“Can I invite you for a tea? It is on the house”. While I am shooting some struggling half-dead fish at the fish-market next to the Galata bridge in Istanbul, my mom – who just arrived a couple of hours ago – is already invited to sit somewhere for some tea. The guy shows her his little piece of land and invites her to have a seat on one of the small chairs around the little tables.
They start a conversation about fish, mixing English, German and Dutch. The guy is showing my mom proudly his kitchen and explains her how he could prepare her the sardines I am shooting. “But they are still alive”, my mom says and adds that she has no appetite yet. “You can always come back tomorrow for the fish”, he smiles back to her, “but the tea is still on the house”,
Turkish restaurant-owners know very well how to get tourists in their place; they are very smart in doing their business. While we sit and talk about the beautiful view we have over the Bosphorus, we realise the appetite we actually do have. Ten minutes later we already have a plate of sardines and a simple salad in front of us.
I discovered eating and cooking fish in Barcelona when I lived there. Every Saturday I would go to the fish-market in Barceloneta and visit my favorite sales women there, who would always give me recipes on how to best prepare the fish. One day with a but of wine and in the over another day simply with some oil ‘a la plancha’. I learned a lot and discovered all the fish-types that swim in the Mediterranean sea by eating.
The best day to buy fish in Barcelona would be Friday since on Thursday evenings you could see over thirty boats leaving the harbours, going out fishing for the night and bringing the people of Barcelona their fresh fish the next morning. However, in Istanbul fish is caught 24 hours a day.
In Istanbul fish in fact is even more present and fresher. All along the Bosphorus and from the bridges over the strait men fish all day long. And all over Istanbul you smell it, whether the fish is just caught and still alive, or freshly fried. A sandwich with fish is almost as common here as Kebab, the dish that Turkish people made famous all over Europe.
There are special fish-markets too. You recognize them easily by the seagulls in the sky and the little street-cats on the ground, guarding the marketplace, waiting for the fishes that are still alive and manage to flip out of the bucket. Or they just wait for the men to throw them a little one while feeding themselves in the meantime by the smell of the freshly caugh fish.
And while we were eating, next to the water and looking at the boat-builders, some cats also came up to us, eating with good appetite the left-overs we had. Going back over the bridge and to my mom’s place in the old part, yet again she got invited for a drink on the house. As we had skipped coffee before, we accepted, had some Turkish coffee and left the place with a smile and the words: “We will come back tomorrow”.