Our hotel is in Montparnasse, in the middle of a silent street. We’re after the sweet September winds of Paris, following in the footsteps of Modiano. The interior of the hotel is decorated with flower paintings in pink and white. The breakfast room is by the entrance. Two-seater tables are intimate and unassuming.
My wife and I go down for breakfast early in the morning. Croissant, butter, jam, orange juice, coffee. Excellent. At the table next to us, a talkative French couple is eating. All of a sudden, the woman starts dipping her sandwich into her café au lait! When its tip gets wet, her little buttered sandwich instantly becomes a dirty sponge, an unrecognizable soft lump. And when she gives it a bite, we gawk openly with grimacing faces.
That night, I see the poor sandwich in my dreams; it embraces me, that terrible sponge, and together we dive in and out of the coffee, in and out…
We three buddies are in Beyoğlu1. It is winter. We are craving simit2, crunchy and fresh, and hot black tea to go with it. We burst into Simitçi Dünyası, the simit place, bringing along our cheerful noise, raising a manly ruckus.
A young, swarthy waiter sets out simits and teacups at our impatient table. The taste of our childhood is in those simits, and friendship is in the tea. We indulge ourselves.
At the table next to us is a knot of men and women. Tourists. They speak Spanish and look European. Middle-aged, courteous people, with tourist curiosity and freshness in their eyes. Portions of simit are on their plates. Turkish-style, small glass teacups are lifted carefully to their lips.
Laughing over something my friends say, I rip off a piece of simit and dip it into my tea. The simit soaks up the hot tea in no time… oh my God, such a harmony, such an alchemy, it softens up and the sweetness of the tea settles into its dough so nicely.
As I lift it to my open mouth, I notice a woman from the tourist group is watching me, her eyebrows raised in horror. Her expression looks quite familiar.
_____________________________________________________ 1A lively, touristic district in Istanbul. 2A Turkish savory pastry, similar to a thin sesame bagel.