When I go to Turkey, there is one mezze I cannot pile high enough on my pita. Even better, Murat’s Auntie makes us a large container every time we come, so for the entirety of our trip we have some for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack every day. The delectable dip is a mixture of walnuts, red peppers, and a variety of spices, and I had not tasted anything quite like it until Murat’s aunt sent over her secret sauce during my first visit.
As Murat and I neared the end of the homemade jar during my first visit, I mentioned that he should get the recipe from his Auntie. As is typical when on vacation, we forgot to ask before packing up and returning home. On the subsequent visits we were treated with the same gift each time, and I started to more aggressively remind Murat to get the recipe. I had to make this at home. I found the reason for Murat’s reluctance to share the recipe when he finally admitted, “Jacqueline, Teyze doesn’t give away her recipes.” Was it a joke? “But we’re family!” I protested. But her recipes are of such epically secret proportions that family or not, it didn’t matter.
So, I determined that through trial and error, I would figure out how to make acuka myself. I searched many recipes online, and even found out that some call acuka ‘magic sauce’ – ya, it’s that good. A big reason why I may not have run into it so much here is because the main ingredient is pepper paste. While this might be found at Turkish specialty grocers, it’s not exactly easy to get in the US.
So my first task was to figure out how make the pepper paste. Without the paste, there would be no acuka. I combed the internet and watched YouTube tutorials, and realized that traditionally the pepper paste is sun dried in large saucer-like plates on rooftops. Not exactly a viable option for me. But like always, the internet pulled through.
Using Auntie Saniye’s YouTube channel (at least one auntie was willing to share their secrets!) and the recipes found on A Simple Pantry's, Tanya Zouev’s and The Aegean Delight’s pages, I was able to learn the spices and techniques that go into making acuka. Our kitchen became a test kitchen and experimental acuka lab. Through multiple iterations and taste tests, I feel that we have an almost-authentic homemade Turkish mezze at our fingertips. It’s not quite Murat’s Auntie’s, but in some ways, that’s the fun of it. To keep tweaking the recipe slightly every time, adding notes to my Google Doc, and hoping that one day, it tastes just like Ferser Teyze’s.
Step 2 - Make Acuka:
Every year, the Babson Players alumni group puts on a summer production at Babson College. The show takes place on campus, and since I have not lived near Boston since graduating, I have never been able to participate.
As COVID turned life into virtual reality, and our lives became anchored over a computer screen, so did this year's alumni production. An unexpected positive outcome of the virus was that, with no in person rehearsals possible, the Players were pushing forward with their summer show but doing so over Zoom. To my utter delight, I am thrilled to say that for the first time in ten years, I am acting with the Babson Players again as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.
The Players were and are a group that brought me the most joy and the happiest memories during my time in college. Who I became was greatly shaped by that 'club,' which was so much more than that. I distinctly remember that after a long day, knowing a rehearsal would be at the end of it energized me and made me feel like I had somewhere I really belonged. Being on stage felt comfortable, and the people I was surrounded by were kind, fun, and like minded.
I was determined to continue my stage pursuit, both during college and after, and moved to New York to carve out a career for myself in theatre. I loved performing and felt compelled to make acting a full time career, but after a few years I began to feel the exhaustion of rejection, and the burnout of taking jobs I didn't really believe in to earn more money and another credit on my resume. Deciding to leave acting made me feel like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I felt fulfilled in other pursuits and creative career choices.
What I wasn't able to realize until now was that just because I moved away from a professional theatre career didn't mean I had to stop doing the thing that gave me the most joy. I could have let go of the hustle, but I didn't' have to walk away from the happiness I felt in channeling different emotions, playing new characters, and (let's be honest) being a general ham. This show has allowed me to let go of any need to 'prove myself' as an artist, and it has brought the fun of theatre back into my life.
When this show is over (view it here on July 31 - please tune in!), I'm going to continue to look for other community theatre opportunities, virtually and, once we can start coming together again, in real life. I'm sorry it's taken me this long to figure out that I could leave the stress and keep the fun, but now that I see that I'm not turning back. A family friend of ours (who, incidentally, has had an excellent career in entertainment) once said, "the only bad theatre is no theatre." Time to take that advice for myself.
I gave myself too much leeway the last nine months. I became so wrapped up in minute by minute minutia I lost focus. Perhaps it was the rush of last year post wedding. We experienced a fairytale and returned to New York to a whirlwind of speeding time that consisted of business trips, immigration interviews, a new job, and an apartment and borough move. Time was rushing, racing, flying, and then the world came to a screeching halt on March 13 and all the balls I was juggling remained suspended in the air, and I slowly raised my head to examine them.
