(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Turkey

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, / And all the sweet serenity of books”*…

Righteous recycling: garbage collectors in Ankara started “reclaiming” discarded books and ended up opening a library….

It all started when sanitation worker Durson Ipek found a bag of cast-off books when he was working and then it snowballed from there. Ipek and other garbage men started gathering the books they found on the streets that were destined for landfills and as their collection started to grow, so did word of mouth. Soon, local residents started donating books directly.

The library that originally contained 200 books is located in the Cankaya district of the capital city in a previously vacant brick factory at the sanitation department headquarters. The library was initially available only to the sanitation employees and their families to use but as the collection grew, so did public interest and the library was opened to the public in December 2017…

All the books that are found are sorted and checked for condition, if they pass, they go on the shelves. In fact, everything in the library was also rescued including the bookshelves and the artwork that adorns the walls…

Today, the library has over 6,000 books that range from fiction to nonfiction and there’s a very popular children’s section that even has a collection of comic books. An entire section is devoted to scientific research and there are also books available in English and French…

The full story at: “Turkish Garbage Collectors Open a Library from Books Rescued from the Trash

* Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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As we check it out, we might spare a thought for James Billington; he died on this date in 2018. A historian at Harvard and Princeton, who went on to hold the directorship of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Billington is probably best remembered for his final post, Librarian of Congress, a position he held from 1987 to 2015.

The Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S., is the nation’s de facto national library. As librarian, Billington oversaw that resource and appointed the U.S. poet laureate and awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song each year. Billington undertook during his tenure to broaden and deepen public access to the LoC’s remarkable holdings, introducing a series of no-fee access services.

As Librarian, he also oversaw the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In 2010, Billington’s decision to open new DMCA loopholes resulted in his being described as “the most important person you never heard of.”

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“I am not rich enough to eat baklava every day”*…

The social centrality of sweets…

Each country finds its own way to get its sugar fix. The crackly burnished sugar on top of a pot of crème brûlée in France. The grainy buttery sugar of a slab of Scottish tablet. The caramelised, milky sugar of dulce de leche, slathered on toast or pancakes. The intensely processed sugar of the high-fructose corn syrup that sweetens the chocolate drizzle, ice cream and brownie chunks of an American sundae.

A taste for sweetness makes sense in evolutionary terms: sugary foods are a quick and easy source of energy. But despite its universal appeal, says Anissa Helou, a Lebanese-Syrian author and chef (whose surname means “sweet”), Middle Easterners seem to be particularly enamoured by sugar. Five of the top 20 countries that consume the most sugar per person are in the Middle East.

Why is the region so enchanted by sweet stuff? Sugar was widely available in the Middle East long before that was true in the West. Helou also points to the Islamic prohibition on alcohol, which in other countries is used as a celebratory treat, luxury or distraction (though the ban on drinking is observed to varying degrees across the Muslim world). If you can’t do shots in Dubai, you can belly up to the milkshake bar and get a high from guzzling a chocolatey ice cream concoction. After dinner, sweetened tea takes the place of an aperitif. Juice and sugar-cane stalls replace pubs and bars on street corners.

Across the Middle East and Turkey, bakery shelves heave with a variety of syrup-soaked pastries. You can find diamonds of basbousa (which in Arabic sweetly translates as “just a kiss”), a cake made from semolina and drenched with syrup scented with rose or orange blossom. Coils of m’hanncha, an almond-packed roll of pastry, curled to look like a sleeping snake. Kunafa, shredded pastry filled with a creamy cheese or nuts and doused in yet more floral syrup. Znoud el-sit, which literally means “women’s upper arms”, crunchy, plump little cigars of filo pastry, stuffed with cream, fried and steeped in syrup or honey. But the best known by far, at least in the rest of the world, are sheets of fine filo pastry filled with nuts and bathed in syrup and butter: baklava.

Versions of layered, nutty pastries may have been made as early as the eighth century BC by the Assyrians, but it was the Ottomans who perfected the sticky glory of baklava. The imperial kitchens of the Topkapi palace in Istanbul were said to have turned out trays of the stuff in the 15th century. Most notably, on the 15th day of Ramadan, when the sultan would visit the hirka-i-serif (a relic believed to be part of the cloak of the Prophet Muhammad), baklava was given to his janissaries, an elite group of soldiers. It was a food of occasion, so much so that even today there’s a common saying in Turkey: “I am not rich enough to eat baklava every day.” (Boxes of baklava regularly feature as carry-on luggage at airports in Turkey, especially around the holidays, both religious and secular.)

