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Farah Yurdozu, Turkish author and psychic appearing on TLC's DEAD TENANTS, brings you views on the show, the paranormal, the home, and a place for you to exchange ideas.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Turkey's Most Famous Son: SANTA CLAUS!


Hello dear friends and DEAD TENANTS lovers. Are you busy with holiday activities? I am. Lately I am very busy getting ready to welcome a very famous personality to my home. Guess who is coming... Santa Claus of course! I want everything to be perfect and just like in our childhood days when he comes to visit us, so I’m preparing a wondeful Turkish dish that dates back to Old Testament times to give to him whe he arrives.

As we know, Santa Claus is the embodiment of the spirit of Christmas. Not in the most simple meaning of bringing presents down the chimney, but in the deeper one of selfless generosity. Santa Claus has a very big meaning for me because the real Santa Claus, “Saint Nicolas” was from Turkey, my native country.

Most people think Saint Nick comes from a cold, snowy place like the North Pole. But would you believe the historical Saint Nicolas was a beach boy from a place called Antalya. Antalya is next to the Mediterranean sea and is one of the most beautiful places in a country full of beautiful places. And today Santa Claus/Saint Nicolas is a very important symbol of the city, a kind of mascot.

But how did a local boy born in the year 255 become an immortal symbol of not only a city and a season, but of a way of thought? According to history Nicolas came from a very rich family. His parents died when he was very young, leaving him alone with their fortune. An orphan himself, he felt for the poor people around him and used the fortune to take care of them, giving food, clothes and money to anyone who came to his door for help. He loved everyone from every race and religion, building hospitals and public kitchens for the poor. His generosity and warm heart gave birth to the enduring legend that we now associate with this season of giving.

So this holiday, when he visits my home, I thought it would be nice to give him something that would remind him of his own. So I am making Saint Nick (and my guests) one of the dishes he undoubtedly enjoyed himself and served to the poor from his kitchens.

What is it? That’s usually the first thing people ask when they see it.

Is it pudding?
Well, no…

Is it soup?
Hmm.. not really.

Is it good?
Definitely!

Put a bowl of Turkish asure (pronounced ah-shu-reh) on your holiday board and you’re bound to get questions and comments—and people asking for more. It’s an unusual dessert that is a traditional treat in Turkey, and it dates back to Old Testamant times, which makes it an interesting “theme” dessert for the holiday season. In fact, it’s called Noah’s Pudding, because when the Ark landed on Turtkey’s Mount Ararat after the Great Flood, Noah wanted to create a feast in celebration. But he didn’t have many ingredients on his Ark so he had to use what he had—plus a generous pinch of imagination. And asure is what he ended up with.

When you see it, it looks like a little of everything has been stirred in. And maybe that’s true. But when you taste it, you get a wonderful sensation because it is sweet without being cloying, and its variety of natural ingredients makes an unusual mix of flavors and textures that’s very different from western puddings and desserts.

Read the ingredients and you’ll see what I mean…

1 cup barley or wheat1 cup canned white kidney beans (washed/drained)
1 cup canned chickpeas (washed/drained)
1 ½ tbsp rice (before cooking)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 dry apricots, chopped
10 dry figs, chopped
½ cup raisins
1 tbsp chopped orange peel
1 small orange, cut into small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons rose water
¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup pistachios, chopped

Barley? Beans? Chickpeas? In dessert?

Yes! Because like many traditional treats, asure was meant not just to reward, but to nourish. And like many traditions, making asure requires some work—but it’s fun work.

Start the night before. Soak the apricots and figs overnight in water to soften them.

The next day, boil the beans, rice and barley (or wheat) separately until they are good and soft. Drain the water you boiled them in, then combine them with the barley/wheat with 6 cups of hot water. Put the mixture on a medium heat and stir in the apricots, raisins, figs, vanilla, orange peel and pistachios. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the sugar and orange. Cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the orange pieces and rose water, continue heating for just another couple of minutes…

Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes, then put it into small dishes or custard cups and chill it. When it comes time to serve it, sprinkle the walnuts/pistachios on top.

I don’t know if Noah or Nicolas drank Turkish coffee, but it makes a nice followup to this exotic dessert. Oh, and in the spirit of the holidays, it is considered good luck to give some to your guests to take home with them-as Saint Nicolas would have done.

I hope the spirit of the holiday fills your home, and I hope that it continues to brighten your days in the months to come. Remember, Nicolas did not just open his heart and door on December 25th, but every day.

There are more pictures of Nicolas and his beautiful homeland at http://www.noelbaba.net/ (that’s Turkish for Father Christmas)

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the real santa comes from turkey.But the city's name is Mira.
that is in eastern turkey.
Gulle Gulle....

December 20, 2005 2:13 AM  
Blogger Psychic Farah said...

Hi Anonymous, actually Nicolas did not come from Myra (which was in southern rather than eastern Turkey) but from Antalya/Patara. Myra was one of the ruling cities of that region of Lycia (which became part of Turkey) and later in his life because of his good and pious works Nicolas became bishop of Myra. So we could say he eventually "worked" in Myra, but he was not from there.
Thanks for reading and posting,
FARAH

December 20, 2005 4:00 PM  
Blogger mattbrodie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 23, 2006 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Biblical Flood said...

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January 25, 2006 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Regine Day said...

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January 27, 2006 2:00 AM  
Anonymous Regine said...

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January 27, 2006 2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting! I was also told that the original Santa was from Myra.
I was also told that he worshipped Jesus Christ who is the true reason for the season. Any comments?

December 20, 2006 4:52 PM  

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