Never return an empty plate is a Turkish tradition I quickly learned. Not long after we moved into our new home our neighbour (Komşu) brought around a plate of homemade dessert. We gratefully accepted and enjoyed the dessert. I washed up the plate and then next day I asked my husband to accompany me to return the plate, as my Turkish was basic and I was a little nervous about going on my own. At that point my husband asked me:
What have you made?
Made what I replied? Looking a little confused
What have you made to give back with the plate?
Oh! I suddenly understood.
I couldn’t just hand back the plate empty but would have to make something to give back in return. As I realised this, my husband explained to me that it is traditional that when a Komşu passes a plate in it is polite to return the plate full and not empty.
Of course at the point of realisation I panicked slightly as I had no idea what I would make in return and what they would think of my cooking. I must admit my first offering back to my Komşu was not the best but I have improved a little and don’t worry too much now and I hope they enjoy my offerings as much as I enjoy theirs.
Since that day many plates of food have exchange hands around our block of apartments, especially on holy days such as Kandil nights and one of my favourites is during Aşure when everyone passes around there own take on Noah’s Pudding. I don’t think I have reached the excellent skills of my neighbours yet but I must admit to loving this particular tradition as we get to taste lots of lovely treats.
So remember if you are living in Turkey or have Turkish neighbours at home, if they hand in a plate full of lovely food, always return the plate full and not empty.
© 2011 – 2015, Kerry Arslan. All rights reserved.