Pide Salonu

Out east on the outskirts of Amsterdam, a Turkish population of immigrants swells.  Chain migration, low-income housing and cultural familiarity fuel the growth of this neighborhood situated on the periphery of the city center. In many senses, it is an ethnic enclave insofar as this specific immigrant group concentrates “in a specific spatial location” constituted of  “ a variety of enterprises serving their own ethnic market” (290 Portes).  Many perceive this district as testament to the Turkish community’s unwillingness to integrate, feeding into the discourse that a multicultural society is inimical to a coherent national identity.   Regardless, as a communications student I was graced with the experience to live on the fringe of this borough, straddling the intangible walls of this ethnic enclave.

Often frequenting the Turkish market, or Dappermarkt, I found the people incredibly open and kind.  An assault on the scenes, the market with its bouquet of sights and smells vends practically everything from spices to bike locks.  In fact, although I now reside in the West, I still ride all the way across town just to have some of the best Turkish pizza under the sun.  You can’t miss the humble pide salonu located at the mouth of the market.  Selling simply lahmacun and pide[1], this small little stand sits at the corner of Dapperstraat.  For those unfamiliar the cuisine, Pide is a canoed shaped flatbread topped with anything from Turkish sausage to mushrooms or eggs.  Lahmacun, on the other hand, is made with ground beef, onions, peppers and parsley on top of a thin crust.  I have eaten it in several places around the world, and often times the dish will shift according to locality.

Merely a modest tent lacing the sidewalk, the place couldn’t be more authentic- however I’m hesitant to call it a “take-out restaurant”.  Held up by rusty metal rods with a tarp overhead, the makeshift joint looks like it could collapse with a strong wind.  The pide salonu is run by a Turkish family of immigrants: “’wives, sisters and others’ help in food preparation” (Ram 50) while the father and son sell the pide and lahmacun up front.  Three women in headscarves crossing three generations crowd behind a wood stove hastily working.  It is no wonder why “enclave type approaches tend to stress the importance of family and co-ethnic labor as a means of coping in a competitive market content” (Ram 43), as training is not necessary, trust is inherent and good business is in everyone’s best interest.  The pide is piled up behind a glass counter on top of which crusty condiments rest.  I wouldn’t go as far to say that the place is dirty, but it could defiantly be cleaner.  Yet, despite this, the savory smell will stop you in your tracks and help you turn a blind eye to its questionable sanitation.

Ethnic food vendors such as this one oftentimes “occur in areas of ethnic minority concentrations” in order to “satisfy some need of the immigrant community”  (326 Kesteloot).  The pide salonu’s cliental is primarily Turkish, providing the locals with “both a direct link with the eating habits of their country of origin and a social center for people living in relative isolation” (329 Kesteloot).  Yet given the “cheap and appetizing fare of the snack bar”, the place is also frequented by non-Turkish customers such as myself as pide is “not only exotic: it is also a satisfying and very economical meal” (332 Kesteloot).  However, unlike other places vending ethnic cuisine, the food has not been appropriated to satisfy the Western palette.  I know this only through inquiring about its authenticity to an older Turkish woman at the market the other day. She looked up at me, the lines under her eyes revealing her age, and replied, “this is true Turkish, no deceit” in a thick accent while clinging to the pide waving it wildly.  She spoke very little Dutch and practically no English, but her granddaughter, who stood beside her, explained that she has just arrived to Amsterdam from a village on the outskirts of Istanbul.  With that said, I discarded my skepticism and stepped in line behind her.

[1] “The term pide denotes a large boat-shaped pizza, though these establishments also sell a smaller round type pizza known as lahmacun” (330 Kesteloot)


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