Behind Hidiv Kasrı and Kebabçı Iskender

These two restaurants have tentacles into various aspects of my Istanbul life.

As it turned out when I finally found Hidiv Kasrı, I’d been there plenty of times but just to the hilltop for the view and hadn’t realised there was a restaurant. I would have been there on a Monday and I can be so sure of the day, if not any of the actual dates, as it was somewhere I went with my Turkish boyfriend and we only ever went anywhere or did anything on a Monday as he worked the other 6 days of the week.

You might think that having a tour guide for a boyfriend would mean I was always going to new and interesting places  but it was quite the opposite. Most Mondays, we did nothing at all. He was tired of going around the city and far less interested in discovering new parts of it than I was as a newcomer. Hence I suppose why I’d been to that hilltop so many times but didn’t know there was a restaurant there – a feature he might have guessed I’d be interested in but, a creature of routine, it was not one of the places he ate so we didn’t go.

The independent way I arrived there – laboriously, getting lost, unaware it was somewhere I knew as I’d been taken there and not paid attention to the way from inside my gilded travelling cage – is a reflection of something that appeared to happen often. I, alone, was not capable of doing things well and didn’t have the sense to get them right.

Example. My first summer in Istanbul before he went to the army – a  summer I had mainly spent in Turkey because he was due to go to the army in August. I barely had any work and it was horribly, oppressively hot at up to 40 degrees. I was bored and didn’t have enough of my own friends or distractions because I’d not formed  my own life. Days often passed with me more or less waiting for him to be free, thinking he would come over and then him deciding to go and do something with his friends instead. No wonder I saw his going away to the army as my time to see if I could make a life there on my own two feet and actually be genuinely happy there or not. Note, at that time I saw establishing my independence as a step towards approaching the relationship on more equal terms, not as escaping from it.

Anyway, it was HOT. And I needed to buy a fan. I wasn’t doing much, he was working – summer is of course busy season for a tour guide. It seemed completely normal to me to take myself off to the shopping centre and solve my minor problem myself. Some English attitudes in there about not being a silly burden and asking someone else to take me/do it for me plus a lifetime of doing things for myself.

Unfortunately the rest of Istanbul had also gone out to buy fans and stripped the shelves. I wonder what percentage of purchases were made by the man of the house as my man happened to call me while I was there, just after I’d failed to buy a fan.

He was not pleased.

“Why didn’t you ask me? I know every place to buy in this f*cking city! You don’t trust in me!” [meaning you don’t have confidence in my abilities as a man and a provider] My crime was compounded by my not even having been successful. At least if I’d returned with a fan, there would have been some point to my ungrateful slight to his status.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation but I can guess, based on other conflicts, that I bewilderedly defended my unwitting transgression, the call ended abruptly and he gave me the silent treatment for a while. I do remember thinking how a failure by one half of a couple in my own culture would be cause for sharing that failure, laughing at it maybe, perhaps giving advice or offering to solve it for the other. Not an affront.

So my “finding” of a place he had taken me was pretty symbolic. He’d left a month before and I tackled it myself. After admittedly inept navigation, doubt I knew what I was doing and frustration, I did it.

Kebabçı Iskender on the other hand – another traditional Turkish place that happened to be down the street from where I lived in my first year – was another Monday outing.  I don’t know why we never went again (although Beşiktaş became yet another part of the city which was never to be mentioned as the guy I cheated with had connection to it in a roundabout way). However, once again, a review based on a visit that happened within the relationship likens the experience to sex while the solo Hidiv Kasrı one manages not to.

I know there’s a strong connection between the language of food and sex but so far, the linguistic pattern seems to only be playing out where my relationship was taking over my life.


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