My name is Julia and I have a Turkish breakfast addiction.
If I’m not scheming my next Sunday morning spread, I’m scrolling through Instagram feeds with the #turkishbreakfast. It has gotten pretty bad.
The origins of this breakfast stem from my time abroad in Turkey, where I was spoiled with homemade breakfast from my adopted Turkish mother. The fruits and vegetables were from the garden, putting my idea of “farmer’s market fresh” to shame.
Turks often have a simple breakfast during the weekdays and save their elaborate morning meals for the weekends. Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday can be a few hour affair (leisurely tea drinking and light gossip at the end of the meal included).
So what exactly constitutes one of these fancy Turkish breakfasts anyway?
Glad you asked.
Growing up, I loved black olives from a can. I could down an entire one in a sitting and then drink the juice afterward. Gross, I know. I think it’s a trait that was passed down from my mother. I realized I didn’t know what real olives tasted like until I got to Turkey. Slightly bitter, sometimes spicy and always salty they are much better than their canned counterparts and are a constant staple at the Turkish breakfast table.
There are many types of cheese that can and will appear in front of you for breakfast in Turkey. A common cheese is beyaz penir, which is often bought in huge blocks at the market and then cut into cubes for effective consumption. I honestly was not a big fan when I first encountered this slightly stinky cheese, but have come to embrace it in small doses. Small being the key word.
Fresh Veggies: Tomato and Arugula
The first time I saw these salad fixtures make an appearance at the breakfast table in Izmir, I was a bit hesitant, but I quickly became a convert. It turns out that the crisp veggies balance the heaviness of the rest of the meal. Brilliant if you ask me.
Bread is the foundation of all Turkish breakfasts and therefore a necessity. On the weekend you can see children running to the bakkal (corner store) and coming back with plastic bags of freshly baked bread. There was also a man who delivered bread to our apartment every morning on request. After waking up you would go out to retrieve your loaf from your bread basket, just like you were getting the morning paper. It’s the little things about Turkey that I get nostalgic for. Sigh.
As is with most countries that eat eggs for breakfast, there are endless egg dishes that can come out of a Turkish kitchen. Menemen (scrabble eggs with tomatos) and sucuklu yumurta (fried eggs with spiced sausage) are two of my favorites. The soft, flaky bread is used to soak up any remaining sauce in the most delicious way possible.
I have a huge sweet tooth and breakfast is no exception. Luckily Turkish breakfasts provides many options like homemade jam, honey and a sesame oil/grape molasses concoction called tahin pekmez. All of these are magic on bread or by the spoonful, depending on personal discretion and willpower.
There is only one flavor of tea and this is the drink of choice in Turkey. It is a sign of hospitality and the art of tea drinking is a national pastime. The tea is usually strong and slightly bitter, but can be easily sweetened with a few sugar cubes.
There you have it. Turkish kahvalti in all its glory. Afiyet olsun!
Julia Kitlinski-Hong is a freelance writer and olive enthusiast. She has lived in Krakow and Izmir, but is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her adventures on Small World This Is.