A few weeks ago, Necmiye Hanım – my Turkish teacher – invited me and Danny, the other student in my class, to her house. I initially thought we were coming just for tea and desserts, but we ended up staying for almost eight hours, not leaving until after 11:00pm.
In the afternoon, Danny and I helped Necmiye Hanım to cook karnıyarık, stuffed eggplant, and sütlaç, rice pudding. We volleyed vocab words and complex grammatical structures while stirring and chopping (though Necmiye admittedly did most of the work). Necmiye’s niece, Beren, hung out with us in the kitchen and tested us on our Turkish by asking “Peki bu ne?” (“And what’s this?”) to random objects around the apartment. Another niece of Necmiye’s, Merve, came a bit later – she’s in university in Alanya studying gastronomy – and chatted more casually with me and Danny. One of Necmiye’s students came as well; her English was fantastic, so we asked her for a few key words to fill out previous conversation points. We didn’t let chatting get in the way of finishing the food, of course.
Finally, it was time to eat. There were a few cultural tidbits to sort through, first. For example, remembering to pray after, not before the meal. Everyone must say afiyet olsun, basically bon appetite, and tell the cook “Ellerinize sağlık!” or “Health to your hands!” (I go back and forth about how to interpret this… Either: wow your hands are amazing for cooking this! Wonderful! Or, keep your hands strong and healthy so you can make me food in the future.) Also, the guests, not the host, must eat first. For me and Danny, this was a bit awkward, and we delayed taking the first bite, as Necmiye hadn’t come back in the room yet.
The meal was delicious. After finishing our food, we sat in the living room and chatted some more. Someone brought out a guitar; Danny was asked to play samba music and dance Brazilian-style; more family members popped in to meet the guests. It was a hoot.
Necmiye Hanım is so kind to have invited us to her house for a meal. I greatly appreciate her patience as our teacher, and I have learned so much in just two months. When we took the picture below, she couldn’t believe that Danny and I were so much taller than her – in class, we are always sitting, so she never noticed. Teşekkür ederim, Necmiye Hocam!!