There’s no denying that when my wife and I first came to North Cyprus it was a bit of a culture shock.
We had been holidaying here for many years, usually in September when the oven temperature turns down a bit. Generally, we stayed at the Dome Hotel, a Kyrenia landmark offering afternoon tea and Brandy Sours in its wood-panelled bar since the 1930s and just a stroll away from the magic of the old harbour, where we would sit under twinkling lights watching the locals take their evening stroll.
In those days there was nothing that equated to a European-style supermarket – and certainly no such thing as an off-licence or liquor store. Getting a drink wasn’t a problem though, generations of Turkish-Cypriots who had lived under British rule had acquired a taste for whisky, beer and an afternoon gin and tonic, and such things were easily available. For wine lovers, it was another matter.
There seemed to be just two,Turkish, wines wherever you went. The white was called “Cankaya” and the red, “Yakut.” Waiters would routinely bring both to the table, one in each hand, and inquire: “Red or white?” “White,” was the correct answer, the alternative a tannic paint stripper.
Fruit and vegetable stall
There are many supermarkets here these days, but it seems one still has to visit three or four shops to find everything you might want. Last Saturday I went shopping to prepare dinner for some Turkish Cypriot friends. The main course was to be spicy chicken with a Middle Eastern pilau, or rice dish, I headed first to the great fruit and vegetable stall on the main road nearby in search of pumpkin.
To call it a “stall” does the place a disservice. This a covered bazaar dedicated to everything that grows on the ground or fruits on a tree, a cornucopia of crops, a palace of horticultural produce, every shape and colour piled high. Buyers are free to pinch, press, squeeze or discard before making their choice.
Pumpkins, associated with Halloween in Europe and America
Pumpkins, associated with Halloween in Europe and America, are in season right now, which means they are plentiful, very big and cheap. I walked away with a long, hefty, orange-skinned butternut squash, weighing in at two and a half kilos but quite small next to some of its fellows. It made an excellent base for the pilau, which also featured fat dried cranberries, chesnuts and oranges, and there’s plenty more to be turned into soup and pie this week.
We enjoyed our meal with wines from Italy, France and Portugal, all these and more easy to find, and finished with a tasty Turkish squidgy chocolate “wet cake.
Let us introduce Freedom Group blog writer Tom Roche
Tom Roche is a British journalist who has worked for national newspapers, radio and television. He is semi-retired in North Cyprus, where he continues to write for magazines and websites. This is the seventh in an exclusive series of blogs for the Freedom Group.