If I had the power to change one thing about my childhood, that would be the education system in Turkey. First thing to go would be the mindset of the whole system which is “memorization style” of learning. Not much stays with you when you are taught like that.
For example, the only thing I remember from early history lessons is that Attila the Hun died on his wedding night because of nose bleeding. All those hours, and the only thing that stuck with me was a misfortune of a man. I probably felt really bad for him. I mean, come on… on his wedding night!!??? I have never bought that by the way, I am sure there is a more interesting historical fact behind that.
The stress reaches the peak in senior year of high school. We take a nationwide exam at the end of the school year to be able to get into the colleges we want. I will spare you the details but tell you just this: Senior year is very intense for the kids in high school and takes a toll on their – already hormonal - emotional well-being. And a bigger toll on their families’ finances because of all the boot camp classes cramped into the weekends which cost a fortune.
I was tired all week from school work, then it did not stop on the weekends either. Week after week, month after month… No break.
I used to lose my motivation time to time. I cried a lot that year. Sometimes, to ease things, my mom would take me the pastry shop in the neighborhood, and order this pudding with icecream on top. It did not help the sleepy, puffy eyes but it sure helped to calm me down. I told her one time “I know what you are trying to do, I know this is a bribe but I am eating it anyway.” She said “so what, is it working or what?”.
This one called “fake chicken breast pudding” (Yalancı Tavukgӧğsü) or for simplicity purposes, mastic pudding. The real chicken breast pudding (tavukgogsu) sold in the shops has very finely shredded cooked chicken breast in it. The version we make home, as well call it, is the fake version,no chicken breast fibers but lots of flavor with mastic.Mastic is a resin obtained from mastic tree, in the form of hard crystals. It is crushed into a powder for this pudding. It has a refreshing, kinda woodsy smell.I sometimes add to my challah bread as well.
So the bribe worked! After a whole year of hard work, I got into my dream major: environmental engineering. I was so happy when I got the news that summer morning. I remember that the phone rang immediately after I learned. As soon as I answered it, I told the news to the person on the other side. The response I got:
“oh.. sooo will you be collecting trash on the streets? Don’t be sad, there is always next year’s exam”.
Not many people know what the heck an environmental engineer would do except to be an activist on Greenpeace boat back then.
For me, there was not a next exam! I am a proud water/wastewater engineer now. And a bowl of this pudding is one of the pieces of the puzzle which helped me to get to where I am today.
Mastic Pudding (Yalanci Tavukgogsu)
- 1 litre of whole milk
- 7 ounce of all purpose flour
- 12 ounce of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of powdered mastic (I use mortar and pestel usually, since it is sold in small crystal pieces)
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- Cinnamon and/or icecream for topping
1. Place milk in a heavy bottom pan.
2. Sift the flour and add to the milk with sugar, egg and mastic.
3. Beat the contents with a hand held mixer for about a minute until everything is combined well.Wash the mixer attachments to get rid of any egg and flour residue, set aside.
4. Put the pan on stove, turn the heat to medium high.
5. Stir constantly as the pudding thickens.Make sure you get rid of any flour pockets that might be left.
6. When it starts bubbling, turn the heat down to medium, continue stirring.
7. When it reaches a thick pudding consistency, turn the heat off, add the butter.
8. Stir until the butter melts.
9. After all butter is melted, beat the pudding for a full minute at medium speed with clean attachments. The pudding should be looking smooth and creamy.
10. Ladle into the bowls. Let it cool completely. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate at least several hours before you serve.
11. Sprinkle cinnamon before you serve.