Hi, my name is Taf and I am a nostalgia junkie. Sometimes when I get high off nostalgia I see hieroglyphs in my minds eye. On even rarer occasions lost in the midst of these hieroglyphs my fingertips start to write. In this dalliance with Thoth the ancient Egyptian God of writing. I am able to navigate around my way around my memory’s museum. On a good nostalgia high the fire of inspiration burns brightly and I can eloquently decipher these hieroglyphics onto the page and in turn share the many different artefacts my memory has curated.
Allow me to be your tour guide. If you don’t enjoy the tour. Oh well drumroll please. Ladies and gentleman. (Plays Afromen. ‘Because I was high’) Sue me.
I remember my very first job ever , which I got at the end of my first semester of my first year of uni. It was a job in a Turkish restaurant. Cafe Istanbul. It was a pretty hands on job. It covered everything from doing the dishes to waiting on tables to grilling the kebab meat. It was a job born out of necessity rather than any innate work ethic. If anything it was fueled by a desire to fund my burgeoning social life. It wasn’t my first choice either.
As it was I had my eye on a gig with the local music store which was part of a grand plan to build my CD collection. Mind you this was before the proliferation of iPods and iTunes and lets just say I considered myself a bit of a lime-wire snob. Fate had other plans though and it conspired to lead me into a friendship with a Turkish student, who in turn put me onto the job at Cafe Istanbul. Again this was before the days of LinkedIn. Sigh.The ‘good old days’. Damn you nostalgia. P.S. Has anyone ever got a real paying job through LinkedIn anyway? I digress.
As the first semester had drawn to a close I had also increasingly started to get more and more nauseated at the mere thought of two-minute noodles. Something that an upgrade from the standard supermarket issue to Nasi Goreng had not alleviated.The glamour of student life. So this job was a welcome reprieve. It was goodbye noodle diet. Hello gourmet Turkish food. Balling. Need I mention the extra cash it freed up to allow to fund my quest to become the ultimate brother to the night.
Little did I know that my my new employer would over the course of time often act as my surrogate Mum. She was a charming, unassuming and nurturing Turkish lady. Kader was her name, which actually means garden in heaven in Turkish.Seeing as my own mother was on another continent over 12000km away her role as my surrogate Mum during this transition into adulthood proved invaluable. Even though I was just an employee she fussed and hovered over me with a maternal sincerity I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. She made me feel part of the family.
Also being a full time student and only being able to work part time meant that I worked mostly nights often finishing late after the buses had stopped running without fail and even though it was out of her way she would always drive me home late at night after work. Then there was the coffee. Not just any coffee but the traditional turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi). She would always sit me down and make us a cup after we had shut shop right before she drove me home.
If you have ever drunk Turkish coffee you will know that its served usually in very tiny cups with no handles so have to handle it with your fingertips. It is very thick and syrupy, very different from your regular cappuccino. Turkish coffee is normally prepared using a narrow-topped small boiling pot called an cevze (basically a tiny ewer), a teaspoon and a heating apparatus. The ingredients are very finely ground coffee, sometimes cardamom, cold water and sugar .
It wasn’t so much the taste but the sentiment this after work coffee ritual facilitated. For during this time she would drop the whole boss act and put on her surrogate Mum hat. Then go on to inquire about how I was doing with uni.How was I coping with the homesickness. Always tempering the incquistions with light hearted jibes about the girls she always claimed came in to just flirt with me to which I would feign ignorance. Which would often result in her actively trying to embarrass me and if she was feeling quite chirpy pimp me out. Fun times.
But my favourite part of the whole thing was the fortune telling part. Every time you drink Turkish coffee, when you are done , because of its syrupy nature there is always some residue which is a thick layer of sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup. Kader would proceed to make me turn over my cup (with the left over coffee ground) over into the saucer to cool.It is this residue she would proceed to diligently analyse the unique pattern of the coffee grounds that resulted and with it read my fortune.
I know what you are thinking. “Fortune telling. Really Taf?”. I know. “But you are a man of science.” I know. When you done rolling your eyes allow me to explain. Her particular brand of fortune telling never really was about making predictions per se , more like subtle suggestion, gentle nudges of guidance and often practical advice or affirmation of things I was going through all disguised as fortune telling. As a consequence I indulged her. There was a quite comfort in the whole process. For which I am still grateful. In a way now equipped with the power of hindsight I realise that the whole experience was very much a nostalgia hit for her as well. We were both foreigners in a strange land as and she would often reminisce about her younger days back in Turkey.
I later discovered much later on that as well as being an ‘every day’ beverage, Turkish coffee is also a part of the Turkish wedding custom. As a prologue to marriage, the groom’s family must visit the bride’s family to ask permission for and blessings upon the upcoming marriage. During this meeting, the bride must prepare and serve Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) to the guests. For the groom’s coffee, the bride uses salt instead of sugar to gauge his character. If the groom drinks his coffee without any sign of displeasure, the bride to be assumes that the groom is good tempered and patient. This just might explain her attempts at ‘pimping me’. Maybe.
Anyway it was with this need for a nostalgia hit that earlier in the week i set set about hunting down a Turkish restaurant in the Mother City. The Culture vulture was on the prowl.
As soon as I walked into Anatoli just about every one of my senses were assaulted. I was enveloped in ts warm and seductive ambiance. The familiar smell of donor kebab meat blended with the aroma of the freshly baked flat breads.The laid out meze trays of assorted hummus, cous cous . eggplant, tabule.The coffee would seal the deal.
No sooner had I settled into my Türk kahvesi, the most angelic voice interrupted me. A voice that perfectly mirrored her striking face. “Is this seat taken?” Mesmerised my voice betrayed me and embarrisngly gestured for her to take the vacant seat. Her eyes gleamed softly with life. She smiled. A beautiful enigmatic smile as wide as fields of jasmine and glover. As she sat, the heavens opened up outside and the rain poured outside. The next thing I know. She said one thing, I said another. My voice allied with me this time. It was the perfect storm. Our conversation meandered and flowed through our different narratives on how we had met Türk kahvesi. Bliss. It felt like we were dancing in the rain. Effortlessly. I didn’t want the rain to stop I wanted to stay soaked in that torrential downpour.
Lost in that rain dance we had lost all sense of time. Minutes had turned into hours and the restaurant was closing up. So rather reluctantly we got ready to make our leave. It was now or never. “Will I see you again?” Before she could answer I stopped her “No don’t answer that.”I said then channeling my inner Love Jones. I continued “Because rather than deal with the fallacy of this dry ass reality I would rather romance and dance with you in a wet dream.”
Well that’s what I wanted to say and should have said. Instead I just helped her with her coat. Then I chuckled to myself. What would Kader make of this little encounter. I could use her fortune telling skills right now.
I grabbed my dogie bag with my Turkish delight and proceeded to walk her out. We get along really well for a couple of virtual strangers I thought.
To be continued…
Written by Tafadzwa Tichawangana