“Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.”
The first time I drank Turkish coffee, I was 16. You were supposed to wait, that was the rule. In my family, turning 16 earned you more than a coveted driver’s license and the promise of that first taste of freedom. This was a year meant to celebrate your grandeur and your new, sudden authority in the family, as if by magic when you went to sleep the night before you just happened to wake up on the other side of 15 years and 365 days as a whole new girl. This was the year for ceremony, and I was giddy with the anticipation of this long-awaited ritual, of this tiny act of celebration that somehow felt too big for our kitchen.
As an immigrant daughter of Turkish parents living in Los Angeles in the ’80s and ’90s, we didn’t really do ceremony. Aside from fighting with the Armenian kids in my neighborhood every April 24th, whatever traditions I might have practiced in my birthplace dissipated the moment we stepped off that long flight back to solid ground, after an entire ocean slipped by beneath us and we hardly even noticed.
A hot fincan of Turkish coffee made by my mother, enjoyed in the company of my loud siblings and my hovering parents, their eyebrows lifted in curiosity as they waited to see what I thought. That was the ceremony — the capstone that shut the book on 15 for good. Many of my friends had already tried Turkish coffee, drinking it in the months before high school or freshman homecoming, long before their parents jingled keys to an old junker against the flat of their palm and yelled, “Surprise!” But I did not.