I lived in Izmir for over a year from late 1997 until the beginning of 1999.
I would occasionally eat at a small vegetarian restaurant that didn't really have a menu. You'd choose what you'd like for dinner by visiting the kitchen for a first-hand look of what was on offer.
There was usually a 'daily special'
scrawled on the blackboard on the outside, too.
But, since my Turkish was limited
it was easier to just take a peek in the kitchen.
Sometimes, though, I'd still have to guess,
as no one could explain any of the food choices to me in English anyway.
I suppose that was part of the fun and adventure
of being in a foreign land...
On my very first visit to the restaurant, it struck me as nice that each table had a candle on it. I imagined how a young couple might enjoy a romantic candle-lit meal and then go for a bay-side walk along Izmir's Birinci Kordon, a block away. But that particular night, none of the candles were lit. Why, I wondered? I knew that they had all been lit at sometime because the candle wicks were all burnt. Then my dinner came and, as I finished, the mystery of the unlit candles passed from my mind.
It resurfaced again, however, on my next visit. I went to the kitchen as usual, and chose what I'd have for dinner. The waiter brought me my meal, and after I had half-finished it, the bustling little restaurant was suddenly plunged into complete darkness (and silence). Conversations broke off in mid-sentence. Nothing stirred. You could hear a pin drop. Then, from the hallway I saw an eerie figure approaching slowly with a cigarette lighter -- and 'it' began lighting the candles at each table...
Flash! It finally dawned on me that the candles weren't there for ambience at all -- but for necessity. There had been an electrical power-cut. Once the candles were lit, everyone resumed their meals (and their animated conversations) as if nothing had happened. The mystery of the unlit candles was solved.
I had only been in Turkey a short time when this happened,
and it surprised me.
In America, we take so much for granted that
we wouldn't think of having candles in a restaurant for
the sole-purpose of defending against electrical outages.
Of course, this wasn't the first or the only time that
I experienced an electrical outage in Izmir.
So, I soon bought candles for my own apartment --
candles that I used on quite a few occasions.
when I see candles in restaurants in America,
I always think with fondness
of my little vegetarian restaurant in Izmir.
AW (Sept '02)