Ihsan Gurdal is one of our most fascinating “heroes.” He was born and raised in Turkey and was quite an athlete. He represented Turkey in the 1976 Olympics! He came to America to become the head volleyball coach at Harvard. While in Cambridge, he took a job at Formaggio Kitchen and soon became manager and cheese buyer. The rest, as they say, is history. Ihsan is the king of cheese in the Boston area and beyond. EVERYONE knows his name and raves about the cheese and specialty products that he travels the world to bring to all of us. Thank you, Ihsan, for enabling us to tell our doctors that, yes, we are getting plenty of calcium in our diets.
Ihsan Gurdal the owner of The Formaggio Kitchen
Leeks have been cultivated since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Dried specimens from ancient sites, as well as wall carvings and drawings, show that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet from around the 2nd millennium B.C. Surviving texts show that leeks were also grown in Mesopotamia from about the same period.
The leek was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it most often in soup. Nero got through so many that he gained the nickname Porophagus (leek eater). According to Pliny’s “Historia Naturalis”, Nero ate them prepared in oil, believing it would aid in maintaining the clarity of his voice.
Its introduction to the British Isles would elevate this simple garden-variety plant to a higher status as the national symbol for Wales. The Phoenicians are said to have been the first to bring leeks to Britain when trading tin with the Welsh where it soon became part of the staple diet.
In about 640 AD, when the Saxons were fighting the Welsh, King Cadwallader told his Welsh soldiers to wear leeks as a badge to distinguish themselves from their blood-thirsty opponents. To this day, the Welsh still wear a leek or a representation of one in their hats. When in war, leeks were thought to have aided in victory.
Wales’ association with leeks was recorded by William Shakespeare, in his play Henry V, where Welsh Captain Fluellen says to young King Hal:
“Your majesty says very true: if your majesties is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty know, to this hour is an honourable badge of service; and I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek up Saint Tavy’s day.”
The leek is also associated with Saint David, Dewi Sant. David was a holy man, a missionary and a founder of monasteries. He reputedly lived on nothing but bread, water, herbs (watercress has been suggested) and leeks.
Despite that, or perhaps because of it, he was a strong, tall man and lived to a ripe old age. David was formally canonised 600 years after his death in 1120, but long before that he was remembered as a man in whom God’s power had worked wonders.
The leek acquired mystic virtues. For example, girls who go to sleep on St David’s Day with a leek under their pillow will see their future husband in their dreams.
The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent, and the whole plant is said to repel insects and moles.
Leek is said to be a diuretic and a blood building agent. Wild leeks have medicinal properties similar to wild onion. Drink a bulb infusion to treat colds, and high blood pressure.
The leek wasn’t always held in such high regard. The French called it the “Asparagus of the Poor” until one of France’s own, Chef Louis Diat, at New York’s Ritz Carlton Hotel at the turn of the century, created the famous dish based on a traditional recipe used by his mother and named it after his home town, Vichy. Vichyssoise, a cold soup made of leeks and potatoes, is now a world celebrated classic dish.
Diat related his recollection of the invention in New Yorker magazine in 1950:
“In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato-and-leek soup of my childhood, which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how, during the summer, my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk, and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.”
Mersin is a large city and a port on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey. Mersin is an important hub of Turkey’s economy, and Turkey’s largest seaport is located in the city. Mersin’s nickname within Turkey is “Pearl of the Mediterranean”
Cennet and Cehennem (English: heaven and hell) are the names of two large sinkholes in the Taurus Mountains, in Mersin Province, Turkey. The sinkholes are among the tourist attractions of the province.
The opening of Cennet is 250 x 110 m2 (820 x 360 ft2) and its average dept is 70 metres (230 ft). It is possible to reach the bottom of Cennet by a primitive staircase composed of 300 steps. At the bottom toward the south, there is a smaller and 150 step deeper cave. In this cave are the ruins of a monastery built in the 5th century by a certain Paulus and dedicated to Virgin Mary. In this monastery one can hear the sound of a small underground stream which flows from the monastery to the gulf of Narlıkuyu.
Cehennem is a deeper sinkhole with a depth of 128 metres (420 ft). But its top opening is smaller with dimensions 70 x 50 m2 ( 210 x 150 ft2 ). As the upper edge of the opening is concave there is no access to the bottom of Cehennem.
Heaven and Hell are two enormous caves and it is here that you visit heaven on earth. The road to Hell is a bit more complicated, and unfortunately it is impossible to end up in Hell because there is no path that leads you to the bottom of this cave.
This time of year is the best time to visit the cave because one or two months later it will be too hot to walk around over there but at the same time heaven is also nice to visit during summertime because the temperature in the cave is many degrees colder than the outside temperature.
It is about a 15-minute hike down to the enormous entrance of the cave and during your walk down you are surrounded by bushes and trees. The sound of birds is all around you and it is very difficult to distinguish where the birds are since the sound echoes around in this enormous hole. Just before you arrive at the entrance of the cave you can walk around in a little chapel made many, many years ago. It must be Byzantine, and I often wonder about the dedication and determination of those religious people because they made their churches and monasteries at the most impossible places. www.hurriyetdailynews.com