Bread, salt and love: Happy Valentine’s Day from the Karagöz puppets (and Nazim Hikmet)


Ever the agent-provocateur, Karagöz kicks a “skunkentine” out of the way (Image by Liz Cameron)

Happy Valentine’s Day to all – the Karagöz puppets’ gift to you today is the sharing of a Nazim Hikmet poem which likens love to dipping bread into salt…relayed here in English and then in Turkish…


A close-up of Karagöz’s valentine, dubbed “the skunkentine” (Image by Liz Cameron)

I love you
like dipping bread into salt and eating
Like waking up at night with high fever
and drinking water, with the tap in my mouth
Like unwrapping the heavy box from the postman
with no clue what it is
fluttering, happy, doubtful
I love you
like flying over the sea in a plane for the first time
Like something moves inside me
when it gets dark softly in Istanbul
I love you
Like thanking God that we live.


Ooops! He’s got a real valentine under his hat, that Karagöz never stops surprising us! (Image by Liz Cameron)

Seviyorum seni
ekmeği tuza banıp yer gibi
Geceleyin ateşler içinde uyanarak
ağzımı dayayıp musluğa su içer gibi
Ağır posta paketini
neyin nesi belirsiz
telaşlı, sevinçli, kuşkulu açar gibi
Seviyorum seni
denizi ilk defa uçakla geçer gibi
İstanbul’da yumuşacık kararırken ortalık
içimde kımıldayan birşeyler gibi
Seviyorum seni
Yaşıyoruz çok şükür der gibi.


Khadijah and Celebi celebrate their love with a floating silver valentine (Image by Liz Cameron)





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Izmir köfte on a cold winter’s day

Izmir köfte

Izmir köfte with red pepper, dried thyme and black pepper on top – stewed peppers ,stewed tomatos and spiced lamb meatballs in a delicious light sauce (Image by Liz Cameron)

Snow crazy! That’s what those puppets are.  They are afraid to venture out into the 60+ inches of snow we have seen in the past month.  For little puppets made of camel hide colored with vegetable dyes, I suppose the snow makes them a bit nervous. And just as the parents of young children run out of things to do on snow days here in the Northeastern part of the United States during snow season, so too do I run out of things for the Karagöz puppets to engage in during these long and chilly days and nights.  So, we have turned to cooking.

Specifically, I sent the puppets off into M.’s ears to get him cooking.  A fine cook he is, when it comes to Turkish food, but rarely does he break out his talents.  I thought that perhaps those puppets could secretly inhabit his head (or whisper ideas in his ears at night) so that he could make our house fragrant with the smells of home.  And for months, they have been engaging in this nighttime whispering – until he was primed and ready to accept my offer of switching off on cooking duty now that M’lady is back to work.  He accepted galantly and gladly, and for this I know I should be truly grateful.

And so it was, that during yesterday afternoon’s snow day, Izmir köfte came to be in our humble kitchen.  M. made the dish from his culinary memory – hazy with images of his Anne (mother) and Babane (grandmother) shuffling about the kitchen.  He substituted ground lamb for much of the ground beef – as it is so hard to find fatty ground beef in this country…the result was fabulous.  We also eliminated the potato element as our doctor has advised us to cut down on carbohydrates (which, while blasphemous to the ears of a Turk, has been embraced in this Turkish-American home).

For a traditional approach to Izmir köfte, you can visit Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook for a recipe, or you can go over to A Seasonal Cook in Turkey for another great approach to this dish.

Afiyet olsun!

Izmir Köfte pre-cooking

A casserole of carb-free Izmir köfte before heading into the oven (Image by Liz Cameron)




Posted in Gendered moments, Turkish Food!, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karagöz irons on my head: Online teaching with the puppets breathing down my neck

Karagöz has been “ironing my head” lately – read on to learn about this Turkish proverb (Image from

These days, the Karagöz puppets have been spending a lot of time in the classroom with me – more time than ever given that I am teaching an online class for the first time.

The puppets sit on the top of the couch behind me, as I sift through reams and reams of e-paper responses to discussion questions from my students.  For years, I have lamented the fact that it is so hard to get my students to speak up in class – or do their readings, for that matter.  Nowadays, they are talking my ear off and really thinking analytically.  Which is wonderful, but time-consuming when responding to each one with a cogent and hopefully thought-provoking response!   If this were my only task with my students, reading their work would make me happy…but let me tell you what is going on.

Now think about the last time someone talked you ragged, so to speak.  Not only am I being talked ragged by my students in terms of substance – the puppets are swinging their legs up on the couch behind me, commenting all the way on the lackadaisical nature of students’ approach to the writing of these responses.

“Can’t she find a dictionary?” Says Kenne the Queen of Manners (and of grammatical correctness, apparently)

“Since when are its and it’s the same thing!” Celebi, the modern lover laments.

“What is this text language doing in formal writing – R U Kiddin’ me LOLz?” Karagöz cackles from the side…if only the puppets would focus on the wonderful content of my students’ comments, and not on the bad spelling, grammar or use of text messaging language.

And that brings me to this “ironing on my head business.” Kafa ütülemek: It means “to talk too much for too long and bore someone”. It literally translates as “to iron someones head”. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?  Well, it perfectly describes how I feel about this aspect of online teaching.


What about you – what do you think about the concept of online teaching?

Posted in Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments