Notes on 19th Century Istanbul-The Old Hand Yorgi

Joined Feb 3, 2010
All of the excerpts below tell his own times, from the eyes of an old baker named, Hagop Mintzuri. I recommend you to read throughly the book of this Ottoman, who aspired to be a writer and wrote his own book one day. It lays before our eyes the late Ottoman Empire downtown culture, commons perception, and the streets; you almost feel as if you get in the scene there...

Source :
Istanbul Memories (1897-1940)
Hagop Mintzuri
History Foundation of Turkey - Yurt Publications
Tarih Vakfý

" ... Sometimes I was getting in his shop, sidle up to him [Old Hand Yorgi]. He had such a table that was stretching to the yard with olive oil, vinegar barrels on top. Onion, flour, parsley... All were on top of it. He was cutting the beef liver in very little pieces, dipping in flour, and putting in the burnt oil in a pan. In the same breath, with his wet, mealy hands, he was cutting the parsleys altogether without tailing them, and later onions. He was so fast in it that a knife working with electricity of those times couldn’t even be that fast, I dare say!

Sting of onion was fetching tears in my eyes. Yet he was chopping constantly without any tear. And his cigarette was always there, between his lips. Sometimes as the cigarette burned down, a long ash block was forming; and if I wouldn’t warn, it was dropping in the livers or onions. When I giggle, he was saying “Mind your own business! Let it drop Agop, so what? Pan is dark, liver as well! Is ash something dirty?", and later taking the fried ones with his spoon, packing them in tin dishes, and covering with onion and parsley, he was putting the dishes before the diners. On the very table, they were getting out their half-a-kilo breads, and filling up, with the onion shelles and flour sprinkles around.

The Old Hand Yorgi would never wash the dishes. Nobody was feeling this necessary. The dishes were being filled again after the diners filled up and left, and put before the newcomers. Why should the dishes be washed? The diners were already cleaning them! And what’s more, by polishing inside the dish with their breads once,twice, third and a fourth time. So all of the onion, parsley and olive oil bits were going in the tummy of the diner... “
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