How I Survived Turkish Cooking Class

My specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches, with the burnt side scratched off and served charred side down.  If it’s really burnt, I serve it with wine.  Lots of wine.  But cooking is my son Eli’s passion, which is how I happened to sign up for a Turkish cooking class while we were in Istanbul last October.

Eveline, owner of A la Turka, is a Dutch woman who followed her bliss to cooking school in Paris, then to Istanbul, to open her own cooking school and restaurant.  Feyzi, her master chef, is an excellent teacher.  Surprisingly, he manages to impart his wisdom without uttering a word.

Feyzi  had me with his first demonstration on the importance of presentation, as shown below.

We were cooking a five course dinner–red lentil soup, stuffed eggplant, zucchini fritters, stuffed grape leaves, sweet cakes, and even Turkish coffee.  Eli was jazzed; I was in it for the two glasses of Turkish wine they promised us with our dinner.   I waited for a task fitting my limited repertoire of culinary skills–scraping the burnt crust off grilled cheese sandwiches, and popping the cork off wine bottles.  Peeling and cutting up tomatoes for eggplant stuffing fell to Eli and me.  We took up our knives and jumped into the proverbial frying pan.

Cooking is like magic.  You start with raw materials…

…wave your magic wand, or stir it with your spoon, to be more precise.

And abracadabra!  You have crisp tasty zucchini fritters!

When I volunteered to stir the eggplant stuffing…

…I didn’t know Feyzi wanted me to do it with my hands.

Next we took eggplants, peeled them and gutted them.

  Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a breeding nest of baby space aliens?

Oh no! They’re getting away!

Eveline suggested I use paper toweling to clean my hands, instead of my apron.  I looked down and noticed the mess of red tomato-gut handprints on my front.  Dang!  And everyone else’s aprons were spotless.   Meanwhile, Eli was sprinkling pistachio crumbs over the sweet cakes too far from the plate, and he was relieved of that duty.

I decided I couldn’t get into trouble if I took a job stirring the pot on the stove.

As you can see above, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that my oven-mitted left hand had caught fire.  I did finally notice in time to save the hand, and the kitchen, if not my pride.

Eli says we were the ugly stepchildren in that class, but we did learn lots of tricks…like washing oniony hands in lemon water, or how to chop great quantities of herbs with a blade resembling a Klingon Bat’leth.

Among other things…

We were the stars of our own little cooking show, at least in our own minds.

We learned how to turn this…

…into this!

I also learned that I prefer white over red wine.  Nobody got killed.  And I’m thinking of starting my own cooking school.  Maybe I’ll call it “Cooking a La Turkeys.”

All images and words C2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime.


  1. Naomi, you crack me up! You may not be the master chef, but it sounded like you had a blast with your son! What an adventure and what memories you made, thanks for sharing them with us! Oh, I love the Klingon reference – I’m a big Star Trek nerd too! Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi Darla,
      Thank you! I love to connect with other sci-fi fans. Right now my son is making Christmas presents while watching Deep Space Nine, episode by episode. It’s fun to see him appreciate the show.

      Here is one of my early posts, “Beam Me Out of the Closet”.

      Merry Christmas to you too!

      1. Thanks Naomi! I’m sorry for the tardiness of this reply; I’ve stopped getting word press notifications. ????? I will ceck out the other post.

      2. So strange! I wonder what would happen if you were to re-click the “Follow” button that tells them to send you an e-mail notification?

  2. ShimonZ says:

    Great to watch you as you learn the fundaments of Turkish cooking. I do enjoy that sort of menu, and we use eggplants a lot in our food. It’s a favorite. As is Turkish coffee too. Very entertaining post.

    1. Thanks for the visit, Shimon. With Eli at home for a few months, before leaving on the next adventure, he has been cooking a lot of eggplant, and other Turkish dishes, including Turkish coffee. He has also taken cooking classes to learn how to make sushi, tamales, piroshky, and vegetarian Indian dishes. Our menus are going to seem rather dull when he leaves!

