In my last post, I wrote about the hirsute black radishes gracing our kitchen counter…and about how talking about them with M. caused him to remember his childhood afternoons on the way home from school in Istanbul’s Cihangir neighborhood, when he would spend his pocket money on lamacun (lah-mah-juns, a sort of thin pizza) rolled up with super spicy shredded black radishes.
Upon returning home last night, M. immediately launched into a description of the pickle juice he drank to wash his lamacun down, and recounted me with his mother’s various tales of woe related to the ingredients used by the lamacun and pickle juice sellers. We had a good laugh over her story about how the pickle juice seller added his salya (drool) and sümük (boogers) for ‘extra flavor.’ Apparently, M. wasn’t too worried about boogers or saliva, as he drank a glass every day after school.
As M. recounted all of this in the hallway of our home, he became so excited about these food memories that he ran into the kitchen and began peeling the black radishes (turp in Turkish) to feed me some lamacun with shredded turp - sans pickle juice. As I put down my bag and notebooks from school, he called for me to come into the kitchen as soon as possible…he was humming and giggling as he peeled the turp and heated the oven so that the lamacun could heat up a bit.
I am sure the lamacun we have pale in comparison to those of the street vendor as they are not hot of the press, so to speak. They are, however, handmade by Eastern Lamajun Bakers in Watertown, MA who have vegetarian, extra-garlicky and chicken varieties in addition to the standard lamb variety….
…and this leads me to the bridging of cultures. As it turns out, I, this Yankee lass, introduced M. to Eastern Lamajun Bakers as I had grown up eating them – the special treat my father brought home on his way back from work. Somehow, my father became interested in the little shops that line Mount Auburn Street in Watertown, MA, and discovered the lamecuns.
Every once in a while, he would come home with a soft cardboard box tied with white kitchen twine under his arm – the smell of garlic preceding him. We would jump up and down as it meant lamacuns for dinner that night, and maybe even for lunch the next day. This was a welcome alternative to my mother’s infamous tofu no-meat balls and other creative vegetarian fare that I might like these days, but desperately did not at that point in my life. But back to the lamacuns, my parents rolled them up and skewered them for an interesting appetizer – and still do. This was just one of the small things that bridge what might have otherwise been a fairly large gap between us vis-a-vis out childhood memories and current culinary yearnings. What are the odds?
- 2011 Interlude: From hairy black radishes to sweet apples and the power of childhood memories (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- From Old Disco to New Media, Istanbul Capitalizes on Biennial (nytimes.com)
- Art shines a light on Istanbul (independent.co.uk)
- 10 of the best films set in Istanbul (guardian.co.uk)