Turkish Raki Culture
Istanbul will seduce you immediately. It is a sensual city, and it is easy to soak up the beauty of its ancient buildings, the call to prayer emanating from the great mosques that dominate the city and the scent of spices that sweeps the city under the salty wind of the Bosphorus.
The kitchens of Istanbul are filled with artists: chefs capable of doing things of unimaginable beauty with eggplant and lamb, wizards capable of easily transforming an ingredient as simple as buffalo milk into a product as ethereal as kaymak (curd, usually served with bread and honey). Turkish Raki Culture
But one of Turkey’s greatest temptations is raki, a limpid liquor with anise. Like many Turkish things – baklava, mousakka, its share of the Mediterranean Sea, raki is quite similar to its Greek counterpart, ouzo. And like most things that both cultures share, Greeks and Turks will proudly claim that they invented alcohol made from grapes. But all this does not matter, because the joys of raki have nothing to do with his taste or his story. Raki’s pleasures stem from her role as a catalyst for sharing – delicious food and seemingly long hours of conversation – and her tendency to turn your stomach into a never-ending crater for gluttony.
Two large empty raki glasses will sit in front of you. The person next to you will drop one or two ice cubes in a glass and fill half with raki and the rest with water, whitening the milky white with light alcohol. Then he will fill the second glass of water. Every few minutes, someone will shout “serefe” (applause, literally “to honor”) and may bring a toast to life, to new friends, to nights to remember and forget, and the table will be sipped. “Be careful not to swallow,” you will be warned. “Because raki is very strong and you’re not used to it.”
You could also serve up a glass of salgam (marinated red carrot juice), which you will sip very slowly, partly out of politeness and partly to try to discover how the same people who imagined this superb cheese / melon / alcohol blend somehow, made the blatant mistake of neutralizing the slightly bitter aftertaste of raki with that sour, salty and sometimes spicy drink that tastes like being served in a dietary food kiosk next to the blows of grass of wheat.
Soon will come the mezzes – plateaus of them. The waiter will take them out about fifteen times, stacked on top of each other, and you and your colleagues at the table will choose the ones that seem most appealing to you. Many salads are pomegranate, quince or cherry and sumac frosting, and have a spicy, sour and persistent flavor (as opposed to the more vinegary Greek mezzes). Make sure to sip your raki slowly and regularly, as the flavor of anise will keep your taste buds in balance.
You will probably eat several yogurt dishes (“which, I can assure you, was invented by the Turks and not by the Greeks”, will probably tell your neighbor). I hope you like yogurt – with eggplant, herbs, cheese. And bread You will eat a lot of both.
“Are you full?” Will ask someone mocking.
You will respond with the ironic smile of someone ready for this simple challenge.
“Well, we’ll stay here long hours, we’ll have more cold mezes, and then we’ll go to hot mezes.”
“Great, bring some food. Turkish Raki Culture
“Then we’ll have fish.”
“Excellent!” After all this bread, this yoghurt, this cheese and all kinds of things well fried in oil or dipped in butter, which would not need fish?
“And of course, we will always have more raki.”
The fried squid is the first hot dish to come out, followed by shrimp swimming in a delicious puddle of garlic and butter. You will watch the basket of bread that has just been filled and your confidence will begin to weaken, but you will continue, because the food is incredible and your head begins to boil with alcohol and to maintain good conversations.
“This squid is the best I’ve ever had!” He exclaimed, because even if it’s not the best, raki will make you talk about superlatives. Hot food and raki complement each other perfectly – endless portions help absorb alcohol, while raki dispels the shame you might otherwise feel about dipping the last piece of bread from a basket once overflowing in this glorious now without shrimp, pool of butter and garlic.
And you will rejoice, console and tell stories that will last until the end of the night, and talk about life, loss and love, because the Turks do not like anything except the great conversation. Turkish Raki Culture
When the night is finally over, you’ll be so full, mentally and physically, that you’ll be able to consider, if only for a moment, canceling your plane ticket and letting Istanbul keep you in captivity a little longer