  3. sue says:

    This made me laugh— I was left to imagine the scene after you noticed your mitt was on fire! One day we must sit over 2 glasses of white wine and you can describe it to me in person 🙂

    1. Oh, Sue, it’s a good thing Eli was too surprised to shoot that photo! I look forward to sitting down with you for a good chat!

  4. niasunset says:

    You are amazing! Seems that you had a wonderful experiment with your son. I know how delicious they are 🙂 I can make some of them but not all of them! Should be so nice to be together in the same class with your son. You both seem so happy in cooking class. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      Eli and I had such fun, and now he cooks us wonderful Turkish cuisine. Thank you for your visit. I hope you are enjoying your snow,

  5. what an amazing experience sadly I am still pants in the culinary department but it did look like fun

    1. Really, we had very good teachers, learned a lot, and had a blast. (Plus we got wine.) Thanks so much for stopping by. Warm wishes for the holiday season, and a bright new year.

  6. Jueseppi B. says:

    I suggest you call your cooking school, “On Fire Cooking”. OR “Fired Up & Ready 2 Cook”. 😉 Can you guess why?

    1. Oh, Jueseppi. It’s a very good thing there isn’t a photo of me after the fire really caught on, and I finally noticed I was on fire! Something tells me the Fired Up & Ready to Cook Cooking School” isn’t going to be happening any time soon.

      1. Jueseppi B. says:

        Oh damn….I was counting my nickles to see if I had enough saved to send you my tuition for the year.

  7. ROFLMBO!!! You are so funny but what joy on your faces and your son looked quite in heaven! I am so with you though in the cooking department
    just never really mastered much more than pb&j or grilled cheese and soup! LOL
    No seriously I am not bad if it’s for more than 2-4 people less than that to hard to cook proportionately.

    1. Dear Len,
      We’re in the same boat! I have a few standard dishes, and am actually trying to stretch myself to try new recipes–inspired by Eli, I guess. I made a really good Thai asparagus curry not too long ago, and I am adding that to the list of dishes I cook.

      I am catching up with my blogging, and about to go over and pay you a call! Merry Christmas, Len.

      1. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you as well. I have a daughter that is a superb wonder in the kitchen but I made a remark once and now she won’t cook for me. so I have been trying to learn more at my age even. Like you I like to add a new dish now and then but oh the faces I see when they don’t like it tends to stop me for a while. My daughter has a new love and he is of Hispanic descent and I am going to be trying some of my old ameri-mexi dishes to see where I can improve.. (did I say guinea pig) LOL anyway have a beautiful Holiday love and hugs ((xx))

  8. My favorite is the last picture. It would make a perfect book cover! I love a good burned grilled cheese, though. Takes me back to my Dad’s cooking when I was a kid. He burned everything. 😉

    1. Your message made me smile. Good Dad! My poor mother said she loved burned things too, so we used to bring her our burnt marshmallows and hot dogs, which she graciously accepted and ate. I never really figured out if she really loved our crispy offerings, or if she was just being nice. Thanks so much for the visit. Merry Christmas and a bright New Year!

    1. It was great. And certainly one of those experiences that I would never have chosen to partake in, but I am very glad I had the gentle nudge from Eli. By the time the lad goes off to Argentina next March, I will have mastered some of these dishes well enough to serve right them here in Seattle.

  9. scillagrace says:

    I love that you caught fire! For all of us perfectionists who hesitate to try something new on the offchance that we might not do it correctly the first time, this is an inspiration! To boldly go….aside from the split infinitive…is a great motto!

    1. Dear Scilla,
      No one ever accused me of perfectionism! And no one except my brilliant mom ever mentioned the split infinitive of that particular phrase! Thank you once again for your unique and insightful perspective. Warm wishes for a Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year.

  10. THAT KNIFE you guys used for the chives??? maybe IT was AMAZING! Looks like a delicious time! I have always wanted to take a cooking class. I have never had Turkish food I have to look for a recipe!

