When the boys are in charge

Tesekkur Ederiz Afiyet Olsun, Turkey | Art by Todd Berman

Todd and I have noticed that whether we were in the Cappadocian center or miles away on the Western coast, most menus in Turkey have had the same short list of food. Unless we could splurge on an edgier restaurant in Istanbul, risk a petri dish-like steam tray of soppy stuffed tomatoes, or feed on some overpriced and underseasoned mezes with our raki, our choices center on meat.

In Turkey meat comes in more guises than just the renowned döner kebap – there’s kefta, mince pide, mantı, fasulye, grotesquely pink pressed-meat sausages, pastrami, Iskender kebap, pottery kebap, and all the other multitudinous kebaps.

I’ve developed a theory that the typical Turkish menu is what happens when boys are in charge. For so long, while tradition stuck Turkish women at home, the men have been running the restaurants and eating out. With all its meat and bread, it’s a menu that my brothers Brian and Mike would have appreciated when they were picky teenage boys.

We’ve seen markets overflowing with a lot of the same seasonal produce available in California, but more often than not it goes with meat or doesn’t go at all. My gut, usually a reliable gastronomic gauge, tells me that there’s more to this country’s cuisine than I’ve found in restaurants, if only I could eat in a Turkish household run by a strong woman.