While traveling Europe, I experienced varying degrees of vegetarian-friendly dishes. While in the United Kingdom it was extremely easy to find a sausage made from soy protein, there was little to nothing for vegetarians to eat in Turkey.
After looking for hours for a place to eat in outskirts of Istanbul, Turkey, we finally came across a small sign directing us to a restaurant inside an apartment complex. A little sketched out at first, we decided to try it because there wasn’t anything else around and we were starving. With anticipation of a hole in the wall eatery, we soon realized we had come across a tiny restaurant that primarily catered to friends and family. The man who owned the place was extremely happy to see us; it was apparent he didn’t get many new customers. He spoke to us in extremely broken English, and we could not read the menu: no English translations here. Because of the language barrier I ended up simplifying my order to “not meat.” The first response I received to this order was “oh, lamb?” I was a little confused by this remark, but I quickly came to realize that to him, lamb was not considered meat as is beef or chicken. After a very broken conversation, I ended up ordering an omelet and a Turkish salad which is a combination of tomatoes and cucumbers with salt and pepper on top. Both of these dishes were very tasty; he even garnished the omelet with a cucumber heart and a tomato rose.
Not only was the owner able to find a suitable meal for me in a land that did not comprehend the idea of not eating meat, he was very generous and accommodating. He asked us if we had already tried any authentic Turkish tea during our stay there. At this time we hadn’t, so he brought us some to try on the house. We welcomed his kindheartedness, and left him a nice tip even though it is not expected in Turkey. We also snapped a quick photo with him before we left in order to record this mind opening, cross-cultural experience.