The first homemade Turkish food I’ve had, here actually in Türkiye, was in Çanakkale at the home of some of my host Mustafa’s friends. I would have already said I love Turkish food, but this was a revelation. For one thing, I’ve been saying I don’t care for stuffed grape leaves. Whenever I’d tried them at restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, I hadn’t cared for the taste of the leaves and had been unimpressed with the dish. OMG. The most tender, melt-in-your-mouth treats ever, when homemade by a good cook. And then my first experience of what BB called “water borek”: the thinnest of pastry is boiled before being baked. The layers of rice-paper-thin pastry had a bit of seasoned ground meat. The top was crispy, the bottom firm, the middle ethereal. It’s the most delicate of pasta dishes, not what you think of with pastry, even millefeuille. The other appetizers included transparently-thin shaved zucchini in a dill sauce with a bit of rice, beans in spiced fresh tomato sauce, and tomato salad. Of course the mezze could have been a meal in themselves, but they were followed by the tenderest meatballs I have ever had, in a spicy tomato sauce, with more rice. It was all outstandingly delicious. I loved it – even with only water to drink!

Home in Burhaniye the next day, BB showed she cannot be outdone. She made sarma as delicious as the day before, and dolma, peppers stuffed with rice. Mustafa grilled sea bream. We had salad of arugula and tomatoes with a tart pomegranate syrup and olive oil dressing. And all with a view of the sea!

Restaurants can’t compete with this quality of homemade cooking, but I do want to show the late lunch / early dinner I had in Bandirma while waiting for my bus. I hadn’t eaten at all and wouldn’t eat again during the day, so I think I can be excused for ordering two starters and a main. First, imam bayaldi, room-temp vegetarian stuffed eggplant, and an artichoke bottom. Look at the size of it! Then, a plate of manti, Turkish meat-stuffed dumplings in a yogurt sauce. No alcohol at this restaurant; fine for enjoying a yogurt sauce. And that does keep the price down: this meal was 117 TL. With a 20 TL tip, still under USD 8. Yes, less than EIGHT dollars. But I did then go out for an Efes malt beer before heading to the bus! I cannot be reformed.

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