My name is Ilke, and I am originally from the beautiful city of Istanbul, Turkey. A little over ten years ago, I landed in the US for the first time. I was expecting a New York lifestyle, yet I ended up in the small college town of Clemson, South Carolina. I was a little startled. Try going from a place where you were taught English by Australians and Brits, and then talking to a Walmart cashier in South Carolina… I couldn’t comprehend “paper or plastic” through the southern accent, and on my third day in the US I had no idea how on Earth I had become her “honey!”. Believe me, you would get startled!
So, at that time, my mind was made up: I planned to attend Clemson University only for a year as an exchange student, and finish my master’s degree in Turkey.
But that was just planning. Fast forward ten years. Now, I am still in the South (loving it) and married to a great guy from another small town in South Carolina, in which we now live. We do live a little closer to urban civilization now (a short drive to Charlotte, North Carolina), and I work in the city for a consulting firm as an environmental engineer. So, I’ve given up trying to plan my life in such a detailed manner, and I have started cooking grits!
Cooking to remember Emine’s kitchen
I did not cook when I was in Istanbul, since I was living among great cooks. One of them was and still is my beloved grandmother, Emine. While she was cooking, I did not think I needed to know how to do it, I just ate. Then my years away from her taught me how important those family recipes were. It is funny that when you are living abroad, the simple foods start to mean a whole lot more than you think. I found myself experimenting in the kitchen to try and catch the exact flavor. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Pretty soon, cooking that food would remind me of my city, my grandmother’s kitchen, or a routine day from my childhood. And this was the best healing therapy I could find for a far-away soul.
Cooking has worked for me so far in terms of trying to catch a little glimpse of the past, and as long as I don’t gain too much weight, I am willing to put on a couple of pounds to remember those old times!
Cooking to create my own kitchen
I learned to cook because I missed the cuisine from my native Turkey. Meanwhile, all these years in the South introduced me to another great cuisine here. That’s right, I’m talking about good ol’, down-home Southern Food! Time after time, I found myself returning to the Southern Living cookbook my mother-in-law gave me, for those really great southern recipes. And since by now I can comprehend the southern accent quite well (y’all!), I have come to really enjoy learning from Paula Deen’s programs. Actually, sometimes I think Paula Deen and my grandma would have gotten along pretty well, purely for their common love of butter :).
If cooking is healing for a devoted cook, eating it together with a great company is the celebration of that healing. My house has always been full of friends and family, and no matter how chaotic it gets sometimes, there is nothing a deep breath and a big sip of wine can not help :).
Hopefully, you will enjoy the recipes I have found and tried, or copied from my grandma, or created based on what I had.
I’m glad you found my blog. Please come back often! If you would like to talk to me directly, please email me at ilke(at)ilkeskitchen.com and I will write back to you as soon as I can.