For anyone young enough to remember the 1970’s and early ’80’s you’ll realise straight away that yet again the title of this post is, indeed, a song. It also is a perfect accompaniment , as you’ll see shortly. So have a listen:
The one thing that any expat will admit to is missing things from home, very often foodstuffs. Along with this they often either gorge when they manage to return home, or madly stock up before returning. Often, at the prospect of any visitors from home a list of required items is sent to the visitor of various things to purchase. For Brits abroad, or at least the ones I knew, there was a whole host of things they missed. One of the items almost always requested were English tea/tea bags. When M & S in Istanbul stopped stocking foodstuffs many of the people I knew were not happy. Since I couldn’t stand tea, I would bring some back for others or just have some around that I could give to tide people over when their batch ran out.
As time went by more and more things were available in Turkish supermarkets, but they were so extortionately priced, only the embassy or consular expats on short term contracts and UK salaries were bonkers enough to view them as reasonably priced. So while Colemans mustard and Pataks curry paste made their way into Turkish supermarkets, other items my friends craved did not-Branston pickle being one. I had a friend who had enormous jars brought over.
Some expats, not just Brits, would become obsessed with pork or bacon, or rather the lack of it and how to find it. Being veggie this never bothered me, and it always seemed odd that people would get annoyed they could not find pig products in what is essentially a muslim country.
When I lived there, I did get frustrated with the lack of variety. My cravings weren’t for one particular food or condiment, but rather for a decent meal that wasn’t necessarily Turkish. Another friend of mine would note that new restaurants would open, the food would be great, but go back 3 months later and it was a different story. I didn’t believe her at first, but after a really lovely Chinese in Istanbul one night, the next time we went it was awful-a tofu dish came with beef in it, in other words it had been Turkified. Then an Indian restaurant opened, expensive but OK and a few months later bland and salty–Turkified. There was one great exception in Ankara, but that was owned and run by an Australian, who was also the chef.
So what has all this got to do with toast? It’s come from something I realised the other day. Now that I am no longer an expat in Turkey, but rather someone who just stays for longer than a holiday, I don’t really experience these cravings. As I know that it will not be that long till I can go home, I don’t really have to take food with me (other than veggie stock cubes which most definitely cannot be found in any Turkish supermarket). I’m able to put it off and know that I will appreciate it all the more when I do have a curry or a Thai when I go back home.
That said, since my return a few days ago I have been eating masses of toast. Soggy, white bread toast, slathered with butter. Yeah, sure they have great bread over there, the main stuff influenced by the French, beautifully crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. They also have a massive variety of breads-large dense loaves of Trabzon, village bread made with a grey bran filled flour, lavas flat breads, bazlama, savoury cornbread, and even one I call ‘pop bread’ that is served in some restaurants and is blown up like a balloon as it comes straight from the oven to the table.
They even have ‘toast’ bread, but it is such an utter disappointment, dry and not designed for toasters. In fact if you ask a Turk for toast they’ll think of what we call a cheese toastie. Even those I would find a disappointment because of the tasteless cheese they use. Yes, I did miss a good mature cheddar while I live in Turkey.
Funnily enough, I normally don’t eat a lot of toast when in the UK. I used to have it all the time as a student. Yet, this week there has been something extremely satisfying about tucking into hot, buttery toast. Maybe I’m still slightly touched after my last trip to Turkey, but one thing I have learnt is to never allow or ask M to make me any, it’ll only lead to disappointment. Toast gone wrong is just not a good start to the day, almost as bad as discovering I’ve run out of coffee.