    1. Hi Jasmine,
      I was the clumsiest one in class, but I did learn a lot. I learn best by doing things one step at a time. Once I have turned a recipe and a few raw ingredients into a dish, I can do it again and again. I hope you do take a cooking class, and blog about it for us all. Best wishes for a happy holiday.

      1. I will!!! Thanks for sharing!

  11. gkm2011 says:

    Enjoyed the photos! Happy holidays!

    1. Thanks so much, and the same to you. I wish you a very bright New Year!

  12. footsy2 says:

    A truly wonderful post. What a pleasure 🙂

    1. Thank you, Footsy! Stay warm and cozy. Merry Christmas!

  13. What a yummy feast you cooked up!

    1. Dear Cathryn,
      Thanks for the visit, and for taking the time to comment. I hope you have a warm and wonderful and very merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

  14. restlessjo says:

    I’m really just glad you survived so I can wish you a merry Christmas, Naomi! Your cooking skills are on a level with my own.

    1. You made me smile, Jo. I wish you a very merry Christmas, too, and a bright New Year.

  15. So much fun!!! Once again you’ve made me insanely jealous of your world travels. I love cooking, too, so thanks for the great post!

    1. It is so nice to hear from you! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. You always make me smile. Best wishes for a bright new year.

  16. nutsfortreasure says:

    Loved your lesson 🙂 fire covered mitt too 🙂 Maybe legs up on the couch and wine in your lass is NOT A BAD THING lol Every time I suggest taking a class I am told you cook awesome and SO FAST now I love fast cars but what’s the rush for me cooking supper 🙂 I have all the time in the world maybe I should learn to LOVE WINE 🙂


    1. Hi Eunice,
      The hours in that class flew by. That woman managed to keep us moving, working, and productive every single minute of class, until all five courses were done, and ready to be served. It was a little like herding cats, or kindergartners. Everybody should do it once in her lifetime, if only to see a master at work. Certainly it was grand to be a part of something bigger than myself. Except for a few bugs (that would be Eli and me), we were a well-oiled machine. And then there was the wine….

      Merry Christmas, dear friend!

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        Merry Christmas to you and your family

        I went to cooking school for 6 or 8 weeks and worked with chef and a older baker plus my Mom was a master cake designer as well as teacher I always wanted to open my own diner 🙂 Like the old days

        Glad you had a BLAST!

  17. adinparadise says:

    This is too funny, Naomi. I’m so glad your hand escaped any damage! Eli looks to be enjoying himself immensely. 😀

    1. HI ad,
      Thank you! The class was very fun, and Eli still teases me about that oven mitt! Thanks for the visit.

  18. I love the giant knife! And the fire mitten! I thought that was what aprons were for also!!! So cute and funny….. Eli is a star….as is his Julia Child’s mum! 🙂

    1. Childlike, perhaps, but no Julia! Thanks so much for making me smile, Paula!

      1. Oh no my dear….thank you! (Hubby loved this one as well!)

      2. 🙂 🙂 got me again, Paula! 🙂

  19. elisaruland says:

    Funny, the one moment where you actually looked serious about learning the process was the shot where your oven mitt caught on fire. Priceless!!

    1. I still can’t believe he actually caught that with his camera. It wasn’t until we got home that he realized he had gotten that shot. Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing your comment.

      1. elisaruland says:

        Maybe he wanted to capture that certain way you have of lighting up a room…


        Thank you for sharing this delightful moment you had with your son. The fun was contagious!

  20. Geek Goddess says:

    OMG! I was in Istanbul last October! Were you the other ones sitting at th table overlooking the Blue Mosque, also drinking a lot of wine?? Sadly, I was there only 3 days, but I want to go again, and I AM TAKING THIS CLASS! Let’s see – you like to travel, drink wine, eat, drink wine, and know your Star Trek. And Cook with your son. Were we separated at birth?

    —also Naomi B.

    1. Hello Naomi B!
      I had to laugh out loud when I read this. Thanks for the follow–I know I am going to love following your blog, too! It really is exceptional.

