I’m sitting here crunching on tiny green nuggets of joy – a.k.a. pistachios. And this is thanks to my puppets, who recently stumbled upon some fantastic (in all senses) news from Gaziantep province. And Gaziantep province, tabi canim*, is the heart of pistachio production as many of you know.
My puppets discovered this news online. You see, my puppets have discovered Facebook. I mean, they knew it existed, but they didn’t really “get” it until recently. You see, my puppets have been on sabbatical. They went back to Turkey on sabbatical, and left me here in the United States. I only communicate with them via letter, and often their letters full of cross-cultural advice get here after the fact. They still have a window into my mind from thousands of miles away. As my puppets – the Karagöz Oyunlari – are from Ottoman times, they have really had quite a series of shocks on their Turkish sabbatical. For one thing, there is Facebook, but then there are other things like Glutensiz ekmek (gluten free bread), smart phones – heck – cars! It’s been a roller coaster ride across the millennia for those little critters.
But back to the point, it was about pistachios. Karagöz, that devilish trickster, began scrolling through his Facebook feed, and all of a sudden, as I heard it, screeched with glee. “Time to invest in pistachio nut shells!” Hacivad, ever the erudite counterpoint to Karagöz, had to run over just then, to see how he could correct for his compatriot’s latest bout of uncouth behavior.
“What is it this time, Karagöz?” Hacivad hissed through clenched teeth. “Why are you sending the masses on a likely wild goose chase?”
Before Karagöz could answer, two other puppets stepped up before Hacivad and began to explain, in a crescendo of intertwined voices. The voices belonged to none other than Esma, the hippie puppet, and her nemesis, Safiye Rakkase, the vainglorious dancing girl puppet.
Safiye Rakkase’s voice was louder:
“…and so if I sew them together with a silver chain, they make the perfect soft clacking sound when I belly dance! I can’t be without them!”
As Safiye Rakkase paused for a breath, Esma’s voice patched in:
“…and that is why we must begin to save all of our pistachio nut shells – to save the southern Anatolian environment!”
Esma cupped her hand over Safiye Rakkase’s mouth before she could begin speaking again, and the two began a very unladylike tussle. This behavior was especially uncharacteristic of Esma, the hippie Sufi. I was quite gobsmacked to hear of it, actually. It’s been a long time since we had any puppet battles here at Slowly-By-Slowly.
Karagöz stepped forward at this point – waving his iPhone 6S in my face and rambling on at breakneck speed about how there is a new scheme afoot to develop a Turkish “eco city” for 200,000 people – that is – get this – to be heated by the power emitted from burning pistachio shells. This is real – and you can read about it here. (Or scroll to the bottom of this post, for the text of the article).
So of course, Safiye Rakkase, the fashionista who dances on stage each night in a Josephine Baker-like outfit, wanted the extra nut shells for her costumes while Esma the environmentalist wanted to save the planet. But in any case…call me jaded, or just call me partnered with a Turkish man for almost 10 years, but I actually wasn’t that surprised. It seems to me that every few months, some sort of grand scheme, or grand plan, is presented in the Turkish news. It always has the same sort of bones – you know – Turkey is so ahead of the game that it is going to X, Y or Z. It’s just that this time, Turkey is going to find a use for the shells of 6,800 tons worth of pistachio nuts themselves. At least it isn’t as bad as the recent news that a major political player in Turkey has claimed that Muslims discovered America first…
So back to Gaziantep, which is the source of much more palatable news than that. Thanks to pistachio nuts, we are going to have, as the article says, a “nut-fueled metropolis.”
Perhaps it is time for me, M. and the Karagöz puppets to move to Gaziantep – we’d be in nutty company for sure!
* this phrase means “of course, dear”
How Pistachios Could Potentially Power the Planet
What would you do with thousands of tons of leftover nutshells? A weird question, to be sure, but one that Turkey — one of the world’s largest producers of pistachios — has been asking itself for years.
Usually the discarded pistachio shells end up in landfills, but nut-loving Turks think they’ve found a far better solution by turning it into biogas, an alternative fuel produced by the breakdown of organic matter.
Now Turkey wants to use pistachio shells to power its first eco-city, which will require fermenting tons of the green waste in so-called digesters and using the resulting gases — mostly methane — to generate heat.
When you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a look at natural resources you have.
The idea is not as crazy as it sounds. For starters, the green city will be built in what’s arguably the best possible location: Gaziantep Province. This southern region near the Syrian border is the heart of Turkey’s pistachio production, yielding more than 50 percent of the country’s nuts.
“When you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a look at the natural resources you have. So we thought the ecological city could be heated by burning pistachio shells,” explains Seda Muftuoglu Gulec, the municipality’s expert on green architecture. “If the region was abundant in wind power, we would use wind energy.”
This peculiar source of energy is renewable and cheap because Turkey has plenty of shells to go around, so much so that it exported 6,800 tons — 500 tons shy of the weight of the Eiffel Tower — of pistachios last year, according to the Southeast Anatolia Exporters Union.