Tarhana and a healthy breeze (not evil night air): Cross-cultural confusion #232


As I sit here in bed, recuperating from the combined effects of a sinus infection gone wild, an ovarian cyst in full protest and a wailing kidney stone, I have had a lot of time to think on cross-cultural approaches to health and illness as they manifest in the Turkish and American variety.  A lot of time, that is, in between being totally konked out and/or keeling over in pain.

M. has spent the last several days making tarhana soup for me by hand, fixing it up with French butter from the local store to make it extra special – an adding our most spicy pul biberto assist my sinuses.  As M. tells it, this particular soup is the only way to go re: home-spun medicine for a cold.  Tarhana is made from a powder that is cracked wheat, yogurt, peppers and tomato that are fermented then dried.  It involves constant stirring, akin to risotto, so that nothing clumps together.  We buy our tarhana powder from the oldest looking old ladies on the hillsides of Assos/Behramkale and savor it for the rest of the year.

As M. stirs and stirs the pot of tarhana, What a lovely, albeit non-traditional partner, say the little dancing ladies of the chorus, and Hacivad agrees.  Karagoz agrees too, even if he scoffs in jesterly fashion at this traditionally female role being taken on by a male, surely a shock to his Ottoman-era origins.  We pay him no mind.  After the tarhana is consumed, the featherbed back tucked in, there is, you see, the question of air, fresh air.  In the fog of the last few days, I have a distinct memory of M. coming into the room to open the window for fresh air for me.  “This is good for you, we need this,” he said, as far as I can remember,  and the troop of shadow puppets screamed their approval – as in “about time, open the damn window, we are dying in here!”

Wrapped from head to toe in a down comforter and even-warmer canine foot-warmer, I feel pretty good in the warmth, and didn’t complain at all at the cool, fresh breeze.  While I could feel it on my face, I couldn’t smell it, as all routes to the nasal passage are blocked for what appears to be the duration.  What is odd, therefore, is not that Hacivad the learned and Karagoz the jester are agreeing, what is odd is that I cannot figure out the rules about when it is ok to open the air at night for fresh breezes and when the night air can only be seen as evil, perhaps home to a miasma causing an illness.  Just last week, when I wanted to sleep with the window open, something M. often loves, he said “no – I will get a chill.”  And how often is it that he decries a new malay of the cold variety as deriving from having the window open?  I can’t understand it.

So, in my sick, not-writing-too-much state, cross-cultural couples with at least 1 Turk, can you explain this?

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7 Responses to Tarhana and a healthy breeze (not evil night air): Cross-cultural confusion #232

  1. Jack Scott says:

    There does seem to be a traditional here that fresh (particularly cool) air is somehow bad. Houses are hermetically sealed and built without ventilation which causes condensation and mould. We throw our windows open in the winter for a short while to clear the damp air.

    I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  2. Alan says:

    . . ‘Gecmis olsun!’ (sorry no Turkce on this machine) Fresh air and Turks do seem to be a contradictory combination – an oxymoron, even! A trip on a dolmus in winter can resemble a tumbril during the Black Death with spluttering occupants hunched up inside the dripping, steaming, hermetically sealed coffin miserably sharing each other’s micro-organisms. In village shops we still get told that it is impossible to buy ice cream because it makes you ill in winter – and they’re deadly serious!

  3. My mum opens all the windows in the morning to circulate the old, stale and most likely slightly stinky air. She believes the cool breeze that hits you in the morning is cleansing. I think it is detrimental to my already very hard process of getting up… – Mother is Turkish.
    Husband is not much same. He likes a huge draught in the bedroom between the open windows and the ongoing fans while I bury myself under several layers blankets with heating pads making sure that I wore my microfiber lounge robe on my nightgown just in the case that the one layer of blanket slips…. I never get a cold except for when I feel cold while sleeping. – Husband is not Turkish, but is the same sign as my mummy, so the most I can come up with is not a cross-cultural link but it is astrological 🙂
    So, my understanding is that Turkish people get a chill, catch a cold, and seriously attacked by viruses if they feel a breeze when relaxing… Doesn’t even have to be the air from outside. Even air conditioning can cause it. But if it is for cleansing reasons, it is good for you! It will increase your endurance against viruses for sure! 😉
    And since most Turks become seriously ill at a slight breeze, they somehow experience these imaginary draughts. They are like “Oh my gosh, do you feel the draught coming from the ….left or right or from top but most times to the feet?” At those times, all the doors and windows of the house have to be investigated and closed. And whether you feel it or not, you have to wear your socks and slippers, too, along with another extra layer of a vest or cardigan. You know you gotta because they won’t leave you alone till you do it. So, you’re better off doing it.
    Briefly, cool air breeze is great when it is believed to have cleansing effects and your Turkish party does not feel cold. And it is very evil when your Turkish party feels the chill and doesn’t think that it is cleansing at all. 😉

    Tarhana is great for you, though! Kudos to your hubby cooking it up for you during this time. It has lots of nutrients. Hope you feel much better soon! ♥

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