Kuruyemiş: What is it? – According to the dictionary it is dried fruit: raisins, apricots, cranberries, figs, dates. But in reality it is a variety of things: pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dried chickpeas, and corn nuts. Sold separately or all mixed together you get… Kuruyemiş!
When I was doing my previous post on how to make simit this man walked in barking orders to the bakers but in a way that they all knew he was joking. His jovial attitude and boisterous story-telling instantly grabbed my attention. He was puzzled by this American in a small bakery in Avanos, Turkey, taking video of the simit he was waiting to buy to sell at his shop and could not help but strike up a conversation with me. After explaining to him what I was doing here he said I needed to interview him! So, without further adieu, I bring you…Cemil, the dried fruit and nut seller of Avanos.
Cemil Ünal is a fascinating man. He is thirty years old from a village twenty minutes north of Avanos. Over the course of our interview he spoke quite knowledgeably about politics, history, religion, the economy, and geography. I was impressed with his insights but also found it hard to keep up with him because he had me in stitches much of the time. He has a unique gift of being able to talk intelligently about a subject while entertaining you at the same time.
Cemil’s love for his people and his land came shining through when he told me a story of his village, Bayramhacı. During the fighting in World War I, Bayramhacı lost 80 men. The population at that time was less than a thousand people, close to ten percent of their village – gone. For those in Bayramhacı this account is passed down from generation to generation so no villager can ever forget the martyrs of Bayramhacı.
During our interview Cemil’s father stopped by. I soon understood from whence Cemil got his light-hearted personality; like father, like son. They proceeded to tell me about the wheat and hay they grow on their farmland in the village. His father was on the phone arranging tractor services for harvesting the wheat on their parcel.
There is no bitterness towards the government for building the dam that put much of their land under water. They paid the family well for the land that was lost. But at the same time it forced Cemil to find other work to supplement their agriculture income.
Cemil, like many people in this area, found work in the pottery industry. There, he worked for eight years making all kinds of ceramic products for use in Turkey and beyond. After those years of working for minimum wage he decided to make a go of being in business for himself.
That is where we meet Cemil today. He is the captain of his own destiny in his center-of-town shop. He advertises as a “kuruyemişçi” (dried fruit and nut seller), but you will also find simit, gum, drinks, chocolate, Turkish delight, corn in a cup, coffee, cookies, and cigarettes. Everything you need for the local or the tourist to take a leisurely stroll along the Kızıl Irmak (Red River) just a hundred meters from his store.
What is so unique about mixed nuts that you would do a story on Cemil you ask?
There is nothing unique about mixed nuts. But what is unique, is the place they hold here in Turkish culture. Hanging out with your friends? More than likely you are cracking a kilo of sunflower seeds while doing so. Going to your friend’s house for tea? What is the last thing they bring out? The mixed nuts and sunflowers seeds. Going to a wedding? Chances are your table will be full of “kuruyemiş.” Cemil went so far as to say, “a wedding without “kuruyemiş” is no wedding at all.” In fact, in order to cut down on costs for the wedding, they sell the cocktail nut mix in fifty pound bags!
These popular snacks are everywhere in this culture: picnics, concerts, soccer games, on your porch or balcony. I’ve even seen them at work! You can not get away from the “kuruyemiş.” There are even placards in parks proclaiming “no eating snacks with shells.” Why? Because all the pistachio, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed lovin’ people will make an-impossible-to-clean-up mess if they do.
Even though Cemil has only been doing this work just over a year and a half he has learned quite a bit about his new profession. He explained to me where all of his products come from: raisins from Cappadocia, hazlenuts from the Black Sea, dried apricots from Malatya, chick peas from Çorum, pistachios from Gaziantep, and sunflower seeds from all over – Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Trakya and Cyprus.
Cemil prides himself on selling only the freshest and highest quality goods. There are different grades of nuts; for example “A”, “B”, and “C”. Apparently, it is quite common to take the cheaper “C” class peanuts (say 8 lira per kilo), mix it with the more expensive “A” class nuts (say 12 lira per kilo) and sell it for the higher price. He says they “save on costs now but will have to pay a price later.” He is a God-fearer who wants to do honest business without taking shortcuts.
When you come to Cappadocia and take a walk along the river in Avanos, do what the locals do and stop by Cemil’s shop and grab a bagful of snacks for the road. But make sure you throw your shells in the trash!
Cemil’s Contact Information:
Camii Kebir Mahallesi
Çarşı İçi #27
Do you have any experiences with “kuruyemiş” in this country? Leave a comment and tell us your story.