On Cooking Memories


Today, as I peeled potatoes, diced onions and pulled out ingredients to cook up a classic Turkish dish, a thought occurred to me.

I love cooking Turkish food for people, because it creates new Turkish memories. My heart aches for a space, a time, a season and a place I once called home. I don’t want “things” from Turkey but I desperately want more Turkish memories, so each time I create a meal and share it from Turkey, I am making Turkey come alive again, for a moment. A new memory is made.

The mercimek corbası slurped up tonight, comforting and warm on a cold winter's day, it brings me back and it takes me forward. It brings me to rest stops on road trips and brisk fall days. It takes me forward to realize that I am here in Newark, California, indulging in a Turkish treat I have been craving for days.

The Karnıyarık (see images below), while not made by Turkish hands, has one ingredient direct from Turkey, or almost direct. Direct to somewhere in California and then to my Afghan market in town. Acı biber salça, the good stuff, took the meat stuffing in the eggplant to a whole new level for my taste buds.

The çay sipped from tulip glasses in Santa Barbara and Yosemite and Newark, each collecting their own memories and their own stories. I imagine the years that I will fill those glasses with tea from Rize, a mountainous, lush, green seaside city where tea leaves grow in abundance. A city I once visited, a city we drove through, 5 seats and 6 friends pilled in. I imagine the stories I will tell and the memories that will be shared by way of that çay glass set and I am thankful.

I think of the other night in San Francisco, my future, soon to be, home. Anticipation and curiosity of what it will be like to move, again. There in that city that holds the yet to come, also holds a few pockets to the past. We ate Turkish food in a hole-in-the-wall place on Geary and it was perfectly authentic. The lahmacun and adana kebab were a treat to be shared and the Türk kahvesi after with a dear friend was a delight. Two friends who I have both been to Turkey with, yet here we were in California making new memories, new Turkish memories.

I think of the sarma or “dolma” eaten at our Christmas party, I think of the brave way my dad tried it again even though he didn’t like it the last time. I am reminded of a Turkish friend who, when she heard that we liked sarma, ran to her apartment and brought us back an overflowing container of her grandmother’s homemade sarma from her trip to her hometown that weekend.

The candy I bought, the chocolate I ate, the sweet juices I enjoyed, each tells a story, like so much of our lives. The food we eat tells stories and the cooking I am doing, is writing a story in me. For that I am curious and grateful for what I will learn as I cook.

About the Author

Veronika Navarra, born in raised in California, in a small suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. Veronika studied Psychology while attending UC Santa Barbara and after graduating, she spent two years living in Turkey. Veronika hopes to usher people into the the present, being aware of the blessings and treasures right around them, where they are. And Turkey, it's people, food and culture, taught Veronika how to do that. She hopes that these words, photos and stories would do the same for you.


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©2020 by Jocette Lee.

All photos are the property of Jocette Lee unless otherwise noted.