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Community Women Şile

Stories From Women of the Villages of Şile - Ovacık Group


"My mother was very hardworking, my aunt too, like me they were very happy. I'm still not tired of getting tired!"

Neriman Arslanalp


Ethnicity Manav Turkish, married to Bosnian.

Has 4 children

She runs a local family restaurant serving Bosnian ravioli, breakfast, making pancakes.

She has livestock (chickens, cows) and produces cheese.


Words shared during the Cooking Up Dialogue sessions:

One day while we were tending to our bee hives I stopped to roll dough for pancakes to celebrate Hıdrellez, I gathered the children lit a fire at the top of the workshop garden and we make the pancakes. "Can you give me one sister?" said every passer by! And another passer by said "I want one too!"

I said to myself - Why shouldn't we do this as a job?

Then we dug in four poles, my husband suspended a canvas, a table in front, a bench to the side, we worked Saturday to Sunday. My husband said - I won't work on this. So we are working with my daughter. And that summer, working with my daughter alone, we set aside money. That was 18 years ago.

My husband said, "Let's make you a bigger place," I said, "Not too big, two tables are enough." Then that space became too small so we added to it, and finally we said enough. There were no trees, to make is so green around we always planted trees, we always planted flowers together there in the evenings.


Neighbourliness related:

A student was living across the street, going to university, I got up every morning at 6 o'clock in the dark, and I made sure she was safely on the service bus,  her mother had a little child, so I helped to be sure that the mother did not have to get up.


In the old days:

There were children in the village, now there are always old people, now we do not know anyone. There are no jobs in the village, now, however there is a return to the village.

Girls and boys couldn't meet alone and chat, there would be talk about them if they did.


I love to work hard, Even though I work night and day, My mother and my aunt were very hard working, like me, they were very happy. I'm still not tired of getting tired.


Moderator note: Neriman's statement of returning to the village continued with the feedback of our other participants regarding the bad diets of young people and their dependence on mobile phones. They agreed that the youth were suffering burn out. It was an impressive awareness during the conversations that they said they thought they were not as tired as the youth, even though they work hard because they work in nature. During all these conversations, I found myself thinking about how much the city is wearing me down. "(Yeşim)

About Deep Listening and Circle method:

It's not like that outside of here; At first we were interrupting each other, now we talk more calmly, it's more beautiful to talk one by one.


"Each time we gather I relax in my body and my brain about life...."

Remziye Coşkun

Born in 1951

She has been living in Şile Ovacık since 1970.

4 children

She breeds chicken, sheep, goats. She's planting vegetables and making goat cheese.


Tarahan is a traditional dried yogurt and tomoto base used for making soup, she makes tarhana with the addition of stinging nettles, this she invented herself because nettles are plentiful and add flavor to the soup.

She has learned to create abundance out of little.

She described as follows:

It is easy to help others but it is very difficult to ask for help. I can't manage such things.

I gave birth to my (now deceased) son, he was a one and a half month old baby, we are living in Üsküdar, we had no money. There was a grocery store downstairs. The weather was getting warmer in May, my son was born in March and across the road, my neighbour had covered her balcony table with a huge breakfast spread. My stomach was so hungry, I took my son in my arms and with me head down I wandered by. Why I did that was if the woman offered something, I'd put it in my mouth. The woman asked me, “What are you doing? Why did you take the baby out! ”. I said, "We came out for sunlight." She said "My guests will come, I prepared the table, come and have a tea."

But I went back to my house, sat down, lay the child on my lap and I both breastfeed and cried.

My husband came in the evening, if I had eaten a bite from the woman, I would keep silent, but my husband was asking what happened to you. I asked him to ask the neighbour we knew to borrow money to buy something to eat. But he couldn't ask because there were guests at the neighbour house.

At that moment some money came in payment for my hand-made work, from a woman, she would have been supportive before if I had asked, but I couldn't ask her.

I eloped to marry from my family home, so I could not tell anyone that our situation was not good and that I was hungry.

With the money from my handicrafts, my husband went and bought something for us to eat that day.

We suffered hunger and disgrace.

