Monday, 17 October 2016

Van Breakfast

When visiting Van, among the first treats you are well advised to indulge in would be the special, country-wide famous rich Van breakfast (to the Turkish known as 'Van Kahvaltısı'). Served in it's full glory prominently in special breakfast places (the so called 'Kahvaltı salonu' or 'Kahvaltı evi' - breakfast houses) throughout the week from early mornings often till late afternoons, but can also be enjoyed in most hotels and bigger restaurants.

Orchestrated in a way to accentuate the finest characteristics of Turkish hospitality, this rather festive feeling morning meal is more of a ritual than a simple way of royally stuffing our starving bellies. The easiest comparison I'd be able to come up with would be the Sunday brunch, which might be fitting when considering the variety and calorie-loaded richness of both but that's just about all the two have in common. One significant difference is: we are not talking breakfast buffet here (well, supposedly in the hotels they prefer it for practical reasons) but traditionally it is a breakfast service, served by skilled waiters in a smoothly timed manner.  

An even more important aspect is the attention which you are paid as a guest from the first moment once entering the mentioned establishment (often even when only passing in front of it, you have the shop owner or host welcoming you in - which sometimes makes it a tricky task to chose between places when you have 5-10 of them lined up door by door. One can have the feeling of just having neglected the other 9 places for no apparent reason... - but anyway, mostly they have plentiful customers throughout the morning). 

Çay is the notes of the attentive waiters in this masterpiece

This attention I'm talking about really does compare to the original meaning of how it truly feels being a guest... as opposed to entering a place and feeling a paying customer - in best of scenarios... This special attention and honest care is an important characteristic of Turkish hospitality throughout the catering world (well in fact it is present in most social interactions whenever people - be they foreigners or old friends - meet. An important aspect of Turkish culture that indeed does deserve much respect and appreciation).

Although being honest I must admit to have found it a small bit exaggerated in the beginning... And in certain places it still does feel somewhat fake, as if there was a secret contest among waiters, shop owners and jewelry salesmen competing for the friendliest, most helpful, respectful & attentive buddy of the month. But generally I experience the mentioned attitude as a sign of respect and a way of showing a sincere dedication to his/her profession (Well, saying that, don't expect the same from government officials or bus drivers, you could get seriously disappointed... ;) ). 

As the whole situation is more of a well orchestrated ritual or ceremony really, therefore in order to be able to fully appreciate the event and likewise express our respect to our hosts, we are well advised to dedicate sufficient time as well. Which means around 1 hour at least - that explains why the locals normally tend to go and have breakfast out with their families and friends mostly on the weekends. 

Gamze and me at Sütçü Fevzi

So, at the moment we are in a bright situation of enjoying a splendid breakfast! Therefore you are welcomed by a warm and friendly approach, a cup of quality black tea to appear instantly and the one tough decision to make,  namely how to have your egg-dish served. Typically there is a choice ranging between boiled eggs, plain or cheese omelet, menemen (sort of soft scrambled eggs with tomatoes, sweet paprika powder) and scrambled eggs with meat.

Our friendly waiters at Sütçü Fevzi 

Almost as soon as you place your order the flying waiters arrive with a colorful palette of small plates containing the other missing breakfast utensils, such as: 

Otlu peynir (local grass cheese), bal-kaymak (genuine local honey and clotted cream), cacık (thick yogurt with herbs), butter, feta cheese, sausages, olives, murtuğa (made of fried egg, olive oil, flour, and salt), kavut (fried wheat)...  the number of dishes usually grows with the level of professionalism and pricing standards at the breakfast place of choice (in Van there are around 60 of them at the moment...) with the price per person ranging from generally around 15 TL (about 5 Euros) to 30 TL (if you happen to chose the most expensive place located at the lakeside having the loveliest view - which by the way you can easily have for 15 TL as well, if you chose my secret favorite - Sütçü Fevzi).

A dream come true! :)

The traditional Van breakfast consists mostly of natural fresh local products which have played an important role in the local economy for centuries. It is very interesting to discover these connections: I was most amazed by the sheer quantities of barrels and barrels of 'otlu peynir' (grass cheese), olives, and literally thousands of pots of honey, yogurt etc. on display at the local shops and markets (such as the cheese market). I had the impression there are enough breakfast utensils available around to supply breakfast for the whole population of Istanbul for at least a month...! So either the locals have an extremely healthy appetite... or well, I really have no clue :)

But apparently the demand is there... most probably because  the mentioned products are deeply rooted and connected to not only the local & regional economy but also the culture, history, environmental conditions etc. Rain is very scarce around here and sunshine is abundant, burning hot in summer, therefore only the most resistant vegetation is able to survive on the tundra of the bare mountains. Van is situated in the highest and largest region of Turkey, which has a harsh continental climate. Therefore the mayor source of income for the majority of the local farmers is herding livestock (predominantly sheep and goat) and trade their milk, meat and wool. The specific climate and soil conditions pretty much limit agricultural activity to herding and bee-keeping. Which pretty much has the consequence that breakfast over here means so much more than just having a tasty, healthy and abundant meal at the start of your day. I suppose having a good Van breakfast is just the right thing to do around... to get a good start around here! ;)

p.s. of course accompanied by a healthy heap of fresh bread - a serious challenge to resist...

Freshly baked bread

1 comment:

  1. Testing out if comment section works - well... it works!!! :D Well done - Looks great!