Oh it’s way too quiet next door today! I miss the waves of laughter, the hum of the friendly chatter and the intermittent drumming of the last few days: all the neighbours joined in the fun to prepare for and celebrate the wedding of Emine and Gökhan and the atmosphere was infectious.
It’s been fascinating for me as a foreigner to be part of this traditional wedding and especially from such a privileged position. I have of course been to other village dos over the years but this was special: we have after all known Emine since she was about 11 and been pretty closely involved with her growing up.From the word go, she always liked popping round to sit with us and she has always been different in that she was determined to have an education.
From the word go, she always liked popping round to sit with us and she has always been different in that she was determined to have an education.
To their lasting credit, her family, traditional villagers themselves, have always supported her ambitions so off she went to university! She is now an English-speaking qualified teacher and counsellor. At her last school in Hasankeyf, she distinguished herself by starting a photography club and even organized an exhibition which was opened by the Governor himself!
Now she is back working in Ayvacık since her new husband is based here, and she is collecting books to open up a library! A remarkable girl. She is full of initiative and this was obvious from the wedding that she masterminded herself.
But it was Emine‘s mother Leyla who took control of the food. She’s great, Leyla. The menu for these düğün/weddings and also sünnet or circumcisions, is always the same and the order in which the food is prepared with the help of the neighbours follows centuries of tradition: first the baklava, then the stuffed vine leaves and the bread.
The final task is the cutting up of the meat, usually a cow although I think this was a bull, which is slaughtered for the feast. All pretty mammoth!!! They cater for hundreds and not just one meal either!The scale of it all as well as the overwhelming generosity in terms of amount, is truly amazing. The actual cooking of the meat and the prepared vine leaves along with pilaf, chickpeas,
The scale of it all as well as the overwhelming generosity in terms of amount, is truly amazing. The actual cooking of the meat and the prepared vine leaves along with pilaf, chickpeas, keşkek (a particular festive wheat-based dish), fried eggplant with yogurt, salad, and soup is done by professional aşçı or cooks who come along with all their gear and set up camp in the garden or other appointed space.
I should also say that next-door’s garden was transformed into a little cafe with loads of tables and chairs set up at the back. People just came and went, came and went all day long. This year Leyla didn’t plant her usual rows of vegetables in anticipation of this great event. How that garden will ever recover, I hate to think!
OK just to show you the baklava baking resplendently in the outdoor fırın/ovens. It’s made with olive oil, BTW, not butter, from their own olives from their own olive trees, picked with their own fair hands.
This was Wednesday.
On Thursday it was the day for preparing the sarma: the stuffed vine leaves. This was an all-out effort with all Leyla‘s friends coming round to lend a hand. Emine called me to say Come! They are starting!
So off I shot, camera in hand and this is what I saw:
They were hard at it on Friday late afternoon, the hazırlık günü as they called it. Again all the women were seated on the ground outside but this time chopping up the beef that the men tossed them. At the same time, two gypsy drummers arrived and set themselves down at the end there.
From our house next door I could hear them beating their drums and I can tell you, it was hard to resist! Again, I shot round to see what was up. I perched myself as discreetly as possible on the edge of the scene and just observed:
On Saturday we had the real düğün down at the school: in other words in the old playground. It isn’t used any more because of the government policy of making old primary schools redundant. But this one has the most fabulous location! I didn’t take photos as TT said for god’s sake, we aren’t tourists.
But then Sunday dawned bright and clear: this was the day the groom’s side came to ‘take’ the bride. But before this, there was a tap at the door and there was Emine herself with two bowls of mercimek or lentil soup, apparently the traditional start to the day that we were supposed to have gone next door for. It was full of flavour, lots of lemon and dried mint. We enjoyed it and excused ourselves for not knowing the custom.
However, I was waiting for the ‘other side’ to make their appearance. I changed out of my shorts in good time so I could go outside and take photographs. It was about 5pm when I heard the beep beep of the cars advancing. I must admit I had a lump in my throat. It was all so symbolic.
In the evening we were invited to the groom’s village for the return düğün: another feast and yet more music and dancing, this time in their school playground. As well as fireworks, which we’d had on Saturday night too, there was a cake with flares! Gökhan is the son of the muhtar, the local village headman, so there was a big turnout.
As you can see, everybody there is female! In contrast to our village, almost everyone there was covered. Yet, when it came to the dancing, they were all up on their feet! Not the men, though. They hang around at the back and observe! Seems the young ones at least go to eye up the local talent with an eye to future matrimonial arrangements.
All of this without a drop of alcohol! And everybody obviously enjoyed every minute of it! I think what was remarkable is how they all pulled together and yet had fun at the same time. The bride was remarkably unstressed throughout.
Now it’s back to normal life for everybody, and for Emine and Gökhan, as they say here:
bir yastıkta kocayın – may you age on the same pillow!