Beyhan Çagri Trock’s The Ottoman Turk and the Pretty Jewish Girl-Real Turkish Cooking is both an outstanding Turkish and Sephardic cookbook and a fascinating memoir.
In Turkey of the 1940’s, Muslims and Jews rarely mixed socially. The fact that Trock’s father, the handsome Muslim Zeki Bey, fell in love with a Jewish girl was scandalous. And Trock’s mother was not just any Jewish girl: lovely, talented, and irreverent, Beti recognized a renegade like herself in the tall, mustached Turk. The lovers who had come from hardship shared a desire to live life unconventionally, spontaneously, and most of all, passionately. Enduring bigotry and ridicule from family and friends, the couple immigrated to the United States in the late 1950’s, bringing with them their 4 children and a fascinating but not always successful conciliation of divergent cultural sensibilities. Trock shares the often painful process of building a life together, despite the conflicting tenants of their ancestry and religions, and explains how weathering that storm proved most difficult (and perhaps most enlightening) for the couple’s four children.
But Beti and Zeki brought something else with them to America; their incredible cuisine. This book contains 101 of the authentic Turkish and Sephardic recipes Beti and Zeki grew up with and cooked at home. Beautifully photographed, these elegant recipes preserve ancient cooking techniques, delicious flavors, and stories about the people who cooked them. The remarkable love between Trock’s parents left her (and now us) a precious legacy; real “old world” Turkish and Jewish family recipes which have been passed down from one generation of cooks to the next in an unbroken chain since Medieval Spain and the Ottoman Empire. And as Claudia Roden notes in her recommendation, Trock invites us to take a taste!