Last week, driving from Sinop to Ankara to return our rental car and catch a flight back to Istanbul, we stopped in Çankırı — a city that appears thoroughly uninteresting from the highway but hides a lovely little section of shops and tea houses and Ottoman-era buildings.
We stretched our legs and wandered the old city’s lanes, ate a fine pide and chatted with a few shopkeepers. The friendliest was this 84 year-old salt dealer. Çankırı sits about 30 miles from a mammoth and ancient salt mine, which we visited (driving into it in our car) in sub-zero temperatures in early 2012. That afternoon we watched miners harvesting salt from the mine’s walls with electric tools, by hand. The salt being collected that day was light gray, nowhere near as beautiful as the salt sold by our new friend Ahmed.
At Ahmed’s shop we tasted salt and bought a bag of crystals to take home. We’ll crush it in a mortar and use it sparingly, at the table. As we were leaving he presented us with two small salt bricks, clear as glass, which he claimed are at least 50 years old.
(The horn handle knife was purchased by Dave for 10 TL from a knife maker in Kahramanmaras. The artisan’s name — Biber or “pepper” — is carved on its blade. The salt brick sits in an old-fashioned brass sugar holder, a gift from a tea house owner in Çorum.)