There are certain New Year's resolutions that are popular year after year. One of the most popular is diet and exercise.
According to Turkish Minister of Health Recep Akdag, 35 percent of the country's population is obese. According to the study, “Obesity Profile in Turkey,” conducted by the Turkish Association for the Study of Obesity (TASO) between the years 2000-2005, N. Bağrıaçık and fellow researchers report that the increase in obesity among Turks can be explained in part by nutritional habits, lifestyle and regionally popular food types with excessive carbohydrate and fat content. Also the low physical activity of women and in some regions high alcohol consumption by men are contributors to obesity in the country.
On the subject of bad habits and diets, one of our dogs, Charlie, is not at all picky about what he eats. He must have acquired his taste for popcorn with his first family. His original owners had teenagers and probably introduced him to popcorn and some tricks. I discovered one evening when I was popping popcorn that he could jump and catch popcorn. It is amusing to watch him do this. Occasionally, in the evening I walk into the kitchen and open the cupboard to get the pot out and place it on the burner and open the flame on the gas stove and as I am reaching for the bottle of oil to pour some into the pot, Charlie comes and positions himself right beside me. He loves the sound of popcorn. He sits at my feet in the hope that some popcorn will spill over and he can grab it. Probably I am among the few who still love to pop my own popcorn in a pot. I enjoy shaking the handle and waiting to hear the poppity-pop-pop sound as the kernels explode. Charlie loves this sound, too.
Ever since my resolution to exercise and diet last year I have eaten my popcorn without using melted butter. I even pop it in olive oil. I know it sounds extravagant, but this is one of the perks of living in Turkey. You can buy olive oil much cheaper here than in most countries, certainly cheaper than in the United States. According to an article on the Olive Oil Times website, “When it Comes to Olive Oil Consumption, Turkey Lags Behind Other Big Producers,” (Sept. 4), Vikas Vij explains that Turkey is the world's fourth largest producer of olive oil, with an average share of global production between 7 and 10 percent. The Turkish Aegean region is home to about 76 percent of the country's 85 million olive trees. It is interesting that when it comes to per capita consumption of olive oil, Turkey is far behind the other major olive oil producing countries. Evidently the Greeks and Italians eat a lot more olives and use more olive oil. Last time I went to my Turkish doctor for a checkup she commented on my diet, saying that she could tell from the results that I use virgin olive oil. Many doctors are talking up the use of olive oil because studies show that just two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day will be beneficial to your health and well being.
Those of us who use Turkish olive oil tend to use it in abundance because the price is so reasonable here, whereas in the US if you buy it you may use it more sparingly. Imagine a recipe calling for half a cup of olive oil! One of my favorite dishes is Imam Bayıldı (The Preacher Fainted). It is made with eggplant and olive oil and a few other ingredients. The story goes:
A Turkish imam who was on a fixed income loved to eat. He was shocked when he came home one day from the mosque to eat his evening meal and found there was no stuffed eggplant (or as some say, aubergine) served. He could not believe his eyes when he went to the pantry and saw that all the jars of olive oil had been used up. The imam was so shocked that he fainted. This dish has become known as "Imam Bayıldı."
Peggy Frezon in her delightful book, “Dieting with my Dog, writes about how she and her dog have been trying to lose weight and are determined to do so but her problem is she can't give up certain foods. Frezon shares how she loves to tip steaming popcorn into an enormous metal bowl and drizzle the corn generously with melted butter and add salt and indulge. I must admit that while munching on popcorn, it is easy to forget about everything.
Perhaps one of my New Year's resolutions should include a walking regime of 10,000 steps a day.
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: email@example.com