If one thing makes it memorable to meet Osman Kazan and his wife Esra, it’s the warmth of their welcome. To give hospitality is to receive a god-sent guest: tanri misafiri.
Osman bey and Esra hanim are from Izmit, an industrialized city in the Kocaeli province of Türkiye Cumhuriyeti—the Republic of Turkey. Izmit is near Istanbul in the same way Plano is near Dallas; a metroplex somewhat like DFW. And by the way, “bey” and “hanim” are equivalent to “Mr.” and “Ms.” In Turkish. Instead of “Mr. or Ms. Smith,” you say “Ms. Jane,” or “Mr. John.”
Turkey is a unique nation bordering eight other countries including Bulgaria, Iraq, Greece and Syria. It’s called “the cradle of civilization,” because it was home to cultures like the Hittites and ancient Greeks. Kublai Khan led Mongol warriors to the Black Sea; Alexander the Great rode his warhorse Bucephalus to victory there; Troy is in Turkey. The Ottomans are Turkey’s most famous empire, but the Romans were there too. Istanbul was once Constantinople, after the Roman emperor Constantine I chose it as his capital (and named it after himself, as emperors do).?
Turkey is historically and culturally a gateway, located between Europe and the Middle East. It’s rich, tolerant and fascinating. It’s also democratic and secular, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the aftermath of World War I. Osman describes Atatürk as “our George Washington.” Turkey was a founding member of the United Nations and has a Prime Minister and Parliament, like Britain.?
The Kazans have lived in Murphy for two years. They have three children: Emin, 9, Serra, 4, and Selma, 1. Osman works for EDS and is studying for a Ph.D in engineering. Esra also has an engineering degree and is considering a career in teaching once the children are older. They like Murphy because of its “cozy” feel.
The Kazans enjoy several pastimes. Esra is embroidering a beautiful prayer rug with a design of daffodils and tulips. In keeping with Turkey’s diverse musical tradition, the family owns a bağlama, which is a metal-stringed instrument rather like an Indian sitar, traditionally played in folk music. The Kazans are active in the Raindrop Turkevi foundation, which promotes Turkish culture and supports Turkish immigrant families.
Esra shared some favorite dishes with us. Dolmas, or example, are sweet, delicate peppers stuffed with rice, meat and spices (like Greek dolmas except for the vine leaves). Kurabiye are crumbly pastry snacks like cookies; Esra makes them savory, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Kadayif is a sweet snack made from finely shredded pasta like vermicelli; it’s wonderful with a little cup of strong Turkish tea.
One interesting dish is Noah’s pudding: aşure. This comes with a story. As Noah and his family drifted in the Ark, they slowly ran out of food. When they landed on Mt. Ararat, they understandably wanted to celebrate. They threw together what they had into as sweet a pudding as they could make: grains, dried fruit, nuts, spices and honey, cooked into a soup. It’s soothing, sweet, and satisfying, truly a dish of everyday riches.
We thank Osman bey and Esra hanim for inviting us into their home. Would you like to be our next Multicultural Murphy family? If so, we’d love to hear your voice. Just contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. And Check out the Raindrop Turkevi foundation at http://raindropturkevi.org/
Photos by Andre Guerin