Then three months of quarantine passed, and there was no excuse not to write. But though the three months stretched, they also flew, and days turned into weeks and no thoughts made their way out of my head and onto paper. Time stood still and there was nowhere to go, but the writing muscles became atrophied and the motivation faded.
“Regular life” started to pick back up and before I knew it, it was July 3rd. Hamilton came out on Disney Plus and I streamed it along with millions of others. The music spoke to me through its genius, poignancy, humor, and truth. One song’s chorus chanted “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” And I was jolted awake. We are all running out of time, each minute, each day. Why have I let this strange time in history push me to sleep?
So I thought, what should I write about? I took the first step and recognized I have no time, I’ve got to write again - but I doubted I had anything valid to share.
But I do, if I continue to notice the small things.
Murat and I wanted to take a walk in Brooklyn yesterday, and being new to the neighborhood and the borough I Googled where to go. I found the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and thousands of users had shared their reviews touting the loveliness of the park. One review stopped me in my tracks and stayed with me all day. They wrote, “It remind me holding my woman,s hand making me feel so important.” The purity of this statement made me cry. My heart swelled thinking about this person, and the feelings this place stirred in them.
Murat and I stepped out into the 90 degree heat and began walking the promenade. We found stunning views and a walk we had no idea existed so close to our new neighborhood. As we turned around and began to head back, I took Murat’s hand. He gave me an audible, ‘aww’ and a firm squeeze. I too, felt important, and I think so did he. My tears flickered again, with the human privilege of feeling important and reciprocating that feeling to someone I love.
It’s hard to believe, but two years ago, I was moving into my studio and ultimate bachelorette pad in Melbourne.
Some of the happiest memories and most cherished moments of my life happened during my 1-year sabbatical when I quit my job, minimized my belongings, and moved 10,500 miles from home. The land was far and foreign, I didn’t know anyone, and I would be living by myself for essentially the first time. At least I knew the language would be the same (relatively speaking…).
I had sailed through Melbourne several times with my job aboard Seabourn, and felt ‘good vibes’ each time we were in port. I found the food excellent, the people friendly, and the arts scene flourishing. What better time than in my twenties to see what the other side of the world had to offer and find out if the toilets did indeed flush the other way? Moving to Melbourne felt like going into uncharted, land-of-opportunity territory.
The process of finding an apartment in Melbourne was unlike anything I had experienced previously. I thought I could handle a tough real estate market, since I had been savvy enough to find apartments in New York years prior. What I didn’t take into consideration was that despite the competitive New York market, New York realtors have so much product they are always ready to show you what is available. In Melbourne, no realtor wanted, or needed, to personally show me anything. The first time I walked into a real estate office, I felt confident and in control when I asked for someone to meet with me and show me listings around the city that fit my criteria. Instead, I was handed a flyer and told, “the open house hours are listed here.” But that couldn’t be right, I thought. I must have walked into a very odd and incompetent office. So I went to several other real estate offices, but consistently yielded the same result. I realized that Melbourne real estate, whether buying or renting, was an obvious seller’s market.
Viewing an apartment felt a lot like being back at auditions. Swarms of people crowded into the tiny spaces though this time, instead of holding headshots they clutched rental applications. It was a meat market. Each renter was surreptitiously sizing one another up, and working hard to prove they were the worthiest of candidates.
I know that luck had a lot to do with me getting the apartment I wanted. I found one that I absolutely adored but was almost sure that I wouldn’t make the cut. When I arrived at my soon-to-be dream home, I was breathing heavy and red-faced, having rushed over from another open house. I felt sheepish, highly embarrassed, and deflated when I looked around and saw the other apartment viewers sporting well tailored blazers, high end shoes, and perfectly coiffed hair. Nevertheless, I pushed back my shoulders and muscled my way in to the apartment. It was the perfect studio: furnished, in a fantastic neighborhood, tons of sneaky storage, and even had a washer and dryer in the unit. New York definitely didn’t have that in my price range. I submitted my application immediately and personally called the realtor after submission to try and plead my case in hopes she would put in a good word to the landlord. So what did luck have to do with landing this apartment? I was the "chosen candidate" because the landlord was in entertainment, and she saw my website when she received my application. Little would I have guessed maintaining a website long after auditions were over would be so beneficial to me!
Reminiscing a lot on my happy year of growth in land Down Under.
Reflecting on my experiences with the world, my neighborhood, and my home.