Mezze’s a marathon not a sprint.
Speed your way through a typical Mediterranean meal and you’ll find yourself with some serious, not altogether pleasant, consequences.
It can also be a little daunting for the uninitiated. So many delicious plates to get through and such little time. The pitfalls and traps are many and easy to miss; ordering too much, ordering the wrong things or just being overwhelmed with choice so ordering nothing but one hommus.
Whether you’ve been a mezze master or a mixed up molly, we’ve got your formula for a magical mezze experience.
1. Bread’s the support act not the star.
Bread is a bonafide staple at every Turkish meal (same goes for many European countries), so it’s a tad difficult (read: impossible) to avoid it. It doesn’t help that European bread is also just so darned GOOD. If you’re anything like me you’ll end up scoffing half the basket before they’ve even brought menus. This is a mistake. Take my painful, glutenous bellyaches as a cautionary tale: bread is the sideshow, not the main event, treat it accordingly.
2. Know your dips.
Hommus may have taken the world by storm but it’s not the only dip in the village. White bean dip (with a similar consistency to hommus), beetroot and yoghurt dip, purslane with yoghurt, plus a delightfully piquant affair that involves walnuts and sundried tomatoes. Yum! There’s a plethora of mashed, ground and blended concoctions to be found on all Turkish menus, all mouthwatering, all with regional variations. Take the ‘dip-road’ less travelled and you won’t regret it.
3. Take a chance on mezze.
Be a culinary adventurer; play a delicious of game of mezze roulette and try something new, or that you don’t recognise. Don’t know what that plate of unidentifiable ingredients is? Who cares! Chances are it’s delish, you just don’t know it yet. Plus you can’t claim true #travelfoodie brag rights if you haven’t thrown caution to the wind and put your tastebuds on the line. Risk=reward, wanderluster. You’re not going to have any sweet tales without hopping out of your comfort zone.
4. Keep ‘em coming.
That’s it, garcon. Plenty of room in this belly. If you’ve never heard of the ‘holiday stomach effect’, consider yourself informed. Much like our bovine friends have evolved with four stomachs out of necessity, you too will discover that in your hour of need, your tummy will deliver the goods in the form of extra room, just at the right time. Located just next to the ‘dessert stomach’ (also an official part of your biology), it allows you to keep noshing when your non-holiday self would be feeling queasy at the mere sight of more food. Mezze’s all about relaxation, enjoyment and getting social, so settle in for the long haul and keep ordering.
5. Drink up.
Of course, it’s important to stay hydrated, but you also can’t finish (or start) a mezze session without at least sampling the Turkish arak. For long and slow sipping, arak is much like grappa in Greece and is a Turkish digestif perfectly suited to the art of mezze. Caution: don’t act like a complete newbie and order the arak on its own; you’ll soon find this is a cultural no-no. Instead, try it with a refreshing plate of melon and cheese, or during the main mezze event.
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