Sunday, October 16, 2011

For every thing there is a season

Deep-red pomegranates hung heavily from countless trees along the Mediterranean coast in early October. Two months earlier, women sat by the side of the road in the Aegean town of Ayvalık, selling bags full of freshly clipped squash blossoms, delicate yellow flowers soon to be stuffed with rice and spices and served on local tables.

Traveling around Turkey, it's easy to see what fruits and vegetables are in season. Meat and fish too have their special times of year, with restaurants sticking handwritten signs in their windows to announce the arrival of hamsi (anchovies) or goose. Even in Istanbul, where you can get imported Granny Smith apples or out-of-season strawberries in large supermarkets, produce stands and carts overflow for a few weeks or months with the best of what's growing right now -- juicy cherries in the peak of the summer heat, tart citrus fruit to ward off the late fall chill, hearty brussels sprouts in the dead of winter.

Though what people eat around the world -- including in Turkey -- is becoming increasingly homogenized, food's link to a particular time and place seems stronger here than back in the United States. People many generations removed from rural life will readily tell you with pride that "their" village makes the best cheese, grows the tastiest apples, or is without a doubt the place to get superior pistachios. At the end of summer, the baggage areas of long-distance buses heading to Istanbul from all corners of Anatolia are full of evidence of this devotion -- canvas sacks of nuts and crates of fruit, carted back by visiting city dwellers who won't accept any substitutes for the true tastes of home.

NOTE: From famine and hunger to organic gardening and vegetarianism, bloggers around the world are writing about the past, present, and future of food for Blog Action Day, an annual event that seeks to focus attention on an important topic such as water, climate change, or poverty. Register online and get blogging to join today's global conversation about food.

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