Niagara Gazette — Second-graders don’t usually like parsely. And they surely don’t often eat bulgur wheat.
So it’s hard to imagine they’d be interested in a Turkish lunch of bulgur salad, with stuffed grape leaves, and cheese pocas and baklava.
But most all the students in Amy Benjamin’s class at Maple Avenue Elementary School enjoyed a Turkish buffet, freshly prepared by their classmate Murteza Gokcek’s mom after she gave a brief cooking demonstration. Many went back for seconds of the bulgur.
They had watched attentively as Hulya Gokcek added hot water and lemon to the dried bulgur and then covered it and let it sit a bit before adding fresh parsely, lemon juice, and a mixture of onions, and red pepper and tomato paste. A dash of pomegranite juice and some finely chopped peppers and onions were added and the salad was ready to serve.
While the children were waiting for the bulgur to soak up the fluids, they helped to make borek, rolling a mixture of potato, onion and parsely mixture into phyllo dough.
The lunch was in preparation for their teacher Amy Benjamin’s upcoming trip to Turkey with Murteza’s family.
The teacher had learned early in the school year that Murteza’s father, Dr. Mustafa Gokcek, is her professor at Niagara University where she is studying for her doctorate in educational policy and leadership.
As the class’s interest in Turkey intensified, and Benjamin’s friendship with the family grew, she decided to continue her doctoral research in Turkey and so, on Sunday she traveled to that country with the Gokcek family, immersing herself in Turkish culture with the assistance of her professor and his family, and meeting and interviewing Turkish educators.
Her class will benefit by video and live conversations which she will share with them through “Skype” sessions today and Tuesday. But, in the meantime, the students and their teacher seem to be excited to learn more about the Gokcek’s homeland.