CAPTURED BY THE RECIPE HUNTERS
We met Ibrahim while recording and enjoying a traditional kebab recipe at Karime's home. Over dinner we learned that Ibrahim had spent his early career as a physician and teacher living in the United States and London before moving to back to Cyprus to run an Islamic Charity Foundation called EVKAF. Upon hearing that we were in search for traditional recipes and culinary customs, Ibrahim suggested that we meet his 93-year-old grandmother who is famous in their family for her çörek bread recipe.
A week after meeting Ibrahim we were in his Presidential office nestled in the heart of Nicosia. After finishing up some meetings, Ibrahim took us on a small tour around the city and then brought us to the oldest Mosque in the country, Masjid of Büyük Han, where he taught Anthony how to pray as a Muslim. After visiting the mosque, we climbed in Ibrahim's car, picked up his wife and son and headed to his grandmother's house.
Our evening with Fatimah
We head to Fatimah’s home to learn how to make her famous çörek bread. At the entrance of a second floor apartment building we are greeted by a little old women with a golden tooth whose long white hair is pulled back by a bright pink hankerchief. After smothering her grandson and great grandson with kisses, she brings us into her kitchen and begins mixing ingredients.
Her grandson, Ibrahim who stands at over 6 feet, returns to his boyish ways as he takes advantage of every chance he has to tickle Fatimah when her hands are full of dough. The only thing she can do is laugh and yell at him, but Ibrahim is quick to run away when she cleans her hands as he still dreads her powerful pinches. Before Fatimah allows Leila to the table to help with rolling out the çörek dough she makes Leila wash her hands and expects them to make sure she did a good job. Fatimah enjoys teaching Leila and Ibrahim’s wife to make the dough. She is very direct with her instructions and insists that they follow every detail to make the dough perfect. Fatimah’s sternness, makes us feel that we are around a master of traditional bread.
In between making and kneading the bread, Fatimah tells us stories of her youth on the southern coast of the country. Fatimah was born near Paphos at the birthplace of the Greek God Aphrodite. In the late 1950's and early 60's, internal violence between Cypriot Muslims and Christians resulted in a mass displacement of thousands of civilians. Fatimah recalled to us a time when her family went into hiding before being brought in big buses to the Northern half of the country where her family was relocated by Turkish authorities. "Before the war, when we were living in the South, we spoke Greek together. We were all friends and family. We intermarried, and treated all neighbors like brothers and sisters. When the war broke out, everything changed, everyone became suspicious. We could do nothing but flee. I only wish that we had been warned."
Having spent the past 4 weeks interacting with locals living in a war torn country, we began to sense an ominous feeling of resentment, a lingering greivance from the past. For us, it was really interesting to be able to have a candid and honest conversation with someone who was old enough to remember that time.
The tricks to living a long life..
Waiting for the bread to bake, we sat down with the family and asked Fatimah for some advice on living a long and healthy life. Her response was immediate: “Eat natural, eat healthy, eat clean, and stay in a clean environment. There are all part of health. Only God can grant me my long life but I must live here healthily.”
We end the night with some delicious çörek bread, hot out of the oven.
FATIMAH'S ÇÖREK RECIPE
(TSOUREKI in greek)