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Hooked on Herring – Tales & recipes from around the world by Jacqueline Hagan

Published 22nd October, 2016 in Behind the Book

Evenings in Turkey

By Jacqueline Hagan

Traditionally, fishermen everywhere have favourite dishes that they cook with the fish they didn’t sell at the market that day. It was the summer of 1974, and we were camping near a small village called Kefken on the Black Sea in Turkey, when we were first invited to share in such a meal.

It was a strange time. The Turks had invaded Cypress and the Turkish borders were closed. The campground at Kefken was the summer home to fishermen, students up from Istanbul for their summer holidays, a handful of stranded travellers like us and a contigent of Turkish soldiers guarding the Black Sea.

Every evening, the fishermen made a tomato broth in a huge cauldron over an open fire. Slowly, vegetables and whatever fish had not been sold for the day were added. The 20 or so residents of the campsite were all invited to eat, and custom required that something was brought to contribute to the meal. Typically, campers brought bread or wine. At some indeterminate time around 10 pm when everyone had eaten and the wine was flowing, Baba Uncle, a sprightly fellow of about 75, climbed into a tree. This was the signal for the dancing and singing around the campfire to begin, it was also the sign for soldiers to lay down their weapons and join in the fun.

By night three, we had discovered most of our fishermen loved mussels and clams but couldn’t swim out to get them. So we spent the next afternoon swimming out to the rocks, collecting mussels and swiftly grabbing clams as they dug into the sand between the rolling of waves. That night we definately won the popularity contest. The cheers went up as our contribution was thrown into the cauldron, the flavours of the shellfish mingling with all the other ingredients.

Back in Western Australia, our favourite Freo restaurant, “La Sosta”, serves the Italian version of our Kefken staple. From the city of Viareggio on the northern Tuscan coast, it takes pride of place on the menu as Pasta alla Trabacollara. It is seriously delicious, with a mix of prawns, squid and varieties of fish served with squid ink pasta.

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