Once upon a time, across the vast seas and over the high-crested mountains…
There was a boy who traveled back to his homeland for a visit. He ran into an old friend from high school, a friend he had not seen for 31 years. They chance met in a cozy, obscure restaurant in Cihangir, Istanbul, a neighborhood known for its narrow backstreets and sidewalk cafes. The two friends found each other embraced in laughter, and as they were catching up, the boy realized his friend was not alone but was having dinner with some of her friends as well. At that moment “cupid was at work” and this was only the beginning of the story. The true magic happened on their second date.
Now close your eyes and imagine…
The boy was departing the Prince Islands after a visit. As the boat made its second stop before its return to Istanbul, the object of his desire happened to board the very same boat. They sat on the edge of the boat as they finished their travels to the city and witnessed the most incredible crescent moon, as it seemed to almost graze the water of the Marmara. Not too many words were exchanged, but the familiarity and the peace made it certain that it was going to be an evening to remember. Ultimately, this was the last evening of the boy’s trip before his return to the US, so he let this adventure happen to him, getting caught up in the anticipating whirlwind of emotions that would ensue.
Upon getting off the boat, the big city lights and chaos was waiting for them as they hailed a taxi to the same neighborhood of their initial meeting. The evening unfolded with no plans, no fuss, no major choreography which led them to a local pizza joint. With no concept of time, they arrived as the restaurant was about to close, but the chef made an exception and offered them two glasses of Chianti at the tiny bench of the restaurant’s entrance. As the crew was cleaning up, the boy and his affection chatted intimately on this most perfect bench, on the side of this tiny crooked cobblestone street, ally cats scampering and people returning to home after long day of work.
Their meal arrived, a Quattro Formaggi pizza accompanied by a large leaf arugula salad with olive oil and lemon. No extravagance, no flourishes, just simple and honest food. That was when the boy remembered a lunch he had in Lower East Side of New York City with an incredible designer and architect he shows much respect for. This Irish maven had told him, “Arugula salad tastes better if you eat it with your fingers”. So this uptight structured boy surrendered to that memory and made sure that he intimately fed his lover arugula with his fingers. The rest can be left to the flourishes of the mind and the tantalizing thoughts of bliss!
So needles to say, the second date can be the perfect recipe for a Valentine’s Day dinner, where you don’t have to stress about creating a five course meal or make the impossible reservations in bustling restaurants, or try to get into Tiffany on time. All you need is a bowl of fresh arugula and your fingers and, of course, the person you care most about.
PS I kept the characters in this story anonymous to protect their innocence but this might be an autobiographical account . . . or not!