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My Turkish Travels- With Sheep Face Soup as an Appetizer, Who Needs Dinner?

Updated on August 7, 2018
rmcrayne profile image

Rose Mary, an Air Force veteran, was stationed overseas, which enabled her to travel in Europe and beyond.

Getting Stationed in Turkey

The Air Force sent me to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in January of 1991, about 10 days before Desert Storm started. Technically we were in the theater of operations. I’m highly decorated with ribbons and medals just for being in the right place at the right time. But that’s another story for another day.

Before I got to Turkey, I was told a lot of stuff. Some of it was true, and a lot of it was total BS. One of the more bizarre things I was told was to always treat cats respectfully, because Turkish people think Ataturk could come back as an animal, such as a cat. Later I checked that little tip out with Turkish friends who just howled with amusement.

I was told that Turkish people are among the kindest and most hospitable people on the planet. If you’re asking me, that one is true. I was also told never to turn down food or beverage, lest they be insulted. I hope this one is not true. If it is, they are really good actors.

Who Can Resist That Face

What a face! Don't you just want to rub her on the nose?
What a face! Don't you just want to rub her on the nose? | Source

Our First Home Dinner Invitation

Shortly after arriving in Turkey, my then-spouse and I started getting acquainted with some of the shops and shop owners near the base. One of the owners at one of the smaller carpet shops befriended us, and took us to dinner many times. Each time he would promise that the next time he would let us pay, but he never did. Later he invited us to dinner at his home. We thought this was nice. We would meet his wife and children.

On the day that we were to have dinner, Mürtaza told us that we would go by an Adana restaurant on our way to his house, and get some of his favorite soup to start off our dinner. We would all be going in our car. Like many Turks, Mürtaza did not own a car. He directed us to the restaurant. When we got there, Mürtaza got out of the car with his little bucket. As an afterthought, I said “Mürtaza, what kind of soup are you getting?” To my horror, he replied, “Sheepa face soup.”

Panic Sets In

I think my heart skipped a few beats and my stomach did a few back flips. My spouse knew I had not taken the news well. For virtually every food that I do not like, it is a matter of the texture. If it doesn’t feel right in your mouth, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, right? I am known among my family members and close friends to “dissect” my meat before eating it. I only like 98% lean meat. Skin, gristle, and other “parts” are “yukkies”, and not to be eaten as far as I am concerned. And organ meat? Forget it!

My spouse tried to reassure me while Mürtaza was in the restaurant. Surely there would be vegetables in the soup that I could eat, and maybe they would not be too insulted that I could not finish off my soup. So my heart is pounding and I’m consumed with anxiety the rest of the drive to Mürtaza’s house.

No, It's Not Ataturk

A Turkish Van cat.  But it's just a cat- not Ataturk.
A Turkish Van cat. But it's just a cat- not Ataturk. | Source

The Dreaded Time Arrives

We arrived and met Mürtaza’s wife and three young children. Too soon for me, it was time to eat. I tenuously dipped my spoon in my sheep face soup. No vegetables in sight. I dipped and swirled a little more frantically. Still no vegetables! And worse, I’m pretty sure I saw tongue papillae! Holy hell, what am I going to do?! I don’t want to insult Mürtaza and his wife.

My brain is reeling. I’m trying to do a self talk, to calm my frazzled nerves. I think to myself, ‘I can sip the broth. It looks like it’s a tomato-based soup. Like vegetable soup without the vegetables, right?’ I took a sip and immediately started coughing and sputtering! It was peppery hot! Something else I don’t do well. There is no way I could eat this!

