and served on a half-loaf of warmed crusty bread. Kokorec is the Turkish version of chitterlings (commonly called chit'lins), or vice versa since the kokorec propabably predates chit'lins.

I've eaten both. I like kokorec better. But then chit'lins might be just as good if they were roasted. The only way I've had them before was boiled and then fried. And it's been years since I've eaten chit'lins, not since my Grandma died.

So, if you get a chance to visit Turkey, look for a street vendor like the one above, and don't hesitate. Set any queasiness aside and enjoy this humble delicacy. For Southerner and Turk alike, kokorec and chit'lins are a traditional food of the country person, the poor, those who couldn't let a scrap of food or any part of the animal go to waste.

Just for fun, here's a YouTube video showing the rhythm of preparing kokorec:

And finally, here's an interesting article on the Turks' love of kokorec that you might find interesting.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...