  21. TBM says:

    Quite the experience, but promise me that you won’t quit making grilled cheese. That’s a special skill that my better half can’t manage. I’m a superstar in our family since I can make them

    1. Grilled cheese is a favorite at our house too, but I haven’t achieved Superstar status yet, at least not for my burnt grilled cheese! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  22. taniamend says:

    This is so great and funny! tastefully done! like to taste that…. 😀

    1. Forget the cooking show; sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in my own I Love Lucy episode! But it was worth it. Thanks for your visit. Best wishes for the coming year.

      1. taniamend says:

        hhaha, I do Love Lucy as well!!! love those detailed shots. thanks and may you also have a wonderful new year!

  23. That so made me laugh 🙂 And there was me thinking I was the only one who pulled funny faces in the kitchen and set my oven-gloves on light! My recently graduated son has promised (post-Christmas) to demonstrate some of his how-to-survive-university-on-a-tight-budget meals.

    1. Put the children to work, I say! I loved having a son who cooks! I am even learning a thing or two from him. Thanks for your visit, Sarah. Have a very merry Christmas, and a bright new year!

  24. megan hicks says:

    Turkey dinner, huh? I bet the ingredients were so fresh and wonderful the only way you could have ruined it would have been by immolation. Thank goodness you were being monitored. And yes, wine expiates a lot of culinary sins.

    1. I love the moral of the story!

  25. nutsfortreasure says:

    Here is the official notice of a STAR on my blog waiting for you!

    Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year


    1. What a nice present, Eunice! Thank you so much!

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        You are very welcome

  26. tchistorygal says:

    hahaha It’s too early to LOL, but I did. You ARE a woman after my own heart. I was thinking in the first frame, “Oh I’LOVE burnt grilled cheese sandwiches with the burn scraped off, then I rolled my mouse along and realized THAT was a joke!!! hahaha!!! I loved the mitt on fire, and the dirty apron. I just loved the whole post! Merry Christmas, Natalie. Lots of Love, Marsha Lee 🙂

    1. Dear Marsha,
      Thank you for a response that made me LOL! Merry Christmas to you too.
      With love,

      1. tchistorygal says:

        Naomi, I just love your wonderful sense of humor and writing style. Christmas looms ahead with lots of things to do!!! Take care. ML

  27. You should start your own school!
    If I were there, I would go there for sure 🙂
    It really looks like you had an amazing time Naomi!
    Merry christmas!!
    Regards from Colombia.

    1. Dear Pablo,
      It’s so nice to hear from you! Thank you for your very generous comment, and for taking the time to visit. I miss your beautiful photographs to look forward to every day. I hope you are well.
      Merry Christmas to you from Seattle, and a very happy New Year!

  28. nymuse88 says:

    HAHA! I loved this post and what a fun activity to do with your son! I love cooking, so if you saved any of those recipes, be a pal and share! 😛

    1. I promise to do another post with recipes! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Best wishes for the New Year!

  29. 4amWriter says:

    I feel like I could go and make a Turkish dinner right now after your fun lesson and pics. I honestly don’t know if I have ever eaten Turkish food…the eggplants look awesome!

    1. Thank you so much! Before going to Istanbul, the closest I’d ever come to eating Turkish food was the drumstick. But it is really pretty easy. Am I the only one who thought the eggplant was scary? Good though! I sure appreciate your stopping by. A very happy holiday to you and your family, and an especially happy New Year!

  30. Jamie Dedes says:

    First, Naomi, thank you so much for you visit to my blog, for reading so much, and leaving behind so many encouraging and kind “Likes” and comments. I’m touched. Thank you! 🙂

    Next, this is fabulous. The Turkish/Greek side of my family thanks you. A wonderful job. I can just smell the scent of cinnamon and onion … maybe a touch of cardamon and bit of mint. Sounds like you had great fun and what a marvelous thing to do with your son.

    Happy Holidays. I’m sure your family will gather round and hope you have a warm and wonderful time.