After I eloped with my husband, he went to the army 5 days later. Seven months later I saw him again.

After these times, I don't want anyone to experience what I lived through, no way! So now i do as much as I can for others….

On the day of our first meeting with Remziye she was going to bake borek (pies) afterwards for a wedding in the village. This is what she said about that:

Many people gather at weddings in the village. Four different communal ovens bake pies, there is help between all the neighbours. We make 70 or 100 trays of pastries for the weddings that we celebrate together with our neighbours….


About Marriage:

I saw my husband once, I liked him, we were engaged when I ran away to elope with him ... they asked me if I had eaten roasted chickpeas that had been cast with a spell.

In the past marriages were arranged, the father forced it, now the young couples meet at school. In the past, when fathers did not give permission for couples to marry they would ask a hodja to make amulets. (By way of a spell to change his mind)


I escaped and got married, my mother said to me that I do not do right by her, she bore a grudge, "I don't love you because you ran away" she said. I wish she had said this was you fate and that she had not cursed me. My father was not angry.

Now I say to others - Do not elope, go with consent… .. and to the fathers I say give consent so that they will not run away.

I did not wear a wedding dress, I had a great desire to wear one and it has never been fulfilled.

Zeliha comforts Remziye at this point: Even if you have eloped, we have a wedding, we have a wedding dress, I wish we had met then, I would have spoken to your mother in law! ...


Regarding Cooking Up Dialogue sessions:

Each time we gather, I relax in my body and my brain about life....



"The days are passing, that's how life goes, cooking, dishes and grandchildren arrive at the weekends…"

Saniye Ankara


She was born in Şile İmrendere. She has been living in Ovacık for 54 years.

Married and has 5 children

Ethnicity: Manav Turkish



The days are passing, that's how life goes, cooking, dishes and grandchildren arrive at the weekends…

Moderator's note: The description of Saniye"s time spent serving others in a rush was reflected in the answers we received to the questions we asked in the first session.
When we asked “When was the last time you cooked for yourself”, the group was unable to answer. We did receive answers to the question “Have you ever cooked for yourself” in the form of breaking two eggs, just to feed themselves. Moreover, they were surprised at the question. We did not give up: “What would you cook if you were going to cook food for yourself? we asked. Again, when he got answers such as “noodles etc.”, “what ever is the easiest at home”, we finally asked the question: “What would you like if someone would cook for you?” This time, we saw that they chose dishes that require time-consuming, skill and emotional commitment (such as stuffed vine leaves). What a difficult thing it is for a person to do something purely for their self. How hard it is to be a woman in this world. Fortunately, it is possible to remember how it is to be nurtured from our childhood days." (Yeşim)


"Cooking together is a loving thing and it makes conversation."

Ulviye Yildirim

Married, has 2 children
She has been living in Çayırbaşı for 30 years. Thessaloniki immigrant
She has a farm, chickens, cats, dogs, a garden and she grows all her own vegetables.


Words shared during our Cooking Up Dialogue Sessions:


About the process of garden to table:

The green beans are from seed, I have grown, hoed, picked, washed, pickled and they have become this…



Meals remind me of my mother and my grandmother, I miss them, Mum went too early. She loved roasted peppers, rather than cook meat we cook peppers… it makes me feel as if my mother is here, and she loved cherry juice. As I got older, I started drinking a lot of cherry juice, my moods and ways are changing to be like my mother, it's not a conscious thing, but I'm becoming more and more like my mother ...


Regarding her marriage:

I became a bride when I was 19, I learned everything from my mother in law.

We did not know about cabbage, but I learned about if from my Black Sea Laz father in law; when it is frosty, it causes the cabbage to be wilted, it is so delicious after that. 12 people lived in our house in those days.

First of all the electricity and trust between family are very important. If my husband is behind me, it feels like I am strong, invincible, his father is still alive and he is also still protecting, like a mountain, now my son is too. I feel very safe, I'm not afraid at all, if anything happens we can recover as a family.


Regarding women's frugality: (Ulviye tells this laughing.)

Father-in-law is asking the son's bride, "My daughter, can you get me a light?" The fireplace is burning there.

