In the small town of London Ontario, where I spent most of my life, there is a french truffle stand in the Covent Garden Market in the center of town. I remember how I used to linger around this stand, watching the man behind the counter tease the fountains of chocolate with fruit and bits of cookies, and admiring the truffles as they cooled on the counter. The owner of this tiny paradise was a rather large, jovial man with a thick French accent. Often when I stopped to watch him crafting these perfect morsels, he would offer me free samples of his latest creation. I developed a small crush on this man. Clearly, I was powerless against his offerings of exotically flavored truffles. There was something strangely exciting about being surrounded by fountains of liquid love and feeling the perfect rush of melted chocolate in my mouth. Perhaps it was also a little forbidden as I have always been a bit of a chronic dieter. I now associate the memory of this man with a total sensual overload.
I suddenly remembered this man today like a tiny perfect dream. What brought on these recollections of past flirtations with French chocolate truffles? A small fish restaurant hidden in one of the backstreets of the city center in Istanbul. Once again, I found myself strangely attracted to the short gray-haired man wearing a white apron over his black t-shirt and blue jeans. He was as genuine as the magical chocolate man wearing an expression of true joy at my total gratification.
It was raining today and I worked a split shift, so that meant a 6 hour block in the middle of my day which I had already decided yesterday to use solely on the literary endeavor of a long overdue blog entry. But writing on an empty stomach is depressing, so I decided to revisit the spectacular little fish place I discovered the other day. I arrived at the restaurant as it began to rain so I sat myself at a table sheltered by the canvas awning. I was immediately greeted by a younger man wearing the same aproned uniform as the manager. He beckoned me to the medium sized glass case at in front of the kitchen window of the restaurant. They were freshly stocked with salmon and sea bass, mackerel and sardines. I pointed out the fish I wanted and sat back down at my table. The patrons looked like business people on their lunch breaks, but they quickly scurried back to work so I had the place to myself. The rain drops fell fat and heavy against the tarp, but I was cozy nestled behind some trees on the semi-secluded street.
About 10 minutes later the manager brought out my fish and a giant salad, and set the beautiful spread in front of me. It didn't take long for me to devour the plate of salmon and half the salad. The manager and his staff grinned as they observed me ravenously tearing up the fish with my hands. When I was finished they brought tea to my table and offered me a cigarette.
I lit the cigarette and noticed a fat orange cat lingering near the door, purring and licking its paws. The manager leaned over and stroked its head, feeding the fur-ball a piece of salmon. The cat was overjoyed at this treatment and happily curled up beside me to eat the fish. It seems these people love to feed the strange little creatures that show up at their door.
I was fat with fish and purring contently right along side my little feline friend, but the best part, however, was when I asked for the bill and the manager said: "you don't pay," handing me an umbrella and calling out behind me as I walked down the road: "come back soon."
Another puuuurrrrrrfect afternoon in Istanbul.