Turks use olive oil for cooking and salad dressing and more. There is a delicious Turkish dish called imam bayıldı (the preacher fainted). The first time I head about this dish and the name of it translated it made me laugh. Naturally, you can’t help but wonder where the name comes from and so I asked. The person who told me the story explained that it is said when the preacher came home and found how much olive oil his wife had used he fainted. Olive oil in Turkey is more expensive than other cooking oils but not near as dear as abroad.
In the Sunday’s Zaman newspaper in the arts and culture section I came across an interesting book review about one of my favorite nibbles, olives. The article, “Ointment and anointment: oil of the Aegean and Mediterranean” (Jan. 9, 2012) by Marion James is really a review of the book “Olive: A Global History,” by Fabrizia Lanza. Many Western visitors to Turkey are often of the impression that some things are slow to change and other things seem to never change, but this is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to the cultivation of olives. Lanza explains in her book that full productivity for olive trees can take 35 years.
Did you know that most websites that list the top 10 New Year’s resolutions have on the list a resolution about diet, exercise and fitness. When it comes to dieting and getting into a fitness program routine, it does not happen overnight. Being fit is my resolution for 2012.
A few weeks ago, while I was reading through a publisher’s book catalogue and purchasing books for the bookstore, I saw a book I thought I’d like to read so I ordered it. It has a catchy title, “Dieting with my Dog,” and was written by Peggy Frezon. It is a practical, fun book about keeping you -- the owner -- and your pet -- your dog(s) -- in shape. It is an ideal book for anyone who fits the description in its subheading: “One busy life, two full figures and unconditional love.” Just as children rely on their parents to keep them healthy, our pets expect their owners to keep them healthy. If you are thinking of dieting, having a dog helps you because it makes you go for walks.
Seriously, living in Turkey gives you the opportunity to eat healthily. You can eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables here and have an olive oil diet. Purchasing these in supermarkets and markets is a lot cheaper than any place in the West.
Everyone has heard about how healthy the Mediterranean diet is. That is, if you stay away from Turkish desserts such as baklava, sütlaç, etc. With the exception of breakfast, Turkish meals generally have dishes with lots of veggies, cheese, olives, lamb and chicken. Usually some form of yogurt is often a side dish -- i.e., cacık (a yogurt and sliced cucumber dish) and many others served as appetizers. Olives are common at every Turkish breakfast, generally beside a slice of bread and traditional white cheese. Olives and olive oil are definitely an important part of the Mediterranean diet.
According to a report published in 2004 called “Prevalence of Obesity in Turkey,” by Volkan Yumuk, which is based on research conducted on obesity and the overweight in Turkey. Yumuk states that both are increasing as indicated by field surveys (Turkish Adult Risk Factor Studies [TEKHARF], 1990 and 2000) carried out a decade apart. These studies demonstrate that obesity in adults has increased from 18.6 percent in 1990 to 21.9 percent 10 years later.
Lack of physical activity and the easy availability of fast food are partly to blame.
You can learn some interesting tidbits from both the review and the book reviewed by James. For instance, James says that you can “google the olive tree and you [will] quickly discover that not only does this vegetation have a history almost as old as time itself, but that the tree is an international symbol of peace, fruitfulness, beauty and dignity. Lanza expresses this thought as ‘[the olive] lives in our literature, it is part of our symbolism, it lights our prayers and it enriches our culture and our diet’.”
“I plant, my son tends, my grandson will harvest.” -- Turkish saying
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey, 2005.” Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org