Well, Karagöz really worked hard on acculturating to his new part-time life in America last night. He snuck away from the quiet night that M. and I had at home, through the floorboards, and joined our neighbors in their after-midnight-after-party. It clearly involved a lot of booze. And, of course, last night was New Year‘s Eve, so you know what that means, bubbly. Karagöz had never had anything other than rakı (rah-kuh, which is like ouzo), and had no idea how terrible champagne can be the next day – even compared to rakı.
I woke up to him moaning, head in hands, really moaning in pain and considering the choice between Hacivad Bey’s sensible Advil packet and Esma’s herbal tinctures which smelled, well, vile. She’s all for the herbal cures (e.g. a mix of sage, garlic, lemon and tea that she learned from her Annanne or granny).
But Karagöz only had one person in mind, and that was Mercan Bey, who is staying in the compound these days, getting all the spices in for a bit of heat in the long, cold and wet New England winter. “Mercan Bey – Efendi!” Karagöz cried out, wretching and dry-heaving a bit in his evil state, “I need your şalgam suyu (shahl-gahm soo-yoo). It’s the only way to address a – how do you say it – a hang-under?”
Entering the room at the corner of the door, Mercan Bey surveyed the scene, raised his finger as if to say “wait, please, with patience” and turned on his heel with a quick step towards the kitchen. I followed him, out of curiosity, as he is the one who always helps me to expand my horizons. “I want to introduce you to “Şalgam Suyu” – or black turnip juice – it is a very popular drink in Turkey for those who drink too much rakı. It is actually made with something called a black carrot, the likes of which you have not seen around here very much. While my specialty is spice – I also know how to make this necessary post-party item. Let me make it for Karagöz, the poor sot, at least it will soothe his misery enough for us to have peace from him on this New Year’s Day.”
Pretending I know nothing of this from Mercan Bey, who M. cannot sense, I ask M. of his own experience with this elixir. M. tells me that this drink is best known in the Southern part of the country (look near Gaziantep or Adana), that it is a salty and sour and spicy drink that is fermented in wooden barrels. M. says it is totally delicious and that he used to drink it while he was in the army (required for all Turkish young men) in the southern part of the country which tells you something about what he was up to on his days off, I suppose – and who could blame you, if you heard his insane stories about the Turkish military…but writing about these things will likely get us censored, so enough of that.
As Mercan Bey handed Karagöz some of the drunkard’s next-day elixir, Karagöz regained some of his impishness, and winked with wicked wit, saying “Can you say “pucker up, anyone?” And all was well with the world as the şalgam suyu went down the gullet.