Living Simply #Turkishfood #simplelife #awriterslife

Wow, it is coming at the end of March. I think this year the old adage of in like a lion out like a lamb is in reverse. But the Lion isn’t the weather this year. It is a nasty old virus. It is taking its toll, both physically and emotionally. People are anxious and stress and scared. Some are hoarding food and household supplies. I’ve been through some natural disasters and still haven’t seen the store shelves so empty. Heck, I worked n Walmart for 20 years and the only times I have seen such empty shelves were during a remodel when we emptied and put in new ones. We forget other countries live differently and don’t have all of our luxuries.  Our guest today is J. Arlene Culiner, telling us about her past in Turkey and the simple things in life we take for granted. Hello J. Thank you for joining us today.

Hi Cathy, Thank you for inviting me to share my romantic mystery, the Turkish Affair with you.

The Delicious End of March

Turkish style recipes by J. Arlene Culiner

            When I lived in a small town in central Turkey, the end of March meant no more deep snows. How wonderful, because winters could be grueling, and temperatures often stayed at minus 30. I lived with a family that sold thread and material in the market, so you can imagine how miserable it was standing outside for hours in such cold. I can also guarantee no one had central heating at home either, because this was a poor place, and women went out in the early morning to chop wood so rooms would be warm for the men when they woke.

Sometimes, our town on the high plain was snowed in for weeks, so no fresh fruits or vegetables arrived. In their homes, people usually ate the same thing every day — bulgur wheat topped with tomato sauce, and yufka, the flat, unleavened bread made every autumn and stored in high piles in a small shed. Believe me, a diet like that can be boring.

            But, the end of March meant the end of privation, for tiny green wild plants began poking their heads out of the thawing ground. And, as they did, women went out onto the plain to gather those shoots of purslane, dandelion leaves, and very delicious arugula or rocket salad.

With a dash of lemon juice (real lemon juice, please, no bottled or pre-squeezed will do), salt, pepper, and a spoon or two of olive oil, these shoots make the most wonderful salads. If you can’t go out and gather them where you live, any green leafy vegetable will do, even lightly steamed broccoli. Simple food, yes, but wonderful. And healthy for everyone.

            These salads help make up the meze, or plates of delicious starters in local restaurants. There’s nothing quite as wonderful, and they can comprise a whole meal. They are also ridiculously simple to make. Here are a few ideas:

  • Mix chickpeas, navy, pinto, white, red or even green beans — any bean you can get you hands-on (without sugar), mix them with chopped onion, a chopped clove of fresh garlic, a grated tomato, one chopped carrot, one teaspoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, one teaspoon or more (but don’t make it too oily) of olive oil, lemon, and chopped parsley.
  • Dice a cucumber or two, add dried dill, mint, paprika, and oregano (use fresh if you have any) a chopped clove of garlic, a chopped onion, and mix everything into lots of creamy plain yogurt, then top with a teaspoon of olive oil.
  • Chop two tomatoes, one pepper, half a cup of parsley, one boiled egg, one onion, mix with one cup of beans of any kind, add salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, garlic, and pepper, a few olives, a little cider vinegar, and presto!

If you don’t have all the ingredients I mentioned, it doesn’t matter. Use what you have, and enjoy.

            Since I lived in Turkey, working as a guide and translator (before joining a community of gypsies and becoming a belly dancer) I decided it was time to write a story set in that country. And since I’ve also spent time on archaeological sites, I incorporated those very real experiences into the tale, too. The result is The Turkish Affair, a romantic mystery. My heroine is also a guide and translator (she’s also a vegetarian and loves the little salads I mentioned above) and my hero is an archaeologist. So, if you feel like visiting an exotic country, learning about local foods, customs, ancient civilizations, as well as solving a mystery and reading about an interesting love story, The Turkish Affair, is for you.

Title: The Turkish Affair

Author: J. Arlene Culiner

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Release date: January 15, 2020

Cover Artist: Jennifer Greeff

Genre: Romantic Mystery

Pages: 242

Love and Danger at the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu

Priceless artifacts are disappearing from the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu in Turkey, and the site director has vanished. Called in to solve the mystery, archaeologist Renaud Townsend is hindered by both his inability to speak the language and the knowledge that the local police are corrupt. His attraction to translator Anne Pierson is immediate, although he is troubled by her refusal to talk about the past and her fear of public scandal. But when murder enters the picture, both Anne and Renaud realize that the risk of falling in love is not the only danger.


A delicious breeze tickled the air, and the little boat rocked gently. A fine line appeared between Renaud’s brows, and his blue eyes were, once again, serious. “I need your help.”

Anne stared. “My help? With what? Translating?”

“No. With something else. I have to find out who is behind the thefts at Karakuyu.”

The feeling of dread returned, but she forced herself to sound casual. “How could I possibly help you with that?”

“I don’t know.” He sighed. “I just don’t want to feel that I’m alone in this.”

What could she say to that? Tell him she was the last person he should team up with? That long ago, she’d escaped arrest by the skin of her teeth? If she did so, this splendid moment would be over. The silver-foil glimmer of romance would be tarnished forever. He’d row back to shore, drive back to Gülkale, get rid of her as quickly as possible.

“Anne?” He reached out to caress her bare arm. “Come back from wherever you are.”

“You know nothing about me,” she said jaggedly.

“Nothing,” he agreed.

She swallowed. “I could be involved in the thefts for all you know. Why ask for my help? Why choose me?”

He smiled faintly. “A good question. I suppose, quite simply, I need—or want—to trust you.”

She felt utterly miserable. Why was life always like this? Wanting someone and not being able to have them? Wanting trust, but seeing it snatched away before it came close?

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Meet J. Arlene

Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe alone on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.

You can stalk J. Arlene here:

The Wild Rose Press


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8 responses to “Living Simply #Turkishfood #simplelife #awriterslife”

  1. Sounds interesting! I know pitifully little about Turks, though the Turkish orchestral musicians I’ve played with have been great people. I’m always delighted to learn about another culture.

  2. Love this concept of the Hittite dig! Also the information of the women getting up early to chop wood, scarce food in the winter, and breathing easier at the first breath of spring is so meaningful. It reminds us to appreciate the natural rhythm and be thankful for blessings.

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