“Quit your whining, you asked me to put it in.” He said.
“Yeah, but I didn’t know you were going to be so…” She trailed off.
“Forceful? Impressive? Noteworthy?” He said.
“Clumsy.” She said with a grimace. “There had to be an easier way.”
“Look, unless you wanted it to go in through the backdoor, this is the only way I know how to do it.” His voice peevish. “C’mon, my back’s about to fucking break here. Can we get a move on?”
“Fine.” She said. “Let’s get this over with.”
Ten sweaty, fucktastic minutes later…
“Finally!” She said, lying down and rubbing her thighs to ease muscles cramping from holding up so much weight. “That didn’t last as long as I worried. Do you want some money?”
“Your overwhelming gratitude is all the thanks I need.” He finished with a grunt, heaving his end up and then collapsing on the floor next to her. Panting, he rolled onto his side, adding. “And the next time you invite someone to help ‘move an organ in’, please be more specific.”
Woe to the restaurant that finds me in a bad mood. Fortunately for Zeytin, a Turkish restaurant in Ada, Michigan, I was in fine fettle last Thursday. The food I consume can affect how I feel, but the reverse is also true. If I am in a great mood, everything tastes better.* Happiness is a spice all its own.
My friend, Kay, joined me for a belated birthday lunch celebration.** Kay and I are both enthusiastic ‘foodies’, while not necessarily qualified by training, we are experienced gourmands and picky about our palate and the foods we try. I like to utilize her taste buds because she will eat the meat dishes so I can tell you about them. And, before you cry foul, Kay is okay with this arrangement—the safe word is “Rocky Mountain Oysters”.
Kay, and I wrestled with the many choices of appetizers. So we ordered enough to feed a small army—or a house with teenagers. Soon plates of borek, spinach pie, and bowls of soup arrived along with a basket of very thin, cold pita and a generous bowl of tzatziki—called Cacik in Turkish. The yogurt dish was the favorite among the four we chose.
The Feta Borek—a deep-fried crispy roll filled with feta cheese—was the Turkish equivalent of a crab Rangoon, minus the crab. We both agreed, this was phenomenal. (Especially dunked in the cacik—everything is better with yogurt sauce on it.)
Next we had the stuffed grape leaves. Here Kay and I parted ways. Kay loved them, believing they were flavored with anise, I had reservations because of the odd and unexpected taste. When asked what the secret ingredient was our waiter admitted this was the one item on the menu that they did not make at the restaurant, but ordered in. My internal food detective went ‘Ah Hah!’ But I said nothing aloud; I like to savor my smugness along with my meal.
Kay and I both had reservations about the spinach pie. I am a huge fan of spanakopita (the Greek iteration of this dish) so I was a bit disappointed by the approach taken by the Turkish chef. Instead of getting a rolled, triangular packet stuffed with feta and spinach chopped in a good ratio, this came more as a lasagna-style serving—where the phyllo dough had a bottom and a top layer with a huge helping of spinach dotted with feta as a leaden center. This arrangement made the upper layers of phyllo a touch gluey. My research informed me that Phyllo, the thin, layered pastry, which I thought was a strictly Greek invention, actually originated in Istanbul. So, it was likely I ate the more traditional rendition of the dish. That said, I would still prefer my puffed savory to be a little more flaky and the proportions of dough to filling better measured to prevent the steam from collapsing all that delicately structured crust. Still, it tasted pretty good and it would beat most fast food restaurant food hands-down.
There is something entirely decadent about sitting in luxurious comfort sipping sweet tea in delicate glasses, chatting with a good friend. Our booth had colorful, thick cushions with a Turkish rug pattern and pillows at our backs, the music playing was soft and a woman sang with plaintive, if incomprehensible words, as we dined.
The only jarring note to the bright, clean establishment is the décor. Looking around we saw what looked like Southwestern paintings which veered very heavily near to something you might see painted on black velvet or found on a Thomas Kinkade Calendar—if he’d ever managed to escape the English village where he’s been held hostage for years churning out lilac-strangled cottages. Twisted iron chandeliers which mimicked the antlers of a many pronged, exotic animal prompted us to ask whether the owners had kept the previous establishment’s theme. The puzzled waiter replied, “No, this is all new with the restaurant.” Okay then. Since I inadvertently painted my basement to look like interior of a submarine, I cast no interior design stones. But be prepared if you go there.
Kay enjoyed her grilled lamb. (Which I would describe to you in detail if my son hadn’t stolen my notebook to create a Jackson Pollock inspired mess on his bedroom floor.) I loved my Turkish Delight—a mélange of veggies swimming in a delicious tomato-based stew on homemade hummus. I was surprised to find uniformly chopped carrots with the telling zigzag that screams ‘frozen veggie’ but, that said, the dish was fantastic.
I won’t quibble if they can make frozen food taste that good. We both thought that the presentation of the hors d’oeuvres on rough chopped iceberg lettuce with thin half-moon slices of tomato was underwhelming. My thought was that if they just added a nice, light lemon-olive oil vinaigrette and made it a side of the appetizer then it wouldn’t be such a waste of vegetation.
Friendship is the flavor which makes life worth savoring. I can laugh, joke and chew my meal and it has a gustatory pleasure you cannot recreate no matter how well cooked a dish is when eaten alone. Minor pet peeves aside—frozen veggies and a slightly too heavy emphasis on salt in many of the dishes—I suggest you run right out and dine at this hidden gem. Gustatory treasure hunters will not be disappointed.