She brings, if she brings matches,she is not considered a good women, she must bring an ember from the fire with tongs rather than waste a match.. You have to be a frugal woman!


Regarding neighboring villages:

27 years ago, they came from Yekiköy (Bosnian village).  In the past, they used to come to the watermelons, to hoe, I will never forget those who came to help…. I needed that help so badly then..

(Bosnian Zeliha says: “They would put the children on their backs and tie them up.")

Ulviye continues: I would hoe the fields, there'd be baskets, I would put my child in one, cut a branch from the tree for shade, and I would keep my child in front of my eyes, to ensure a snake wouldn't come to my suckling baby, because we need to hoe, this is how I raised my child, always in the baskets… ..


Regarding Relationships:

When a glass is broken, if you glue it, you can get rid of the break, erase it, but it takes a long time to mend…. It takes a long time to erase the join.


About those who eloped to get married:

Even a father does not forgive his daughter who escaped 40 years ago, he has 5 daughters, he's good with all of them except the one who eloped "She broke my heart, I'm crushed, gone" he does not know anything else, does not know how to make peace.


About Making Peace:

Sometimes I would get offended by what a relative said, she would come with a dish saying “Did I add enough salt in this”, the purpose was to make peace with me, to warm my heart… I'd  forget all about being offended immediately.


Regarding Cooking Up Dialogue:

Cooking together is a loving thing and it makes conversation.

You counted us here as humans. You don't seem to be stuck up. I say let's be understanding, show empathy, maybe our views can change, lets' be happy, no one wants to cause trouble or hurt others, even if people are different.

When we behave in a loving way, people listen to you and to me.


About waste :

We must not consume needlessly, what will the new generation do? The unborn child has rights. Why this wastefulness, is it not a sin? I'm against waste!


"When there is unity and beauty in it, everything can be achieved!"

Zeliha Arslanalp

Born in 1943

Bosnian. She has been living in Yeniköy for 77 years.

Married and has five children.


Words shared during our Cooking Up Dialogue Sessions:

My mother is Manav, my father is Bosnian, but my mother learned exactly like Bosnian to cook Bosnian dishes.


Forty years ago there were no spoons, we would share a wooden spoon, a bowl… Our shareddish would be in the middle of the table, we made a pit in the middle and we would pour the yogurt there.

We would make cookies with yogurt, we would keep these plain cookies ready at home, so as not to offer "dry tea" when guests arrived, but we would put a sugar cube or sprinkle sugar on top of the cookies we baked for sending our soldiers off (to military service).

I baked some when my son went to the military. Then three months later, on the day he came home on distribution, those cookie were still there, nothing happens to them, they don't go stale, I wrapped the cookies up beautifully in grease proof paper, placed them in a zinc pot, and closed it.


If there is no parties at a wedding, it is not considered a wedding and Keshkek is the beginning of the wedding! (Keshkek is a dish made of what and meat)

Huge amounts of keshkek were made in cauldrons (it is hard arm work so the men would mix it up) . Such big cauldrons were not available in every village, they were coming from here (pointing to women from other villages) to borrow ours.

Before a wedding the drummers and horn players would wander around to share the wedding invitation, and they distributed cookie size small breads from a  basket. Sometimes they distributed pies, helvah or raisins in small twists of paper.

New Year is not celebrated, but we cook pumpkin one day before New Year's Eve for abundance, but we should not pay attention to the idea of New Year celebrations.


When a baby is born:

If a boy we bake a spiral roll form of pastry, if it is a girl we make amulet shaped pastry.

Some people prefer boys to be born, Allah gives and our children are inseparable. Get your head straight, girls and boys are the same, you don't know whose bread you will eat (who will provide for you).


About marriage:

My daughters eloped and got married, I have a grudge still….

Regarding Saniye and her missed wedding because of eloping: "Even if you elope, we have a wedding, we have a wedding dress, I wish I'd tell your mother in law if I knew her then."

About being frugal:

How many brides wore my wedding dress, there is no need to buy new.


