We had just arrived in Cappadocia after a couple of harried "tourist guided" days in Istanbul. I hadn't yet figured how to pronounce the name of the town our travel agent had chosen for us in Cappadocia- Urgup.
I had played no part in selecting this town and I couldn't be more grateful for it. Had she asked me, I would have said Goreme, because I had such wonderful memories of time spent there with mom and Atta a decade ago. But as I found out later in this trip, Goreme has changed totally. From a laid back quiet quaint town of my memories, it was now a "cheap" tourist town. Not inexpensive cheap, the other kind. Urgup was different.
We had arrived mid morning at our lavish cave hotel and decided to walk to the town to have lunch. After walking for about 10 minutes through the winding narrow empty streets, we reached the main road. There were no restaurants to be found. The one place we thought was a cafe turned out to be a wine shop. There was hardly anyone on the road that we could ask. Aloka and I were puzzled and totally famished.
It was then that I saw a sign on a stairway with an image of a woman holding a bowl. Could it mean food? What were the words- Tik Tik Kadin Emegi? Hungry and curious, we climbed up.
It was a good decision. We had the best meal of the entire trip in a small tastefully decorated room with just three tables. Looking at the very limited menu, we ordered Tik Tik, which turned out to be a delicious ravioli dish served on a bed of curd. We also had the most delicate melt-in-the-mouth-no-nonsense baklava, so different from the sugary heavy baklava we had in Istanbul! Despite the language barrier, we made some conversation with the woman serving us and figured out that this was a woman's cooperative of some sort and the food we ate was made by the local women.
Of course, we were back at the restaurant the next day. A different woman served us this time. She started by lightly pinching Aloka's cheeks, who blushed red. After our delicious meal of tik tik and baklava, I peeked inside the room at the back where I could hear some talking. A most delightful scene awaited us. Four middle-aged woman sat on the floor, working feverishly with their hands and chatting. One of them looked up and nodded at us. That was all the encouragement we needed to enter the room.
By very clear hand gestures, Aloka was invited by one of the women to sit next to her. Her cheeks got patted/pinched some more. They all seemed to like her instantly. Soon, the woman was teaching her to make ravioli. She was a bit apprehensive initially but soon got the knack of it. I joined in and we worked in the kitchen for over an hour, making tik tik, the delicious ravioli we just had.
Sitting on the floor in their kitchen, with no common language between us, I learned the names of all the women, and they ours. We also figured out how many kids we each had. When I had trouble reciting their names back, one of them managed to convey that it was okay because while they had to learn only two names, I had to remember four. There was so much laughter and shared joy among total strangers. I felt totally at home.
Before leaving from that beautiful place, we bought a few packets of tik tik that we had contributed to making. We had them for dinner a few times after we returned home, each time transporting us to the lovely afternoon spent in the quiet quaint part of Ugrup, Cappadocia.It was only later that I googled the meaning of "Kadin Emegi"- Women's labor! So happy that now it includes our labor too!