Zeytin gets three out of four olives. It is a great place to go with friends. The meals are slightly higher in price than your average lunch fare, but then, the food is better. It is intended as a slower dining experience, has tables arranged in either booths, or two-to-four person settings with the possibility of reorganizing for larger groups. It looks to have a well-stocked bar for those who like a little aperitif with their meal. There are a few ‘American’ food options for kids (cheese burger/chicken nuggets) but adults had best be prepared to dine in Turkish style.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Apparently I am an emotional eater in more than one sense.
**Like we need an excuse to go to a good restaurant.
Hidden Soup Bonus:
If given a choice between the Lentil or Spinach Tomato soups, go with the latter. Unless you hate spinach–because it really does have a Popeye’s powerhouse vegetable flavor.
Sunday, I’m staring into the abyss—the bottomless well of muck and despair that is my bathroom sink. I’m about to yell at my son for his new hobby (filling the sink to watch it empty) when I realize the drain plug is open; the water just isn’t creating the tidal spout of happiness that indicates it is rushing back to the sea from whence it came. Crap on a cracker, the sink is plugged up.
Thankfully, I am not a completely helpless female when it comes to home repair. My son’s propensity for investigating all things mechanical means I have had to learn how to put doorknobs back on, realign toilet fixtures* and learn how to avert or avenge myriad other small household disasters. I am a woman with tools, hear me roar.
On my knees in the bathroom, I crawl under the cabinet to disconnect the thingamajiggy from the whosie-whatsit that causes the stopper to move up and down.** Then I can pull up the drain plug and see what the problem is. There will now be a brief theatrical reenactment. Those of you with genteel dispositions may want to leave the room.
The Downstairs Bathroom Players Present: The Creature
Woman: “Okay, here we go. I’ll just pull this drain plug out of the way so we can see what we’re looking at…and…oh… Oh my god. Please dear merciful heaven, what is that thing?”
[Runs to phone, dials frantically.]
Woman: “Hello? Is this MacDonald’s Emergency Plumbing? Help! There’s some sort of black, slimy thing living in my sink! Do you do exorcisms? You do? Hurry, please!”
PP: “I understand your bathroom has been possessed?”
Woman: “Yes, it’s in there.”
[Plumber/priest waves holy plunger, recites the plumber’s prayer.]
PP: “In nomine Padres, Domino’s pizza, and spirits of cactus—tequila be thy name—I call you up from the depths of the p-trap. The foul odors of hell reveal your wickedness. I cast you out, demon. Be gone from here and never return.”
Woman: “Is…is it safe to enter?”
PP: “Run, save yourself.”
[Fade to black]
Okay, so maybe I like to exaggerate a bit. But, truthfully, the stuff that came out of the sink was an unholy nightmare—a year’s worth of hair, dirt and soap congealed into a slimy plug that blocked all but a tiny aperture for water to pass through. It looked like the plumbing had caught my cold and was congested with grey phlegm.
As a parent, I have had to learn to take all manner of gross things with equanimity: booger eating, vomit hurling, and fecal fixation. You name it, I’ve handled it. But I’ll admit, I did hurk a bit seeing what was coming out of that pipe. So, here’s where I confess that I am a bit more girly than I really want to be. Dozens of feminists reading this will drop their heads into their hands mortified by this admission, but, if I had a man in my life who came with a set of tools, I’d have been on the phone to him before touching that nasty mess. This brings me to today’s topic: What does it mean to be girly in today’s culture?
When I was young (back when dinosaurs roamed the land), being girly meant more than liking the color pink, wearing make-up and a fondness for chick flicks. It meant that you were weak-wristed when you threw a ball, that you screamed when you saw a mouse and you couldn’t do math. It implied all sorts of helplessness and was a catch-all excuse for avoiding dirty, hard manual labor. When I was eighteen, you could have accused me of being girly and the label would have been appropriate. But then, I joined the Army and I began to see how accepting that definition was a cop-out.
I was on DIC duty one day and it was just about as pleasant as the acronym implies. We were given the task of hauling bags of salt from a truck bed to a shed about ten feet away. The bags weighed about sixty to seventy pounds each. As luck would have it, assigned to DIC duty that day were two men, me, and about ten other women. The sergeant in charge sent one of the guys to go count money at the officers club—a nice, easy task. That left the one guy and eleven women to haul that shit stuff. The guy set to, lugging a crunchy bag on his shoulder and heaving his way to the shed. I could just barely lift one and it wasn’t long before I started to tire. Another woman and I worked with the guy to get the job done…and the rest of the women stood around and didn’t even make a token effort to help us. There were a few
mumbled excuses: “I can’t lift it.” “It’s too heavy.” Two women working together could have helped out; but none of the slackers did…and no one called them on it.*** After that day, I have done my best not to make excuses or blame my limitations on my gender. My failings are my own. But then, so are my victories.
Faced with the terrible prospect of a backed up sink, did I succumb? Did I fold in the face of failure? No! Wearing my pink rubber gloves, and suppressing my gag reflex, I tackled the drain monster. It fought a hard fight, but I took that mother down. No priest or plumber required. Now that’s what I call being girly!
The rushing waters of victory…
Asterisk bedazzled footnotes:
*I really don’t think saying “I know how to handle a sticky ball-cock” is wise.
**I can fix it, but I can’t always describe it. For those of you who absolutely must know, I was removing the drain plug adjustment arm by unscrewing and taking off the ball valve from the sink trap. There, was that any better? No? I didn’t think it would be.
***In defense of female soldiers, I saw an equal number of women who buckled down and tried to do whatever was set in front of them. I’d like to think I was one of them.