……and an 8 year old girl, though not quite understanding exactly what was going on, knew it was huge. Massively important to those around her, life-changing even. They huddled in astonished, terrified groups, watching on the BBC news what was happening thousands of miles away in their beloved homeland. Watching it being torn down, desecrated, divided. Haunted eyes.
I was that 8 year old girl. And it was happening to my parent’s homeland.
1974 saw Cyprus become an island divided, where neighbour turned against neighbour, friend against friend and separated the island’s two main communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, into those who live in the North and those who live in the South.
Thousands, from both sides, lost their homes and became refugees in their own country.
I’m not a politician, nor a historian, so I’m seeing this through my eyes, from the Humanitarian angle, from a woman’s angle.
We are from the South, Greek Cypriots. And until recent years, had never been allowed to visit the North. But with the passing of the years and easing of regulations, we can come and go much more freely. There are those who refuse to venture North, who refuse to believe that they should ever have to show a passport to gain access in their own country. And I am in no doubt there are those in the North who probably feel the same.
Until recently, it’s been very ‘them’ and ‘us’, both sides, no doubt, wary and uncertain of the other. Even I, a Greek Cypriot woman, born in the United Kingdom, has never in all these years had the opportunity to get to know a Turkish Cypriot woman. Though we originate from the same country.
I think we’d be more alike than not.
I’m sure we’d smile and laugh and cry at the same things…
Love our families as much as each other.
A stranger, yet not quite so, for how can a stranger adore my homeland as much as me? They have walked on the same soil and breathed the same air and felt the same salty sea, so it’s theirs as much as mine, not more so, not less.
How can we have such similar food and almost the same music, dance and weddings and still be strangers?
It doesn’t seem right to me.
I’m sure if I looked in a mirror overlooking the deep blue of the Mediterranean sea, I’d see you staring back at me…..
I would rather see the similarities than the differences between us.
I believe we could be friends, if given half a chance. Just by sharing a kitchen.
So here is my offering. Only a small token, but from the heart, a cake that both sides love and recognise as their own.
I have here given it it’s Turkish name:
3/4 cup flavourless vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (To either mix in or use to top)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups coarse ground semolina
3 tsp. Baking powder
Half a cup of Greek Yoghurt
1 tbsp. cinnamon, ground.
3-4 mastic tears, ground to a powder (Optional, but does add authentic flavour and texture)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
few drops rosewater.
1. Make the syrup by boiling together the water and sugar for 10 mins, then add the rose water and set aside.
2. Mix together the oil and sugar, then gradually add the beaten eggs.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, either adding in the nuts to the mixture or spreading the mixture with them.
4. Place in a small, rectangular baking tray (about 9×11″)
5. Bake at Gas mark 4, fan oven 160 deg. C, for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Check with a skewer if it is cooked before removing, it may need 5 minutes more or less than this.
6. When it has cooled down for about 15 minutes, pour the syrup over, it should absorb it greedily.
Serve to welcoming, adoring family and friends!
Dedicated to my two gym buddies xx