I have just returned from my travels in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey. Even with its hot climate, crowded conditions, and noisy markets, the abundance of local and regional food choices and the connection to seasonal transitions support a deep inner balance.
My experience of the daily and seasonal rhythms in Turkey are always centered around the fresh foods and meals. The gracious and simple breakfasts with fresh goat and sheep cheeses, olives, yogurt, local fruits, and tea begin the day without the morning rush. The traditional glass of tea in the afternoon gently slows the pace of the day and allows one to reconnect with one’s inner rhythms. Visits to the local markets allow the shopper to choose the freshest and choicest vegetables, fruits, and fresh-caught fish of the day. Meals are prepared together and families slowly savor the tastes and the conversation well into the evening. I am struck by how everyone, everywhere, even the taxicab drivers with whom I often chatted, knew which foods were freshest in the market and exactly in which region of the country they were grown. This knowledge and connection with local foods is deeply rooted in Turkish culture and tradition. The reliance on the availability of seasonal local foods sustains a community connection to the harvesting process that, in turn, cultivates healthier food choices.
Here in New England, the autumn harvest is glorious in its beauty and richness of nature. But, autumn is also the transition time from the expansion of summer towards the retreating of winter. Just as the days get shorter and the nights longer, it is also a time of keeping the balance between the extensions in our lives and our inner awareness. The harvest season allows us enormous support for maintaining this connection and provides great stability. Foods found in farmers markets and grocery stores right now across the country are more local and fresh than at any other time of the year. These fresh local harvest foods allow us to gently transition from the heat of the summer towards the cooling months of autumn and winter. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, these foods support and nourish us in the present and prepare us for the next season of our lives. This simple connection to our external environment provides greater support to balance our internal environment as well.
Following the inspiration from people in Istanbul, I encourage you to bring the freshest local and regional foods from this autumn harvest to your table. During this autumn transition, connect to farmers at your local market, ask questions about where your food comes from when you are in the grocery store, and choose wisely to nourish yourself. In this harvest season, give your yourself permission to slow down and invite yourself, your family and friends to a simple and fresh harvest meal prepared with joy and gratitude.
When we allow ourselves to connect to the seasons, we learn that balance is not in the extremes but, in the awareness of subtleties of the transition.