When it comes to making gözleme (a kind of Turkish pancake), women rule the roost. You will see nicely plump ladies in their designated corners in cafés where gözleme is served kneading dough with their generous fingers, then spreading it out with a rolling pin into a perfect, paper-thin circle, sprinkling on fillings such as cheese and spinach or potatoes and herbs, or even Nutella, their fingers glistening with grease, and finally folding and placing on a sizzling cauldron to cook.
I love watching scenes like this and I definitely love eating the gözleme afterwards. Nothing better for breakfast or a snack, washed down with a pomegranate juice or a tea. What I also love is how firmly placed gözleme making is woman’s work. I have never seen a single man in Turkey make gözleme. The whole process reminds me of my granny—the only one in her household who baked—kneading dough for piroshki (Russian fried or baked buns) or pelmeni (Russian dumplings), flour everywhere, the fry pan sizzling with the meat, onion, and spice filling she was going to stuff into the parcels.
On a recent trip to a seaside town two hours from Istanbul, we stumbled upon what looked like a collective of cafés (stalls really) of gözleme makers. The four ladies in a neat square, each with their own customers, busily turned out one gözleme after another. When one had a few too many customers, one of the others would come and help. When one ran out of eggs for the dough, her neighbor would generously give her as many as she needed. As we ate a few gözleme (with interesting fillings like aubergine) and watched the scene, nostalgia poured in. Working with dough is such a visceral activity that I’m sure many of us, when we see it, are reminded of our own grandmothers in the kitchen baking cakes, frying little pockets of deliciousness, and showing their love through pancakes.
Title image: Victoria Khroundina