What’s growing

A friend asked me on the phone what we’re eating from the garden lately, so I was moved to take few snaps while I was out weeding and manuring yesterday.
One of the most productive beds at the moment is this keyhole bed with salad material on one side and then brassicas (mostly bok choy with some nascent broccoli) interspersed with peas:

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There’s a fennel plant that has overwintered and is sending up nice fat bulbs, seen here with some savoy cabbages that are sloowly heading (there’s some arugula in there too)

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And this is a new favorite of mine, and a great fan of the cooler months, “confetti” coriander. It actually dares pretty well in warmer weather too. Isn’t it unusual looking?

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Sadly, not everyone thrives in winter; our ground cherry is a shadow of its former self, and will need to be cut way back:

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As you can see, the sunny weather did not hold. Still, the days have not been without their cozy moments:

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Now it’s off to market day in Kemer; we’re celebrating the new year again tonight, with Jai, the vegetarian new year specialty, and other treats. Details will follow!

A glimpse of the sun

During the hot, dry months of summer I dream of rain, but it’s hard to imagine that now. We’ve had a procession of wet, gray days, so when the sun came out this morning, it was intoxicating. Everything looked lovely.
We had our one freezing week in January, so the semi-tropical plants are all withered and demoralized- poor banana, taro, tree tomato and even bouganvillea. The aloe and passion fruit outside the greenhouse, on the other hand, seemed quite content:

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The narcissus in the same neighborhood are making their appearance among some pots of succulents:

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And the fruit is finally ripe on this lanky young lemon tree:

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In the distance, the mountain hid behind a cloud. (That’s Baki’s bathtub in the foreground.)

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The dizziness is subsiding now, as we’re losing the sun to cloud cover, but I hope we’ll be enjoying another sunny morning before to long.

a.k.a

We are back in the garden at last! Four days in Istanbul was more than enough running around for me. It was so busy that I didn’t even have time to stand still long enough to wish all and sundry a very happy year of the dragon (or, for that matter, to thank anyone for their new year greetings).
Somehow, though, we did manage to sit down for a new year’s meal. My mom and I had experimented with making dumplings using lamb; while I was teaching in Harbin, I had really nice lamb and cabbage dumplings (and rather a lot of them too, at an establishment known as Eastern Dumpling King. While scarfing dumplings, you could flag down waiters with kettles of hot dumpling water to wash them down with. And I won’t even start on the black vinegar for dipping. I could bathe in black vinegar.)We picked a Chinese (Napa) cabbage from the garden, parboiled it, and made a dumpling filling with lots of ginger, green onion, a bit of sesame oil, soy and salt. We froze it raw and brought it to our friend Maia’s house, in my mom’s old neighborhood, Cihangir. Maia, in addition to making a dumpling wrapper (she’s something of an expert) made Georgian chicken with walnut sauce; our friend Ranit made Baki’s all time favorite super spicy Sri Lankan chicken drumsticks; and of course, we steamed a fish. We all pitched in with folding the dumplings. As usual, none of mine stood up, which spparantly means I am lazy (how true. The dumplings know the truth of it). It was a great way to start the new year: among good friends and good food.
I am also starting this new year with a new name. Three years ago, I began the process of applying for Turkish citizenship, and while we were in Istanbul I was finally awarded a Turkish ID card. I asked if I could use my maiden name, but that’s not allowed; you can only add it to your married name. So that’s what I did. And since we were in Istanbul to get Kaya his US passport, I applied for a US passport with my new name in it. I’ve had trouble traveling with Baki because our surnames are different, so I guess this might help.
A name is just words, but it is a bit like putting on a costume to assume a new name. I remember when I went to China, it felt strange to use my Chinese name, as if I were pretending to be someone else. In a way I was, since speaking another language is another thing that can remove you from yourself by a step or two. It also made me realise how strongly attached I was to my name, which surprised me. I grew into the name though, as I am sure I will into this one. And thankfully I get to keep my father’s surname as well, since I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to sever that tie.

Could do better

It’s the semester break at last, and we are in Istanbul for a few days. We did a bit of running around today, in the faintly carnival atmosphere of the first day of the hols, and Baki encountered a personal hero:

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His report card was full of good news, which was a pleasant surprise. I have to say, though, that although Baki has worked really hard and learned a lot (cursive!), I feel like if I were to get a report card, it would be full of disappointments.
I know that on some level, disappointment in myself is inevitable as a parent (please just don’t tell me if I’m wrong). But it did get me thinking about all those times when I fail as a mom, friend, daughter, wife, gardener, you name it.
Amazingly, Baki still comes to me with his heart and arms wide open. That is a testament to his sweet heart (or maybe he knows he’s stuck with me). And I know I’ll get what’s coming to me when he gets a little older. As to why anyone who knew me in high school would want to have anything to do with me anymore, that remains a mystery.
I suppose there is something about how friends and family stay by my side in spite of my shortcomings that makes them all the dearer. In return, I can only say how grateful I am, and I promise to always try to do better. There is, after all, never a lack of room for improvement in life.

Bread saga

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We’re in the midst of a stormy weekend out in the garden. It has been raining all day with the occasional downpour and one or two mad hail showers, with little white hailstones bouncing about everywhere. Tonight there is wind, great gusts of it. There are times when the wind is so strong that the whole house shudders, but it is not so bad out tonight. There is just the continuous patter of the rain on the roof and the odd lightning bolt.
This is not great weather for garden work, but it is wonderful weather for being curled up in bed as I am now, listening to the rhythmic breathing of my sleeping family. And what does any of this have to do with the photo of bread?
A while back, I tried a no-knead bread recipe from the New York Times. Yes, that one. It always came out okay, but my dough was sort of flabby and lifeless after the first rise, so I didn’t consider my efforts a great success. For Christmas this year, my mother gave me Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread. I love reading books about baking bread, so I eagerly dove in, despite my past failures. Well, the crucial difference is that in the book the measurements are given in weights as well as by volume. I guess I’m sloppy with a measuring cup, because when I used the weights (by far my preferred way to measure when I cook anyway, particularly for bread and jam) it turned out beautifully. My first truly successful loaf came out of the oven minutes before we left for the garden.
We wrapped the loaf in a towel and loaded up the car.
Getting out of the house is a lengthy process, and there is always at least one thing left behind. This time it was Baki’s headphones. I had the bread in my hands and had set it on the top of the truck when the wail came from inside. So off I went to fetch the headphones. Once I had them, we were off. Except that I had forgotten the bread on top of the truck. “Stop the car!” I said, and ran to the back of the truck. It’s a pickup, so I thought maybe the bread had just dropped into the back. Naturally, it had not. We doubled back. No bread.
This bread is literally effortless to make, so when we got home I started another one and the happy result is pictured above. We sat on our hands until it cooled and then ate the lion’s share of it, with generous portions of quince jam, sitting on the terrace drinking tea and watching the rain.