I was born in the 70's and grew up in the 80's. If you are as old as me, you'll remember The Love Boat (tv show). I didn't watch regularly, and I now realize that when I did watch, the fact that unmarried people were actually traveling together on a cruise went totally over my head. One thing I do remember is that, on occasion, the Captain would ask certain guests to dine at his special table.
Well, Friday night, CC and I got to dine at the Captain's table. Friday night is our date night, but this week there was a high school band concert. CC suggested we just get an early dinner, then I could come home and he'd go on to the concert. Sounded good to me, for Friday is truly my Sabbath (not Sunday morning with 5 kids gettin' ready for church, only one of which has nary enough hair to comb). So, Friday night CC said he had a 'hankerin' for a kebab. (When he talks about food, more of his Southerness comes out, I think.) We headed back to Kepab 2000, the place at which we dined in December while our house was burning. When we walked in, the restaurant owner greeted us warmly, remembered us, wished all the kids had come as well, etc. I wish I'd taken my camera, but my words will have to provide the picture this time. There was no one in the restaurant. He insisted we eat at "his table." He was taking his dinner, served by his own cooks and waiters, right by the hearth with a cozy fire. We politely declined. He warmly insisted. Now this was a moment of cultural difference. In the West, we value privacy and space. And goodness, we were on our weekly date. We wanted to chat, to look deeply into each other's eyes, to listen to something other than what happens in Barbie's Diamond Castle movie....for just one night a week. But to this gentleman, his offer was the ultimate in Turkish hospitality. To refuse him would have been rude. So, we warmly accepted his offer and sat with him.
This old man is very hard of hearing and his Turkish is very country, so he is hard to understand. But we got enough of what he said to realize that he had told his waiters to bring us his own special meal. He was eating a buttery, spiced rice and a dish of taze fasulye (fresh beans), a hot dish made with green beans, spices, tomato, onion. He told us that it had been made in his home. We already realized that, for it did not appear on the menu. We also ordered a chicken kebab and cacik (a minty, cucumber-yogurt cold soup). In addition, they brought us hot bread out of the fire oven and a delicious tomato/cucumber salad doused with pomegranate dressing. The meal was divine. To finish it off, out came dessert (a variation of baklava) and hot tea.
You can imagine our surprise when he insisted that we not pay. He continued to say, "You sit at my table, this is my gift." I thought of the Captain and the Captain's table. Granted, this kind old man certainly wouldn't mind our business in ordering school lunches and perhaps that was his motive, but after a bit of protest, we graciously accepted his offer. His only condition? Next time bring the children.