Neriman's elope:

I had no idea the evening that my brother first brought Neriman to us. My house is two storeys, I'm sitting downstairs by the window, someone came and hit the glass. I was so worried about what might have happened, I got up. My (now deceased) brother struck the window but did not say why through the glass, he said "come to the door!", my hand trembled with fear, my foot trembled, "Hakki eloped with a girl!" He said, "May God not give you trouble, you could have told me before!" I was trembling from panic since I didn't know the cause of why my brother hit the glass, my heart jumped without knowing what else I would encounter, I was excited, but it was only that Hakkı had eloped with a girl. My heart beats when I still hear such a banging on glass.

As for myself, I said "Good luck", I did not know the girl. I have no idea why they eloped.


You must treat your son's bride as you do your son. If I did evil to my son's bride, then I would do evil to my son. Obviously!


Regarding her own marriage:

We were in the same village, and we liked each other. If they ask would you marry again - yes, I would marry my husband again!

I got up in the morning to light the stove, to prepare his breakfast, my husband said, "Don't do it, I will do it." but I couldn't leave without finishing those jobs for him.


About memories:

I was going to make a dessert, but I had never made it, my mother had gone somewhere, my husband's aunt lived close to our home, she was both explaining, showing and doing. I always remember her when I make this dessert since then.


Regarding Cultural difference and distinction between villages:

Funerals, weddings, births… they are always crowded.

"In unity and beautiful unity then everything is possible!"

In the neighbour's field, sweet corn would be broken, stalked, that sweet corn would be peeled that night, but how? With song with Türkü!

If the field was to be harvested, 15 people would enter the field with sickles, that field would be harvested that night.

Is there Tarhana to be dried? We would do it all together….


About labour:

“No need to freeze pastry  dough, our hands are machines! If we want to eat it we make it fresh every time of course! ”


About Cooking Up Dialogue:

"It is as if I have just come into a new world, it seems to me that when I speak while having a nice conversation, I feel more sincere…."

Even if we come from different places, our understanding is the same, sincerity, smiling face, love….


About deep listening method:

I swear I'm trying it at home with the kids!

Yeşim's  additional comments:

Before I went to the questions, I noticed that the group was a little disorganized and not focusing on the meals, so I invited the participants to a 2-minute silence for a mindful eating exercise spontaneously. I rang a bell and asked them to focus on the food until it rang again. Before the first minute was over, Mrs. Zeliha said: "There is silence, a girl was born somewhere, I suppose." It was very interesting that the moment of silence brought this information from the subconscious. There was no sound from our other participants, we continued as if nothing had happened. We finished after the second minute and received feedback. Regarding the question of how to focus on food, Remziye Hanım referred to the information I gave before the exercise: "As you said, it was very difficult, my mind has always gone to other places, things I will do." Similar voices rose from the group. An interesting situation was that when I threw the ball with a sentence like "I think it was difficult" to Zeliha Hanım, the fact that the subject was silent at the dining table at the moment, the fact that it was a tradition was spoken at the table among the participants.
Zeliha Hanım: "My father always said to eat in silence, so that you will pay attention to the food, whatever it means". Because Mindfulness has a place in culture and is so expressive, we came eye to eye with with Jodie in a line between confusion and admiration. On the other hand, even when we recall the ancient information we learned as a child from our memory, I include it when I see that we do not apply it to our lives because we cannot grasp its full meaning.

Additional comments - Jodie:

On the subject of frugality:

We are entering a time when our culture will change. Now we have come to a time after scarcity and lack to a time of relative abundance. In order not to go into scarcity again, it is necessary to know frugality and to appreciate abundance, here in the villages you already know this better than us all …. We may remind others of this attitude again through our posts here.


On hostility towards a newcomer in a village:

When a new person comes in the village, when that someone is not friendly, adapted, hospitable, neighbourly and when their habits are foreign, this behaviour is not only perceived personally. The villagers are angry because it does not remain personal. The incompatible behaviour of a foreigner disrupts the structure of the village and makes everyone feel threatened.


As villagers, we lost our population and the fabric of the village due to migration, the villages shrank in population, do we get angry only to the newcomers, or are we getting angry with ourselves about this?

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