Behind Genç Kebab, Kebab Dünyası and Saray

These are three restaurants that featured heavily in The Good Year.

But there is a sidenote similar to that of Kanaat: The review for Genç and for Saray both play on relationship mentions and terms. It’s almost like….like I had nothing going on in my life in Istanbul except Turkish food and a boyfriend. In fact, a common expression of endearment is “Seni yerim” literally “I eat you”, which doesn’t sound as sexual in Turkish as it comes off in English. It’s sweet.

And sweet was what I was supposed to be. That was the characteristic, along with innocence that I was valued for by him. Not independence, not intelligence, not, if I do say so myself, my ready sarcastic wit and creativity. No wonder I got sick of sugary, syrupy desserts with no substance. I was one.

I recently made this observation about having only been valued for these two traits to an older female friend who knew me the whole time I lived there. And she said those were the last qualities she’d have described me with. I started to protest, I do have those traits…but actually they’re in very, very small traces. And they’re qualities you can only ever fall down from. Sweets don’t nourish or satisfy. Innocence doesn’t last, shouldn’t last, is a strange thing for a fully grown man to want in an equal.

Ah, yes, an equal. That was not part of my role. Glimmers of that are there in the Genç review. The fact he couldn’t cook. That’s not a Turkish man’s job. It’s the woman’s. Note that I didn’t even write that he couldn’t cook. I said that he “refused to learn”. He would often state that if he did cook, he’d be brilliant at it. I’m not sure how he came about that assertion other than through sheer hubris.

The only time he ever cooked for me (but let’s remember to be fair – he ungrudgingly and automatically did every single thing that fell under the man’s remit) was when I won it at cards. We settled a lot of things like that as we were/are both very competitive and liked to have wagers. My prize was fried anchovies in cornflour, a Black Sea speciality. And he found them to be unsurpassable. If I had presented the exact same plate of food, we’d have both found it undercooked. But I was trying to be encouraging and he had, and has, a blind spot for his own mistakes. The spotlight is far, far too tightly trained on everyone else’s.

Anyway, back to the point about not having much else in my life. I wasn’t enamoured of teaching English but I was doing very well freelance with private students and that freedom made up for a lot of the lesser satisfaction the job itself carried. I didn’t have a lot of friends as I didn’t work with anyone but the ones I did have I wasn’t allowed to stay out late with and seeing male friends was such a constant battle that I let a couple of important friendships slide as it wasn’t worth it and I was trying to conform. I did love the city though and maybe, in the end, I stayed after he went to the army for Istanbul and not for him.

Once every thing went wrong, we still ate at Genç but the two Taksim places, polluted by my Cihangir/Taksim fall from grace, were best avoided. I myself got bored of Saray so I can’t blame my relationship for the fact I stopped going. But the key phrase  in that piece  is  that I wanted “rich instead of just sweet” so it’s no wonder I strayed with more than just restaurants.


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