Ryan Gruss (22/06/2010)
Stumbling into the shadows, we hurried down the alleyway. Sunlight cast through rents in the wall made motes of dust glitter. Either side of us, broad black smears crossed the blistering paints and gilt of once bright murals and soot overlaid crumbling friezes of animals. Still maintaining our pace, we neared the exit of the dim alley way and light from the burning conflagration of the day flooded into our eyes. Groping forward like fruit bats in the sun, we had arrived.
In front of our eyes, the Dalaman food market stretched beyond the horizon. It was a crossroads for food traders heading to the east and sported a vast array of foods. We could hear multitudes of calls from vendors selling their items. All of us salivating, we headed for the fruit and vegetable merchant. As we approached, all I could see was a palette of colour as if an artist had been at work. From handpicked berries, shined to iridescence to ruggedly beautiful pineapples, this stall emanated a fresh scent that provided gentle relief from the sun’s intensity. My nose being assaulted by the saccharine smell of fruit, I was curious to try the illusive dragon fruit. Rosy pink yet dangerously spiky, this fruit was playing games with my aspiration. However still, cut open by the vendor, I tried a piece of this idiosyncratic fruit. Floury in texture yet pleasantly sharp in taste, the experience aroused ecstasy in my mouth. Also, the placid crunch it made on consumption as well as its elegant exterior made it a culinary treat for me. Keen to explore further, my family had already joined the cosmopolitan crowds and were heading for the thunderous shouts surrounding the spice stall. Quickly I followed, dodging curled up snakes loitering on the hot coal like pavement but my bare feet were now harshly bruised and irritated.
As I approached the spice stall, I noticed that as evening drew closer the granite sky was now ushering in a forbidding manner. Nonetheless, the colourful spices glistened like gems in the radiant twilight. The smells of cumin, paprika and dried herbs were like a complex herbal drug yet surprisingly they were a pleasant sensation. Searching through the barrels of Indian, Thai and Turkish fragrances, we smelled the zingy perfumes and felt the texture of coarsely ground spices. Behind us, wafting from the vendor’s pan, the scent of stem ginger was like a mellow kiss of the breeze: blissful and welcomed.
We arrived finally at the meat and fish stall. On one side of us, rows of freshwater and sea caught fish lay, emanating a wonderful salty aroma. On picking up a local trout, caught in the silvery white Essen stream, I could see the fabulous intricacy of scales and meaty flesh of the fish. As I placed it back the soft gooey resin on the fish clung to my burnt flesh. On the other stall of the stall, endless cuts of meats stood with a glorious crimson colour. As I picked up a fresh neck fillet of lamb, I could feel its meaty texture and its smell was mouth watering. The vendor saw me looking at this lamb, and asked my family if we would like him to cook it for us. Of course, we all nodded and he guided us to a series of Turkish couches around a fire.
We collapsed onto these couches and felt the warmth of fire gently caress our bodies. The capacious fire crackled viciously as its vibrant orange and red tendrils explored the hearth like a newborn’s curious hands, occasionally voicing pops in joyous wonderment. On the fire sat a bubbling pot of apple chai. The vendor came with his pan and meat. In an instant, I saw a roaring flambé and before I could blink, a complex array of spices had been added. Within moments, a plate of succulent spiced lamb complimented by local chai stood before me. Leaning back into the opulence of the couches, I cut into my lamb. Literally melting on my plate, its texture was soft and flaky. However, the taste of locally reared lamb delicately spiced with caraway and paprika was angelic. Nothing this side of heaven’s gate could come close. Finally, I sipped my green chai and a euphoric shiver raced acid through my veins and seared my marrow. Suddenly, spring rain spilled down and soused our sweltered faces but I did not care. I closed my eyes and embraced the moment. What a Turkish delight!
Author: Ryan Gruss Email: