Of oxen, calves and paper tigers: Öküz altında buzağı aramak


The "paper tiger" takes over my fruit bowl as I try to get organized...

All day, the impish Karagöz has been lounging around the dining room table, giggling and rolling about.  Every once in a while, when I come in from my spot on the back porch, where I am grading yesterday’s tests, he lets out a long, crooning cry of a sentence in Turkish – knowing that I can’t understand it.  As he does this, he flips more of the papers I am trying to organize around, spurring on the “paper tiger” I have created on the dining table.

Knowing he is taunting me, and that eventually those other puppets will emerge from the back porch (where they are sunning themselves for all their worth) and explain it to me, I decide not to sweat it too much (hard for me).  But they are not rushing in on this sun-infused day.  They really don’t have much to say, which leaves the Write-a-Matrix to do her thing – you know – crack the whip and try to get me to do academic work.

She’s cracking the whip a lot today, you see, as every time I come in from grading one paper (an attempt at operant conditioning), I get caught up on starting another project – and let me tell you – there are many.  She’s mad as hell, that Write-a-matrix, and none of the puppets are even trying to do battle with her today, although Karagöz is watching her with lackadaisical interest in between narcoleptic sleep-a-thons.  Many work projects, many home projects, many friendships to keep, self-care rituals to adhere to.  I haven’t had a haircut in 3 months.  It is almost 80 degrees out, but my feet are a sight for ogres and I am too ashamed to leave the house without a full foot-care pedicure in the immediate house-exiting future.  I wonder what M.’s mother would think about that, if she were alive.  She always looks so put-together in all of her photographs – she looks just lovely.  I am also afraid to see one of my students who lives in the neighborhood, as I have not graded her paper yet and don’t want to have to explain that.  Hacıyatmaz keys in on this point, rocking harder back and forth, reminding me that there is life beyond academia and that I need to tend to other aspects of life as well.  As you may recall, he is the relentless supporter of my personal writing – and my personal life – and he is constantly rocking and rolling in the background these days.

I decided to see which vegetables were at risk of peril in the fridge, and chopped up all the carrots and celery and onions to make a nice mirepoix with Bozcaada-sunned kekik (thyme) preserved in a hand-blown glass jar.  Seeing a bottle of pinot grigio one-third full and on the way to vinegar, I decided it was the day to make a red lentil stew, and added the wine dregs to the mirepoix before picking through the lentils to eliminate tiny stones.  One more paper was graded and then it was over to the car insurance bill, organizing the towel closet and making the bed. It went on like this for a while.

I mean really, don't these fava beans (bakla) look ominous to you too?

As the sun neared the top of the sky, peeking out in sharp darts through the hemlock tree in the backyard, one more paper was graded when I decided to learn what I could do with the dried fava beans I picked up the other day because I remembered M. talking about eating them as a kid.  I commenced soaking them after googling around for a while using both Turkish and English search terms.  After dropping what some in Turkish world refer to as fava fasulye and some refer to as bakla into a soaking bath, I ended up deciding that the floating fava beans look more than ominous, with many of their wide, black eyes eerily looking up at me from their vertical soaking stance, I go back to grading.  What self-respecting bean soaks vertically? Surely, I think, they are possessed.  Merging myself back into paper-grading mode, I let the sun beat down on the side of my face.  One more paper was graded and a friend stopped by, and after expressing interest in my double tea pot, I taught her how to make Turkish çay.  One long hiatus led to the eventual completion of one more paper before I noticed that the Write-a-matrix had stopped cracking her whip…there she was in the corner, and here is what she said..

“I hate to admit that that idiot Karagöz is right, but it is true, she sighed,Öküz altında buzağı aramak.”  I’ve had it today, I’ll let her drown in her paper tiger today – and will commence attempting to draw water from a stone tomorrow morning.”

Esma, the hippie puppet saunters in from her sunbath just then, and tells me “looks like the Write-a-matrix is getting a little soft, she just said “don’t look for a calf under an ox.”  With a big smile, I turned inward, thinking that I am likely on the path to a healthier place.  We’ll see how long this can last.  Hacıyatmaz just grins, and wobbles on.

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3 thoughts on “Of oxen, calves and paper tigers: Öküz altında buzağı aramak

  1. You can make falafal with fava beans. I also have a turkish recipe somewhere. I will try to find it.

  2. . . beans or a bull-whip? Seems you might – I said might – be following a sensible Pilot (as in ‘Coastal Navigation’) as opposed to blindly following a compass heading. Winds and seas, tides and currents all influence the good helmsman/navigator’s route towards tranquility. A wise old Senior Prison Officer once said to me (many lives ago) that; ‘Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools’, he was right. In order to have a full life, we need to disciplined in our lack of discipline!

  3. Pingback: Shelling fava fasulye on the back porch (with recipe) « Slowly-by-Slowly

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