In My Kitchen, December 2012

Signs of the season — a two-kitchen edition!

In My Kitchen is a neat series that started out at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. To find more, go to the mother lode.

In my kitchen this month, there are signs of the season.

1. Solidified olive oil in the A.M.

olive oil


When I went out to the kitchen in the garden to make breakfast, I discovered that the olive oil had solidified. (Those are both olive oil; the one on the right is extra virgin.) This is always a sure sign of winter; apparently it happens at about 40F, so you can see that we are not talking about arctic winter here. Conversely, I have a bottle of coconut oil in the kitchen as well, and when that goes all liquidy I know it’s really hot out.

2. A duck on a hook


This year, we are making a Peking duck for Christmas dinner. We have been hanging it out to dry for a few days now. I am sitting in the city kitchen and it is in the oven as I type this, popping away in the oven and turning a very deep and seductive shade of mahogany. It does need to dry out thoroughly, though, so we took it out to the garden with us.

3. A Christmas cake


My father loved Christmas cake and always insisted that we coat it in marzipan, cover it in royal icing and then stud it with silver balls. I am not sure why he loved those silver balls so much  because they are not even that nice to eat (I can totally understand the marzipan bit, though). But after all these years, a Christmas cake just wouldn’t seem right without them. We added Darth Maul afterwards:

darth maul

4. An angel

glass angel

My mom got this angel from a glass blower in her neighborhood, back when her neighborhood was Cihangir, Istanbul. She was new to me this year, and has witnessed a lot of baking and other kitchen madness. I’ll miss having her up when all the ornaments are packed away until next year.

So that’s what’s in my kitchen this month. Merry Christmas, everyone!


On to the next thing — Cephalopodmas!

We survived the End of Days, and we’re getting past the longest night, so it’s time to celebrate… cephalopod style!


I have a mild obsession with giant squids, which is how I stumbled upon a reference to Cephalopodmas. Yes, there is a holiday to celebrate squids, octopi, and their bretheren, and it’s tomorrow, on December 22. We will be celebrating with salt baked squid, a Chinese recipe that uses its innocent sounding name to mask the fact that the squid is, in fact, shallow-fried. (It’s a new recipe, so I won’t post it until I try it, but I have high hopes.)

I hope you will wiggle your arms tomorrow, or drop an ink spot on something, or even just spare a thought for our squishy friends in the deep.

Merry Cephalopodmas, everyone!

A tree of my own

This year I have my own tree for the very first time. In the past, I’ve spent Christmas under other people’s trees — my parents’ or my cousin Elaine’s, or I’ve been abroad on my own somewhere and improvised. I feel a bit ambivalent about having bought a fake tree, but there it is. I was going to try and find a cedar tree that we could plant in the garden afterwards, but time was running short — Baki had a cookie decorating party today, and I thought we ought to have a tree up for it. (And now that the party is over, I have this wonderful, light and liberated feeling. I feel exhilarated by parties in the same way that I am by running. That is to say, I rejoice when the deed is done.)

I stayed up late one night last week to unpack Fake Tree and straighten out all the branches. Then I wound a string of lights around the center of the tree, since that’s what my cousin Bill always says to do (I might not seem to be paying attention, but I am).  Now, I might not have had a tree, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any decorations. My Auntie Ga used to send me an ornament for Christmas every year. This is the first one I ever got from her:


Then, after she died my cousin Elaine sort of picked up where she left off, and this is one from her:


Then there are a few other oldies, like my old Tusker earring, made out of a bottlecap from Kenya’s fine lager:


And an opulent, gold leafed egg that I am always amazed has made it through another year:


And an ornament that is especially precious this year for having a message in Uncle Herbie’s precise hand:


At the end of the night, the tree had all of my old ornaments on it and I thought it looked pretty good:

tree before

But this is also the year that I was reunited with all of the ornaments that I grew up with, and the following day while Baki was at school, my mother and I put them up, including Auntie Ga’s snowflakes:


And our Roman angel, which my mother just told me she got at the Vatican, so I guess it deserves its lofty perch.


And we added a new ornament this year, as well; Baki chose this one in Abu Dhabi:

abu dhabi

So that in the end, the tree looked like this (and seemed to me quite unashamed of not being real):

tree after

I hope you will forgive me if I am stating the obvious, but this is the first time I have done this. And it seemed somehow significant that these little symbols of my past had been united for the first time. I was struck by how some ornaments’ significance has changed with the death of loved ones, and was happy to be adding a new memory to the collection. It makes me wonder how the boys will react to these ornaments in years to come, and if they might one day be decorating trees of their own.

At the moment, it seems the furthest thing from their minds.



My father took it almost personally when it turned out that I was not so great at taking photographs, and this in turn made me not want to take them so much. Then one day I decided that I would just take snapshots and not worry so much about it, and just like that I started to enjoy taking pictures a whole lot more.

Now, it has been ages since I wrote a post, so I thought I would share some snapshots to shake off that burdensome accumulation of things I ought to have been sharing over the past couple of weeks.

Ali and I were driving out to the garden from the city and we ended up behind a truck carrying a huge rock:

ImageWhere were they taking it? What on Earth would they do with it? How would they move it? I’ll just have to be content now knowing.

We stopped at Sundance and Kaya was delighted to see this excavator (wheel loader? I ought to know these things because I read a lot of picture books about vehicles…)


The following day, we drove in to Kumluca to get a wood stove for my mom’s room. Ali knew about a place where we could buy one from a truck on the side of the road, and lo and behold there was one, with a wooden staircase leading up into the back of the truck and chimney pipes hanging everywhere. (I know, where was my camera then, right?) On the way back, we passed the graveyard, which has this amazing gate with a pair of giant, praying hands above it:


In garden news, I have started harvesting the first of the bok choy, although as you can see some other garden inhabitants got to it first. The cabbage whites are still at large, and I patrol all of the brassicas regularly.


The broad beans that I planted a month ago or so are coming up in neat, optimistic rows:


And although I always complain that we do not get much fall color since we live in an evergreen forest (Boo Hoo…), the pomegranate orchards out by us are ablaze with bright yellow foliage and the odd split pomegranate burning deep red here and there.


Whew! That feels better. Now I can get back to writing on a regular basis. Thanks for stopping by.