I said I was not expecting it to be hot spicy, and what a wimp I had always been when it came to spicy hot food. My spouse took over, supporting my claim, and insisted it was so good that he would eat both soups. Although he had no aversions to gristle, organ meats and the like, he confided when we got home that he could barely choke this soup down. He was my night in shining armor that night. Talk about taking one for the team.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed grape leaves. I've had them in Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Some call them dolma, but in Turkey, dolma refers to stuffed vegetables like peppers, squash and eggplant. If rolled, like in cabbage or grape leaves, they call it sarma.
Stuffed grape leaves. I've had them in Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Some call them dolma, but in Turkey, dolma refers to stuffed vegetables like peppers, squash and eggplant. If rolled, like in cabbage or grape leaves, they call it sarma. | Source

A Nice Dinner with New Friends

The rest of the meal went uneventfully. We had some foods we had not yet encountered in restaurants. Some were not typical restaurant food, but traditional Turkish food that families commonly ate. About the only other food I specifically remember is sarma, the Turkish version of stuffed grape leaves.

Most of the food was not particularly tasty, but at least it was edible, and there were no more texture crises. I learned later, after having eaten lots of traditional Turkish food, that Mürtaza’s wife wasn’t a particularly good cook.

Our hosts were very gracious that night, and if they were insulted by my rejection of sheep face soup, they never showed it. We remained friends and continued to see Mürtaza often at his shop, and made at least one day trip with the whole family.

Overall, I can remember this dinner as a nice gathering of new friends, but definitely not my favorite of my gastronomical adventures in Turkey. Geez, with sheep face soup as an appetizer, who needs dinner?!

Over Three Years in Turkey

Turned out that my spouse and I really loved Turkey. My assignment was two years, but I extended twice and stayed three and a half years. We made a lot of Turkish friends, and traveled as much as we could. There were other foods that I was not open to try, like the stuffed sheep stomachs, but overall, I found that I love Turkish food.

Fairy Chimneys in Turkey

Cappadocia Turkey
Cappadocia Turkey | Source

© 2010 rmcrayne

Comments

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  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR

    rmcrayne 

    8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks so much Farmers Wife. Thankfully I never encountered skin soup, but the goosebumps sounds like my experience with the floating tongue papillae.

  • The Farmers Wife profile image

    The Farmers Wife 

    8 years ago from Turkey

    That made me laugh out loud!

    I know where you are coming from with that, it was similar to my reaction on a 'skin soup' my mother in law once made. Floating on top were lumps of skin with the goosebumps cooked in; yeeeoooowww!!

    Thanks, I'm gonna tweet it - Great story :-)

  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR

    rmcrayne 

    9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Yes ethel, I feel very fortunate to have never been hungry enough in my life to eat "parts".

  • ethel smith profile image

    Ethel Smith 

    9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

    I'm with you on this one Rose Mary. No way.

  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR

    rmcrayne 

    9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    lorlie and Pamela, Please take a look at my two other Gastronomical Travels hubs on Turkey, and my Travel in Turkey hub (Fetiye, Izmir etc). You will see that I LOVE Turkey, and I LOVE Turkish food!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sheep faced soup took the hunger I was feeling right away. I think the trip to Turkey just got postponed, however, I really enjoyed your hub.

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 

    9 years ago from Grizzly Flats, Ca

    I do believe I won't be visiting Turkey any time soon, rmcrayne, however I must applaud your spouse for his quick and timely thinking. What a doll!

  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR

    rmcrayne 

    9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks drbj. You're right, but which would be worse, that or dare I say...brains.

  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR

    rmcrayne 

    9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks dkrainwater. I agree, and I've been very fortunate to go to small places, and eat in the homes of "real people".

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    9 years ago from south Florida

    You are a braver woman than I, rmc. Just the thought of Sheep Face Soup, without any suggestion of potential ingestion, makes me feel queasy.

    But I did read your entire hub because I enjoy your writing style.

    Guess it could have been even worse. What if the soup involved some other part of the sheep's nether anatomy?

  • dkrainwater profile image

    dkrainwater 

    9 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

    Great hub! I have found in my travels that going off the beaten path and eat at local cafes are the best way to get the local flair for the food. Again great hub, looking forward to more.

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