I was wandering around the bazaar, weaving in between crowds of pushy women and busy vendors, when suddenly, I felt that all-too familiar ache in my belly. Shops with heaps of spices and pomegranate molasses were lined up on my left, cheese and olive stalls on my right— but not a café in sight. There was however, a baker with some tantalising rounds of flat bread, smothered in a mix of chili and herbs.
Ne kadar? I asked the moustachioed baker, whose flour-dusted hands incessantly kneaded the mountain of dough before him. He glanced up at me long enough for a warm smile, and a declarative:
I fished around in my bag for that one lira coin I remembered seeing earlier at the soap stand, located it with my finger tips and held it up. A nod was issued from the baker to the knowing older gentleman standing beside me, whom I never realised was part of the operation. With a smile spreading under another fine moustache, he rolled up the bread in newsprint with great ceremony, and presented it to me with pride.
Teşekkürler! I thanked him, and placed the shiny coin in his leathery palm.
Oh my... The bread was soft and warm, and fragrant with olive oil. The baker, his assistant and the gentleman paused as I took my first bite, staring hopefully at my face, waiting for the verdict. The chili delightfully burned my tongue, and there was cumin and thyme...
I rolled my eyes back, and let out a very indelicate MMMMMM, which caused much joy. There was something of my childhood in that bread— something of Sunday mornings, of my father, my Tante Leyla. I can't quite describe it, but at that moment, I felt close to them.
The bread was divine, but I was still hungry— as were my travelling companions. As we walked past a butcher shop, a man in a white jacket, presumably a butcher, ushered us inside. Seeing the hanging carcasses in the window, we were doubtful, but apparently the key to a delicious lunch in Antakya can actually be found at the butcher shop. You order the meat at the front, the butchers grind it, then mix it up with some spices and walk it over to a guy who cooks it for you. This novel idea had us intrigued, so we found ourselves at a table in a garden at the back of the shop, ordering the specialty: tepsi kebap, a kebab cooked in a metal tray.
There are no words... truly. Any attempt to describe the kebab would seriously diminish the experience of that wonderful, wonderful meal. Just look at it. What a thing of beauty! I had to post two photos, that's how much I loved it.