Well, I have apparently adjusted so well to Turkish food that I am overeating. I should have known it would come to this.
During my first year in Istanbul I was skeptical. I sampled but didn’t really embrace savory items such as borek and interesting desserts like kunefe and kadayif, and I tried to resist the pistachios, almonds and cashews I saw all around me.
|Flaky, cheesy borek|
With repeated exposure, however, these Turkish favorites became mine as well. And added to the above list were homemade rolls kneaded with olive oil and stuffed with mild white cheese; eggplant fried with lamb and then stewed; and Circassian chicken, an intricate salad that involves bread crumbs, spices and chopped walnuts.
Over time, I learned where the very best varieties of these items are sold. That intrepidness deserves rewards — delicious ones — doesn’t it?. And so I formed some peculiar assumptions about eating in Turkey:
1. Turkish food is so healthy (All those tomatoes, all that parsley, all the dreamy melons and tiny, melt-in-your-mouth strawberries!) that I can eat as much of it as I want.
2. I walk a great deal in Istanbul, and climb hills almost daily, hills I don’t have back home. Therefore, I no longer need formal gym workouts, or jogs along the Bosphorus.
3. My Istanbul bathroom scale is in kilograms, which, as an American, I find mysterious. As long as the number is less than 100, I’m doing okay. Right?
|Kunefe: shredded phyllo dough baked with mozzarella-like cheese, topped with sugar syrup and fresh pistachios|
The first sign that I might be drifting in the wrong direction came recently when, getting ready to attend a wedding, I put on a dress I had worn a year ago. It was tight not just in certain places, but all over, and it took me awhile to figure out why.
Perhaps, I decided, the dry cleaners had shrunk it. I love Denial-land.
It slowly dawned on me that I should probably weigh myself. So one morning last week I stepped on my (pounds) scale here in Minnesota. It was the moment of truth, and the scale proclaimed it in black and white. I had gained nearly ten pounds.
|Nut and nutty snacks — in shops everywhere|
So now it’s small meals and scant snacks, and most of all, a drastic decrease in desserts. I’m already down 2 ½ pounds—but the first few are the easiest. I’ll be depriving myself of bagels, ranch dressing and trips to the Dairy Queen for weeks.
When I get back to Istanbul, I hope I don’t fall right back into my bad habits. But if I do, I have only Turkish food to blame.