Turkish Proverb

“Denizden babam ç?ksa yerim.”

“If the sea my father comes out of I will eat.”

“I would eat my own father if he came out of the sea.”

The informant is a 23-year-old from Istanbul, Turkey. I met her when we were working right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park one summer. I heard this proverb first from some mutual Turkish friends that I fell out of touch with. She agreed to help me by translating it and tell me what it means to her over facebook – as she has since moved back to Istanbul.

The informant uses this proverb to mean, “i adore seafood, no matter what i have in my dish, if it includes seafood, i would eat it absolutely!” The first time I heard this proverb I had a few Turkish friends visiting me in Los Angeles. They were living in Colorado at the time and had been for a few months. When I told them I wanted to take them to eat Chinese food (they’d never tried Chinese food before) they told that was fine but they wanted seafood too since they were near the coast again. They said that they didn’t think I understood how much Turks love seafood and used this proverb as evidence.

More than just a love of crustaceans is at play here I think, though. When I was dropping them off at the airport we had some extra time so I drove by the ocean and they were just silent until it was out of view again. Of all the things we saw in Los Angeles, this was the only thing that made them speechless. I think this proverb encapsulates not only Turks love of seafood, but also their love of the sea. The proverb itself almost makes it sound like it’s possible that their father could come out of the sea – they are that close to it.