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I grew up near the sea. My grandfather was a tugboat captain; my grandmother was a short-order galley cook. My mom and dad met on a fishing boat, where my dad worked as a deckhand. For their honeymoon, they went sport fishing in Baja California.
Some of my dearest BF’s favorite moments (not counting those moments with me of course) involve 18-inches of party boat railing while fishing for red snapper or tuna.
I do not go fishing, but it swims and swirls around me.
As a fisherman’s daughter, granddaughter, and girlfriend, I know bait when I see it.
A few years ago, I was on a walking culinary tour in Istanbul. I always search out a food tour when I travel. It makes for a lovely day to wander the streets with fellow travelers and a knowledgeable guide.
We take in the sights between tucking-in to a food stall or family restaurant to sample something local and tasty. Every food tour I’ve ever been on has been wonderful. The guide always crafts a story for us that ties together what we see, what we eat, and how it relates to the place we are experiencing.
At one point, we passed through an open-air fish market, and I recognized that these tiny fish piled up on platters were sardines.
You know, bait, the little fish that you take with you and put on a hook to catch other bigger, better fish.
And don’t you just love going places?
Getting out of your regular routine and seeing things off of your own beaten path is uplifting. It gets you out of thinking loops and gives you a fresh perspective.
Istanbul is split in two by a narrow waterway called the Bosphorus Strait. One side sits in Europe, while the other side is in Asia – one city with two perspectives. There is a robust ferry system that links both sides from the Mediterranean all the way up to the Black Sea. The food tour guide said that there was a village up at the top of one of the ferry lines, at the mouth of the Black Sea.
The town specialized in seaside restaurants and would make a perfect lunch destination for a leisurely cruise up the Bosphorus. What a perfect day of sea breezes and the cries of gulls as we slowly made our way up the strait, watching the palaces and fancy seafront houses go by.
Eventually we came to the end of the line at this charming village.
Hamsi is seasonal and only available for a short period during the fall to winter months.
Because of my work, I could only get away for travel in November. This is not ideal, but the siren call to travel is strong. I had to pack winter layers for the likelihood of sight-seeing in the cold rain. Luckily, this trip was cold but dry, and the sun smiled each day.
It was chilly, but clear as we all disembarked the ferry and wandered the narrow streets in search of the best seaside view for lunch. After finding a spot inside next to an open window, I ordered a local white wine and perused the menu. Turns out that I was in the perfect place at the perfect time of year to find hamsi and ordered a plate of these little gems, dragged in flour and fried to crunchy crispness. A pinch of flaky sea salt and a squeeze of lemon – heaven on a plate!
What a wonderful leisurely meal which was eventually followed by a slow ride back down the Bosphorus to Istanbul and the hotel.
This is how I like to travel – making the entire day about one thing, at a quiet unhurried pace.
And by now, you probably know what’s coming.
Hamsi is the Turkish name for sardine. Sardines – the tiny fish that I always saw before as bait.
Now I have a far more complicated relationship with sardines.
This artwork is entitled “Lunch on the Bosphorus,” and now you know that it is about more than just lunch. It is about beloved memories and being always open to seeing familiar things in new ways. It is about the joys of discovery and the importance of the journey.
And it's about taking the risk that the weather ahead is clear after all.
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