Bodrum is just emerging from seven days of freezing temperatures, power cuts and dug-up roads, just the combination to make even the most mild-mannered a bit irritable. Nothing could be done about the mini ice age that swept through, but for those reliant on electric heating - a better time could have been chosen for "power line maintenance work". After 30 odd years, I accept (without ever understanding) that the roads have to be dug up each winter, but one year it would be nice for warning signs to be erected a few hundred metres before the massive hole blocking the road. I suspect that this is really a ploy to make Bodrum drivers practice reversing - a manoeuvre most spend their entire driving career avoiding.
So when the odds are against me keeping both warm and my temper, I opt for soup. Thick, homemade soup is an instant cure-all. I've read that chicken soup actually does reduce the length of a cold or flu, but for good chicken soup you need a roast chicken carcass, which isn't on hand when the electric oven is off, so we usually opt for lentil or leek and potato which can be cooked in 30 minutes on a single gas ring. I was confident that there wasn't a broth I didn't like until I came to Turkey and here I met my soup nemesis - Tarhana. It's a difficult concept to explain to those not brought up with it as tarhana is basically a home made packet soup - a lot of work goes into it initially but once done it is stored in cloth bags (not the plastic you see in the picture) and used over the winter. Recipes differ, but the general idea is that yogurt, wheat and flour are mixed together and allowed to ferment for 7 to 10 days producing lactic acid and this mixture is then dried in the sun and the resulting crust is crumbled to be rehydrated at a later stage.
I came across these three types of tarhana at the Friday market; the first is "children's tarhana" - made with milk, yogurt, flour and onions, the second is "hot tarhana" made with yogurt, flour, onions, hot red peppers and tomato paste, and the third is "normal tarhana" made as before but with sweet peppers rather than hot ones. To make the soup, a couple of tablespoons of dried tarhana are added to water or stock with a tablespoon of tomato paste and heated and stirred until thick. My problem with the soup is that the fermentation process is an unstable procedure and the airborne yeasts very variable and I have often had a bowl of bubbling soup put in front of me which looks appetising but smells of something more akin to what the dog regurgitated. It's an aroma that is difficult to get past if one is to enjoy the taste. I have a bag of tarhana soup in my kitchen and I do make it for my husband who loves it, but I test each bag before I engage in soup making to weed out the ones with the whiffy bacteria.
I am very much in a minority of tarhana phobics. On Friday, the Bodrum chapter of the Slow Food movement served tarhana soup and dried "peksimet" bread at the weekly market and the soup was all gone in less than an hour. By the time I got there just before 11am, only a few crusts of bread were available for the photo call.