Aylin Öney Tan - [email protected]
The first sign of spring will be falling today. In my childhood, I remember the dates marking the change of seasons were closely guarded.
My grandma would look out the window up at the sky and say the first “cemre” had fallen into the air, and my aunts would nod knowingly. They all apparently felt or sensed something beyond my perception. In my child’s mind, I could hardly understand something invisible falling, yet alone into the air before eventually falling to the ground. Then, within a week, they would start talking about whatever that cemre was falling into the water, and again I would wonder: there is not even a puddle of rainwater around, we are not near the sea and there is no lake or river in sight. What water are they talking about? When I asked where the water is, my grandma would say, it is the water in the trees, in the plants and in nature. Another seven days would pass and the final announcement would be made, this time quite joyfully, as if some disaster had been warded off without casualty, or a case of hardship had been overcome triumphantly: The third cemre had fallen to the ground: spring has come. To me, that thing called cemre was like an invisible magical wand that touched the air, the water and the earth, working wonders I could not see.
Beyond my inability to understand the phenomenon, what puzzled me was the affirmed precision of everybody in knowing the exact times for these dates. I was soon to discover. It was the daily calendar on the wall, a ubiquitous feature in every single house I knew. It was written as part of the daily information. Those calendars would always be hung in an easily reachable and visible place on the wall as each day sheet would be peeled off every morning to reveal the new day sheet packed with information and practical tips and suggestions. It was like a daily guide to life. The miracle was hidden in this calendar; it would never and ever miss those signs of the seasons.
The essential calendar was strangely titled “Saatli Maarif Takvimi,” which may be translated as “Educational Calendar with Clock.” Of course, there was no real clock, but drawings of two day and night clock charts showing the rise of the sun, the noon, and the sunset, with relevant prayer times. One could easily organize the day looking at these clock signs. But this was not the only thing the calendar was about. Each sheet would be packed with an array of ideas: there would be a menu of the day, sometimes including a recipe; a suggestion of boys’ and girls’ names for the babies born on that day; a verse or a short poem; a reminder of a historic event on that day; the quote of the day; and last but not least, information regarding climatic conditions like the start of spring rains, or northern winds, or the fiercest cold freezes of winter. Sometimes reminders of agriculture, husbandry or fishing would be included, such as the time to saw this or that, the start of the bonito season, or even the odd note on the time to shear the sheep, etc. Needless to say for me, the best bit was the daily menus and recipes.
It surely was a good guide to daily life. I wonder if anyone took those baby name suggestions seriously, or arranged their daily menus according to the calendar, but it was certain that no household could do without one nailed to the wall. People would sometimes keep a particular important day’s paper kept aside as a remembrance of that day, or just because they liked a quote or a verse on it.
Later in life, as I discovered that the secret came from the wall calendar, I also learned what that thing called cemre meant. In Arabic, the word means a piece of live ember, or a red-hot glowing piece of coal. So what was “falling” was an energy of heat, the sun rays first hitting the air; then awakening the frozen water, warming it up and bringing forth life once more, eventually hitting the ground as the water flowed and brought life to the soil, causing the earth bloom into spring. That thing was, in a way, a virtual ball of fire.
Now that today the first virtual fire has hit the air, the countdown has started. Wait for two sets of seven days to embrace the official start of spring!
Cork of the Week
Mark your calendar: The most exciting wine event of the season will be taking place at the St. Regis Istanbul Hotel in Maçka on Feb. 26. “Sommeliers’ Selection Türkiye 2017” will be a grand tasting with the attendance of Ronan Sayburn MS (67 Pall Mall & COO of Court of Master Sommelier) and İsa Bal MS (2008 Best Sommelier of Europe, ASI). There will be 38 (producers + importers) including 179 wines (both local and international) to be tasted. Considering that there are only 236 MS Master Sommeliers in the world, attending a tasting with two is an opportunity not to miss. This will be the first time in Turkey that all the wines will be tasted according to their grape varieties and body. General tasting will start at 12 p.m., while the master class will start at 4 p.m. Tickets can be bought from www.gustobarshop.com
Fork of the Week
The Sommelier’s Selection is not only about wines. There will also be food to pair, with a great selection of limited-production organic traditional breads, olive oils and cheeses from all over Turkey, including brands like Antre Gourmet Cheese, The Farm of 38-30 Cheeses, Miralem Goat Cheeses, Hiç Olive Oil and Derun Breads; plus San Pellegrino water and Segafredo Coffee available to sober up, and Lindt chocolate to sweeten the palate. All will be on sale, as will be books from the Minoa bookstore, my favorite in town, Muntok aprons, and Beyond Wine tasting aroma kits.