Istanbul, Turkey

  • Date
  • 20 February 1999

Dinner on the Bosphorus with Axel and Uta Arendt (he runs Mercedes Turkey). When we arrived I was pleased to see mostly Turkish customers and very few tourists. I could not believe the number of people smoking and beyond that, the people smoking kept cigarettes lit all through dinner.

There was no menu. Since it was a fish restaurant, the waiter simply told us the catches of the day. We began the meal with a dry Turkish white wine and several salads. The waiter gave us a choice of 10 salads and we picked eggplant salad (consistency of a mousse and made with yogurt), green salad, Turkish salad (tomatoes, onions, parsley, garlic, cucumbers – all chopped very fine almost like a salsa). Then we ate warm appetizers of fried fish meatballs and shrimp with mushrooms and garlic. For dinner, I ate sea bass, which they de-boned making the fish much more enjoyable even though the head and eyes of the fish watched me all through dinner. Served with the fish were a couple of grilled potatoes, lettuce and tomato. Jim ate bream, which he had not eaten since he was a teenager in Alabama. For dessert, they brought a plate of sweets and a dish of thick, sweet cream, which was better than even clotted cream from England.

Afterwards, everyone enjoyed Turkish coffee. When Jim finished, Axel and Uta encouraged him to turn his cup over so one of the Turkish waiters could read his coffee grounds. Our server, who was very charismatic and entertaining, read Jim’s fortune; “You will have a good life and travel far.” We all laughed and figured our looks and language helped him with that great offering. Jim asked if the waiter gave everyone the same fortune, and the server laughed telling us, “I don’t really know how to read them, I’m just entertaining you.”