    1. Dear Jamie,
      Thank you for your generous words. You are an outstanding writer and poet. There have been moments when one of your pieces has made me gasp at an insight or the beauty of the words you have joined together into a breathtaking idea or expression of emotion.

      Warm wishes to you and your family–so glad you also have the best-ever son to share it with!

      With love,

  31. frizztext says:

    “…blissfully ignorant of the fact that your oven-mitted left hand had caught fire…” – you deserve a “fire-ignorer” medal, Naomi!

  32. Delicious from start to finish! A wonderful post 🙂

    Merry Christmas to you all – I’m imagining a house full of people and laughter, and lots of opportunity for grilled cheese sandwiches 🙂

    1. You imagine correctly, except for the grilled cheese. I wouldn’t inflict that upon the gang at Christmastime! Merry Christmas to you too!

  33. What a HOOT! I laughed so hard at your mitt catching fire! It could have been me for sure. Happy a la Turkeying Naomi. 🙂

  34. Amy says:

    I laughed along with every one else, Naomi! I love Turkish food, the eggplants look yummy!

    1. Thanks for the visit, Amy. It was a first for Turkish cuisine for me, and the beginning of a beautiful relationship (with eggplant). Glad I lived to tell the tale!

  35. Kourtney Heintz says:

    AMazing. I feel like I was cooking right beside the two of you! Awesome photos. Eli looks so happy and in his element. You look very focused. 😉 What a fun story, I may try to get my mom to do a cooking class with me.

    1. It was so much fun to share that experience with Eli. Yes, get your mom to do a cooking class, and you can encourage each other. I have actually been more inclined to try out new recipes since Eli has been around to compare notes with, and I love having company in the kitchen. It only takes two to make a chore into a party.

  36. eof737 says:

    OMG! You poor thing… I had to look again to see your glove on fire. 🙂

    ¸.•*¨*•.♪♫♫♪ 😆 Happy Holidays to You & Yours! 😆 .♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ♥
    ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜” ♥ ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜”

    1. Eli didn’t even realize he had caught that on a photo until we got home. A lucky shot. And then a minute later, when the flames really caught on, and I was doing my little dance, he was probably too worried and distracted to snap a picture. The oven mitt is history, but now we have the story. Thanks so much for your visit, and your very festive comments! Happy holidays, Elizabeth, and a wonderful New Year.

  37. Congratulations! You are now an awesome chef with an irresistible sense of humor. Your son is super talented. His optimism and love for life and adventure truly is inspiring. Wishing you and your family all life’s blessings. Merry Christmas my friend.

    1. Thank you, my friend! Blessing upon you and your precious family, for a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  38. Naomi–Well photographed and well narrated sequence. Now I’m HUNGRY! Just dropping by to wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a happy, prosperous, and healthy 2013! –John

    1. Hi John,
      A very merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

  39. Madhu says:

    That sure sounded like a lot of fun all round, except for the mitts catching fire, although you made that sound funny too, in a way 😀 Have to say those Dolmades look very professional!

    1. They tasted pretty good too! It was really interesting. Everyone in the class had a story to tell–all very nice people, and it was fun to share the experience with Eli.

  40. Becky says:

    This was great! Looks like you had a great time with your son too! I enjoy cooking, and I’ve always wanted to take a cooking class – I think you have inspired me to give it a try! Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure!

    1. Hi Becky,
      Thanks for the visit. We had a really nice time in the class, and on the trip. It was great to hear from you–I hope you are well.

  41. Jueseppi B. says:

    …………*./ | \ .*
    ………, • ‘*♥* ‘ • ,
    ……. ‘*• ♫♫♫•*’
    ….. ‘ *, • ‘♫ ‘ • ,* ‘
    ….’ * • ♫*♥*♫• * ‘
    … * , • Merry’ • , * ‘
    …* ‘ •♫♫*♥*♫♫ • ‘ * ‘
    ‘ ‘ • Christmas . • ‘ ‘ ‘
    ‘ ‘ • ♫♫♫*♥*♫♫♫• * ‘ ‘

    Namaste Ms. Naomi

    1. Namaste to you too, my friend. I love the graphics!

  42. carolloethen says:

    You are so funny.. would have like to see the pic of you on fire..LOL just kidding! Sounds like you had alot of fun. I love to cook and try new things. I bet the food was delish! I am trying a roasted califlower soup today for Christmas. Just wanted to stop by and wish you a very Merry Christmas and blessed day!

