Our experience of goat meat has been less than favourable. A year or so ago, we were sold goat, rather than lamb by the butcher. After 36 hours in the slow cooker, we still couldn’t get our teeth through its rubbery texture. Disappointing. But we’re always willing to give something another try and when an invitation to a goat meal came from our old friends “Tom & Barbara” in Eşen – see the post in this blog “A Day in Rural Turkey” published in April 2014 – there was no hesitation on our part.
As smallholders T&B have become experts in a wide range of rural skills from free-range eggs through sundried tomatoes, to bottled black cherries. The list goes on and on. Some of the produce is the result of their own labours whilst others are acquired by barter with their farming neighbours. A particular favourite of their visitors is wine made from local fruit, vegetables and grains. More on this subject, later but sufficient for now to say, it is not a good idea to drive to Eşen if you want to keep your licence.
Batı Antalya run what can best be described as a regular irregular bus service along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey between the cities of Antalya and Fethiye. There are ten or so buses a day in each direction, but the logic of the timetable is a mystery to mere mortals. Combining the official timetable with unscheduled breaks, waiting for passengers who are late and repacking the under-bus storage to accommodate large sacks of agricultural produce means that it’s anyone’s guess when a bus will arrive. So it was no surprise when we arrived at the Kalkan Otogar (bus station) to find that the 11.10 bus now would be leaving at 11.20. In fact it arrived about 11.20, most of the passengers and the driver got off, and time seemed to be of no consequence. At about 11.30 people began to re-board, the driver came round to check tickets and collect fares. And then a car pulled in to the otogar, the driver and passenger got out, a case was stowed and the lady of the couple got onto the bus. How did she know the bus would still be there? Anyway, her arrival proved to be the signal for the bus to leave. Hurray!!
The journey was uneventful except that at times the bus seemed to be having a race with a tortoise and the driver wanted the tortoise to win. As we approached T&B’s side road, we moved forward and, with lots of arm waving and pointing, got the driver to stop opposite the road end. We crossed the highway and started up the stony track leading to the house. And there, coming to meet us, was Tom looking as tanned, fit and well as always. From their house they can see the bus approaching from some distance. A short walk and we were at the house being greeted by a large friendly dog before getting to the front door and removing our shoes as is the Turkish custom. Inside we were greeted by the ever-lovely Barbara and wonderful aromas of cooking.
Within what seemed like a very few minutes, food started to appear on the table in the sun lounge. The first course of the goat-themed meal had as its centrepiece open filo parcels filled with creamy white goat’s cheese. To accompany the parcels was a range of meze dishes all made in the kitchen from home-grown ingredients. This was washed down with water and one of only two commercial products of the day, Efes beer.
We knew that the second course would feature goat of course but little had we expected not one but two goat dishes. The first was mouth-watering roast meat accompanied by roast potatoes and buttery carrots and beans. The second goat dish was described as Moroccan-style. The goat meat had been diced and simmered in a casserole with fruits and vegetables. The dominant fruit was apricot. The dish was accompanied by rice. It was one of most delicious dishes we have ever eaten, fragrant and tender. We were both totally converted to goat, at least if it was prepared in T&B’s kitchen.
But our feast was not over. No lunch is complete in this house without dessert. And of course there had to be another goat product involved. This time it arrived at the table in the form of goat’s milk ice-cream and excellent creamy ice-cream it was. It was served with home-bottled black cherries and, the only other commercial product, little heart-shaped waffles. We were, by this time, utterly replete.
Nor did the Eşen vintners disappoint when it came to wine. Today’s delights were two unique concoctions. They don’t have fancy labels or expensive sounding names. They are simply named after their main ingredients. So the first was Orange & Wheat and the second Rice. The Orange & Wheat was definitely an easy-drinking, quaffing wine. The Rice had a feel of a serious drinker’s wine with, potentially, serious side effects. They made an excellent duo, one to accompany the food and the other to finish off the meal.
And so, as so often happens, all good things had to come to an end. Batı Antalya was calling, except that we had no idea when the next bus was likely to arrive. Tom looked up the internet version of the timetable and saw that a bus was scheduled to start from Fethiye, about 50kms to our west, at 15.30 and to pass Patara, some 20kms to our east at 16.45. It was anyone’s guess when it would pass T&B’s road end but it could be very soon.
We all walked along the rough road to the highway. The junction of the two roads is on a slow downhill bend. The effect is that you can’t see approaching vehicles until they are very close and, because of the slope, they are usually going rather fast. Time and vehicles raced by but no sign of a bus. Then, when we were about to give up and thoughts of a taxi were beginning to loom large in our minds, along came a battered red and white dolmuş. We waved and the vehicle came to a screeching, lurching halt. It was going to the village of Kumlova which is off the main road at the end of the famous Patara beach. It should be able to take us to Kınık which is in the right direction and from where other buses and dolmuş run to Kalkan.
The Kumlova dolmuş was already full. The men and women seemed to have been to a market judging by the number of parcels and packages they were carrying. But dolmuş are famous for their elasticity. They miraculously expand to accommodate the number of people and goods that want to use them. And so, after a lot of Turkish banter, we were seated on a small wooden box beside the door. Fine. The drive to Kınık proceeded at a great pace with lots of squealing tyres and fast bends taken on two wheels. All the while the other occupants continued their banter, we assume talking about the mad foreigners in their midst. But it was all very friendly. As we pulled into Kınık the dolmuş again screeched to a halt a short distance before the otogar. It then became clear that they had all agreed to take a detour to deliver us there. They should have turned off a little earlier. With lots of waves and the handing over of 10 lira for the fare and we were left standing at the roadside. Turkish hospitality knows no bounds.
The rest of the journey went without incident other than one man on the bus who managed to change seats five times for reasons that remained entirely obscure to us. Matters in Turkey often present as benign mysteries.
By way of a postscript, there should be a mention of the poor goat who provided the essential ingredients of the fayre. T&B have another home in the cool mountains near the town of Gombe on the road to Elmalı. The farming of goats is a major part of the rural economy in that part of the world. On one of their recent trips a visit was made to a Gombe butcher to buy some goat or, more correctly, Oğlak which literally translates as “kid”. The meat of a young goat which is much tenderer than the meat of the adult of the species we were told, and so it proved.