Şahinbey, Gaziantep, Turkey

Slower discovery, a longer continuous life

In isolation, I am finding voice and enlightenment from reading thoughtful pages of a book. A good read is when you find the author's voice and see things like never before.

I am approaching the 9th anniversary of mapping stories. The last two years have been joyfully focused on food to walk me down more diversified paths to see older active stories unseen in rapidly passing stories of newer mediums.

I noticed during this pandemic, people are getting into long-form cooking. Making their own pasta. Baking things they never had time to do during the hustle of the gig economy which held 34% of Americans captive. That's on top of people on payroll on the brink of unemployment or factory workers pressured to never take a day off.

A time out has done wonders for me. Seeing things like never before.

The last year has been about slower media - to re-connect with thoughtfulness. What makes something special.

Recently I read in parenting, it's important to honor the small things for children. Something many mothers do very well.

If you don't honor them, children can rebel harshly or feel abandoned (for life). You can lose all your time for memories, "too busy."

We love music because it honors small and even invisible things. It makes us feel deeply. We took the time to listen.

This made me think of social media, how far gone it is from honoring small things. It has since almost become a medium for depravity, causing too many to react harshly. So many voices instantaneously without thought seeing themselves as better than others. You can lose all memory of words said, words no longer meaningful. Disruptive words in disruptive tech disrupting all the time til there is nothing left to disrupt.

Lately I have been honoring old family businesses that have lasted 4-6 generations or more and how they survived. Not even corporations or chains last this long. There is no equal loyalty or heritage in faceless ownership. Our local library thoughtfully gave us access to Ancestry - now that we have time to look up things in a deeper way.

Many might know Athens is perhaps the oldest continuous city, with 3400 years of history recorded. Unrecorded history likely dates back to the 5th Millennium BCE.

I grew up in a Greek diner where our single-father of 3 would drop us off to go to work for a few hours. It made me dream of visiting the Acropolis in childhood, the majestic Parthenon staring at me daily at the diner. It is still the most beautiful piece of architecture I have laid eyes upon. You can find a replica in Nashville at Centennial Park. I did get to see the original in person! It was a dream come true.

At the front of the diner on the counter was the most foreign thing (to me) that i ate in childhood. Gyros, Souvlaki, and Greek Salad were not foreign to me but this....It greeted me every time I entered or left. The closest things I knew otherwise were pecan pie or butter tarts. But they did not use filo dough.

The owner insisted i try baklava. The dish spread throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Some believe the oldest known baklava recipe from the 2nd Millennium BCE was Roman. But others say the Romans borrowed from Greek tradition like Pizza came from Pita.

The word baklava might even be part-Mongolian from "bayla" (to pile up). Mongolians also brought crushed meat under their saddles (nomadic to-go food) to Russia which became steak tartare which became hamburger.

The Greeks and Turks regularly debate who originated their dishes, including baklava. The Turks might say it was born in Gaziantep (Est. c.3650 BCE), possibly the 2nd oldest continuous city. There you can find open since 1635, Tahmis Kahvesi, which offers Turkish coffee and baklava.

Open since 1887, and still run by the same family, the best baklava in Turkey might be found at İmam Çağdaş (photo) in Gaziantep, near the border with Aleppo (Syria). They ship nationally and globally.

Gaziantep was on the caravan route, the Silk Road, that connected Egypt to Anatolia to Mesopotamia. Dating back to 1557 is the Tutun Hani (aka Tobacco Cave), a tea house on the Silk Road, that once protected travelers in Gaziantep.

The local Turkish baklava recipe uses pistachios from nearby fields. The Greek tradition uses walnuts (no green colors). Both use honey. Greek recipes might use butter instead of the olive oil used in Turkey. You will often find cinnamon, sugar and vanilla extract in Greek recipes too. Some might add rosewater. All I know is that it is very sweet. They say during tough times, candy stores do very well. This was true in the Great Depression and through many recessions.

If you are in New York City, check out Poseidon Greek Bakery, the last local business to make their filo dough by hand. The family matriarch Lili Fable (3rd generation baker), now 80, showed Martha Stewart how. Her son Paul grew up since his 1970 birth upstairs. The family bakery moved here in 1949 when Port Authority (built 1951) demolished its 1925 location at 315 W 41st St. The bakery was previously in Ohio from 1910.

Founder Demetrios Anagnostou was born Oct 15, 1878, near Corfu, near what is now the Greek-Albanian border. He started this family business in Greece. He landed Feb 13, 1910 in NYC. His fellow Greeks (and Macedonians) fleeing the Balkan Wars (1912-13) introduced the Coney Island Hot Dog (chili dog) that spread across America 1920s, faster than pizza (not mainstream until prejudices subsided after WW II).

The Fables lived next door at 317 W 41st St to the Anagnostoubakery at No 315. Demetrios' son Michael married neighbor Manina Fable. Her son Anthony Fable II (his stepson) at 21 met Lili, 16, at the current location in 1956. I found their company history in Ancestry, not in a shareholders agreement.

Food is a love story. It survives generations. The century-old spanikopita recipe of Demetrios Anagnostou is still used today at Poseidon Greek Bakery in Hell's Kitchen.

Food can be the Holy Grail of a journey. May you find your sweetness and poetic voice.

Slower discovery, a longer continuous life