In 2013 the European Commission bestowed a “protected designation-of-origin” status on baklava from Gaziantep, a southern Turkish city – the first Turkish product to be recognised in this way. Bakers across Greece, the Middle East and beyond may challenge the Turks’ claims on baklava, but whether their versions pre-date the reach of the Ottomans or are the result of their expansion, baklava pops up everywhere from Morocco to Iran. The shapes differ, the nuts vary and the spices change but the syrupy richness does not.

Even without the sultans and their acolytes, baklava still evokes a sense of ceremony. Feast days, religious or otherwise, to celebrate both the living and the dead, are occasions for baklava. So, too, are visits by friends. Claudia Roden, a grandee of Middle Eastern cooking born to an Egyptian-Jewish family, writes that baklava (along with other sweets) is associated, for her, with “feelings of well-being, warmth and welcome, of giving and receiving, of crowds of people smiling, kissing, hugging and showering hospitality”. Whereas Christians often forgo foodstuffs such as sugar during the 40 days of Lent, Ramadan brings a nightly feast in which sweets play an important role. In Turkey, Eid al-Fitr, the feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan, is known as Seker Bayrami, the feast of sweets…

In the absence of alcohol, sweet treats unite the Middle East: “Go nuts: the multilayered history of baklava,” from Josie Delap (@josiedelap) in @1843mag— with a recipe!

* traditional Turkish saying

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As we lick our lips (and our fingers), we might spare a thought for Chapin Aaron Harris; he died on this date in 1860. Trained as a physician, he specialized in matters of the mouth. He helped found the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS), the first national dental organization in the U.S., and founded the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (now the University of Maryland School of Dentistry), the first dental college in the U.S. (and, it’s believed, the world).

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“Waterloo – Couldn’t escape if I wanted to”*…

 

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo** this week, The Bodleian Library is featuring it’s Curzon Collection of political prints from the period of the Napoleonic wars– including several British and French cartoons depicting Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo.

Most are available online in the Oxford Digital Library.

* Abba

** Napoleon wasn’t actually in Waterloo when he met his Waterloo. Most of the battle had occurred in Braine-l’Alleud and Plancenoit, just a few miles south of the town (the Lion’s Mound, the most iconic symbol of the battle, is located in Braine-l’Alleud). [source]

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As we retreat to Paris, we might recall that it was on this date in 1782 that Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States and, effectively, the bald eagle as the national symbol.  Benjamin Franklin, who had been a member of one the four committees charged with developing a design for the seal and had proposed an allegorical theme from Exodus, later wrote to his daughter,

For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on…

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A pun is the lowest form of humor—when you don’t think of it first”*…

Pun, noun. Origin unknown “The use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more meanings or different associations, or of two or more words of the same or nearly the same sound with different meanings, so as to produce a humorous effect; a play on words.” – Oxford English Dictionary

Pity the poor pun.  For the last few decades, puns have been the province of clever headline writers, anxious shopkeepers, and embarrassing uncles; otherwise, they tend to be deployed sparingly, and with a dose of irony.  Indeed, the late William Safire, the New York Times‘s long-time language writer, wrote in 2005 that a pun “is to wordplay what dominatrix sex is to foreplay – a stinging whip that elicits groans of guilty pleasure.” But puns have a long and storied history– they featured in the parables of Jesus and in the plays of Shakespeare— and they play an important role in the present, allowing Chinese social media users to address “forbidden” topics.

Are puns making a comeback?  Sally Davies explores the question in BBC Magazine‘s “The Pun Conundrum” (from whence, the photo above).

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* Oscar Levant

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As we punder paronomasia, we might recall that it was on this date in 1784 that Benjamin Franklin wrote, in a letter to his daughter Sarah Bache, of his displeasure with the eagle as the symbol of America; he preferred the turkey.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

It’s Turkey Day!…

 

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More Turkey here, and here.

 

As we politely decline a third serving of green bean casserole, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that the Italian Parliament granted Benito Mussolini dictatorial powers “for one year.”  Mussolini held the position until 1943, though he changed his title in 1925 to “Il Duce,” then again in 1936 to “Sua Eccellenza Benito Mussolini, Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo e Fondatore dell’Impero” (“His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire”).  Any resemblance to Sylvio Berlusconi is coincidental.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 24, 2011 at 1:01 am

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