How I learned to love the Irish kitchen
Turkey and Ireland aren’t so different when it comes to being obsessed with one thing… yep, you guessed it, tea! Kivilcim Celik, our Turkish and Waterford IT Ambassador shares how he found common ground far from home and, as a result, embraced Irish cuisine…
Before my arrival almost three years ago, my biggest concern about Ireland was the food. Coming from Turkey I was used to a very rich and unique kitchen and a street food culture that I still love very dearly. As I mostly cook my own food, I figured I’d be fine as long as I had groceries around. I was wrong, because apparently only mothers are capable of cooking Turkish food properly, and I was lost.
That is, until I found some common ground. As this lovely Wikipedia article shows, Irish people drink a lot of tea, being the tea drinking champions of Europe. While Ireland’s 3.22 kilos per capita a year is nowhere near the Turkish 7.52 kilos a year, it’s still better than any other European country out there. (Turks really love tea. Really, really love tea.) Living here I had already figured how the Irish loved tea, almost as much as I did, and having no other links to the Irish kitchen, I held onto this common interest for as long as I could.
Of course, tea was only the key that unlocked the door that led to the marvels of Irish cookery. After adapting the Irish ways of brewing tea, I figured I’d try cooking some Irish food to go with it. Now, three years later, I find myself casually cooking, ordering or eating food I could barely pronounce before. I’m a huge fan of English-Irish roast beef, and there’s something about salt and vinegar chips that makes me go back to it over and again. (Salt and vinegar chips are greeted with responses ranging from mild shock to utter disgust in Turkey. I still feel weird and even a little guilty whenever I eat them, but can’t really stop.)
Not only that, but I managed to set up a small Turkish kitchen here in Ireland, brewing tea the way god intended, and spreading my fatty, spicy joy to the island. (More like 10-15 friends a year but hey, if they keep doing what I thought them, who knows.) Turkish-Irish fusion kitchen works a lot better than I thought it would, and our mutual love of strong spirits only help blend it even more.
The point to all this isn’t boasting about how good my cooking is (it is) or how I somehow didn’t starve up until now (I didn’t). What I’m trying to illustrate here is that even two distinctively different culinary cultures like the isolated “less-is-more” way of Irish cooking and the rich, crowded food we have in Turkey can find common ground, and even better, merge to create something that at times surpasses the beauties of both. It may not always be easy to see where the overlap is, but once you’ve found it, you know what you now have is something unique. You never really think about the little things when making big decisions, but in the end, that’s what gets you, and knowing you can make something better helps a lot along the way.
Me, I came to that realisation after a few weeks, and every meal I’ve cooked; every drink I’ve brewed; every meal I’ve had has been different since then. I have tea to thank for that.
P.S. If you ever find yourselves in Waterford and feel like trying some Turkish tea (or Turkish coffee, which warrants its own article) look me up.
Here’s to tea.