    1. Dear Carol,
      Thank you for stopping by. I’m too late for Christmas, but I hope you had a good one, and I wish you a very happy New Year. And I hope the cauliflower soup was a hit.

      1. carolloethen says:

        The soup was a hit…and wishing you a Very Happy New year!!

  43. Lynne Ayers says:

    LOL at the alien eggplants migrating from their breeding grounds :0

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lynne. I hope you had a great holiday, and here’s wishing you a bright new year.

  44. Subhan Zein says:

    I ever joined that class, I wouldn’t survive, my cooking skill is at minimal, hehe

    Subhan Zein

  45. rutheh says:

    My favorite is you in the chef hat! Happy New Year. Thanks for the nice comments and likes you leave on my blog. I enjoyed the story about Hanukkah and your relatives, too.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. I appreciate your visits and comments too.

  46. tita buds says:

    Hahaha! I love this! Thanks for sharing the fun time you had with Eli. How about ‘Cooking Baby Space Aliens a la Turkeys’? It’s more specific, more niche-y. 🙂
    This post makes me wish my Ma lived nearby and she can go with me to my little baking classes. (Oh yes, I have delusions too, haha.)

    1. Tita, you always make me laugh! That is definitely a much better title!

  47. Touch2Touch says:

    Brilliant! The photo of you cooking with your hand on fire is the most inspired thing I’ve seen in a cooking class since Julia Child scooped up the roasted turkey that had fallen to the floor and prepared it on a platter for serving.
    I think you both did nobly. As you said, no one got killed.

    1. Yes, we did nobly…in our own way. Thanks for sharing your comments, and making me laugh!

  48. Tish Farrell says:

    This is hilarious. Love the notion of gutting an aubergine.

    1. Dear Tish,
      Thanks for starting my day with a smile! Hope you have a good one!

  49. frizztext says:

    you amused me with the Gorilla head sculpture fingerprinted in meat…

  50. pommepal says:

    That is the best recommendation for a cooking class I have ever seen. All fun and frivolity, not a serious face in sight, and I bet the wine went down a treat

    1. The wine won best of show! But seriously, it was a very friendly group. Everyone had an interesting story, and afterwards we had a lovely dinner and got to know each other even better. Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share such a lovely comment!

      1. pommepal says:

        Yes the best part of any type of class is meeting and getting to know the other participants, especially over a glass of best of show wine… 🙂

  51. restlessjo says:

    You must be a lovely person to have for a mum, Naomi 🙂 I get so flummoxed if I cook with an audience. Doubt I could even have chopped tomatoes successfully.

    1. Dear Jo,
      I’m lucky I have kids that don’t embarrass easily. We do have a lot of fun. As Eli said, we were the ugly stepchildren of the class, and just surrendered ourselves to the moment fully and with a good will. And as my dear old mither used to say, “Nobody got killed.”
      Thanks so much for the visit. It’s always good to hear from you!

    1. It was indeed yummy! But the best part was watching it all happen, pulling the meal together, all these different courses, at the same time, step by step. I’m just not that organized!

      1. I know! I thought the same last time we took a cooking class with my god-daughter. At home, we just do it one thing at a time ! 😯😉

    1. Thanks so much for the link!

    1. Thanks so much for the link!

    1. Thanks so much for the link!

  52. Oh that is just too funny! I love your humour and felt like I was there in the cooking class (clinking glasses of white wine!). My cooking is the same (hiding the charred bits of the grilled cheese). How wonderful to take cooking classes in Turkey!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s