Not long after we moved here it was asure month, a month when people traditionally make a dessert made from a mix of fruits, nuts, grains and spices and then give it out to the neighbours. If all your neighbours do the same, that one dish you give away will reward you with a fridge full of different tastes and to this day G can tell you which Taze’s assure the street’s kids agreed was the best. To deliver them kids werer sent up and down the street with a loaded tray, the dessert still warm in the deliver-it-as-soon-as-it’s-cooked custom. To someone coming from a culture where you might go days without seeing your neighbour, the idea of taking food like this to neighbours and even knowing the names of all your neighbours (40 houses up and 40 houses down is a hadith!) is a bit daunting, yet its traditions like this that make Turkey such a lovely place to live. When my mother-in-law used to send out the assure it was in a glass bowl. Unlike other foods gifted by neighbours you’re not meant to return the plate cleaned or with anything else in it. Nowadays its more likely the asure will come in a throw away container..keeping the traditions but updating it slightly. Having heard stories about how kids used to be sent to deliver the assure on trays and return the bowl (unwashed)… unlike when M was born and G had to go out and buy Turkish Delight to refill the plates because neither my Mum nor I had thought to bake anything to return the plate with… I thought I understood the assure thing. Then in Iznik our neighbour opposite turned up with a pan larger than any we own. I took it into the kitchen, scooped out a bowl and tried to give the (still full) pan back. Looking a bit bewildered the neighbour explained I was meant to take it all..cue me hurridly trying to find a large enough bowl to transfer the pans contents into and not having any idea whether to clean the pan or not! Although my attempt at delivering assure myself was a hilarious disaster and a story for another day, I feel I’m finally getting the food etiquette thing down.
I’m really struggling now though with the etiquette of interacting with neighbours who have children or relatives in the army, who spent Friday night worrying about their loved ones safety, those who were personally caught up in the situation too close to the tanks and those for whom either of these situations could have been their reality. Hundreds of people died, many were seriously injured and the knowledge that this number could have been so much higher had the top army commander joined the coup as invited, politics aside this has cast a shadow over Turkish people in a very human and sombre way.
Do I visit those I know have sons actively serving or due to join soon? How do I express my sadness that they had to deal with this? Does one ignore it and interact as usual? Hide in the house until it’s over? The etiquette of life post attempted military coup is one I never dreamt I’d have to learn, and the worrying differences between this attempt and all past coups give me no reference point to draw from. How are they balancing the hope their country’s united stance gives with the very real risk this isnt over?
Today I’m making beetroot brownies. Some of them will go to a friend whose brother has just returned home from duty. We’ll talk about how he and they are debriefing themselves from the fear and risk they experienced and we’ll once again talk of how our sons being required to serve is a worry we cannot escape no matter what your feelings on national service. When grandparents and communities send the boys off to the army in convoy, with horns beeping and positive pride ( and yes, quite possibly gun shots, too!), how do you discect the fear of the soldier on TV pointing a gun at your fellow country men having been your brother, or husband or son? How do i join in with this when my reference for neighbours is Kylie and I cant read this title without humming?