Memleket

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The trick to picking a perfect peach is simple: Gently squeeze the chot (stem and fruit junction); if the inside of the fruit is juicy and dark yellow, carefully roll the fruit and pull while holding the stem to avoid bruising.

After nine summers, countless days under the burning sun, and an overwhelming amount of fruit wasted, I became a connoisseur in picking the sweetest and most fragrant peaches in the village of Dipsizgol (bottomless lake), dramatically situated in northwestern Anatolia along the Sea of Marmara.

It was the memleket for the family, the homeland - the birthplace of my father and me, and home of my grandparents, my two uncles, and their wives and children, all living in a one-story house with a tiny stable and a coop in which they put two cows and half a dozen chickens. Somewhere near the house they had a small orchard with blossoming fruit trees; come early July and harvest time, they would need extra help, and we would leave behind our busy lives in suburban Istanbul and take a 4-hour ride to the memleket.

Being the naive, obnoxious kid that I was, I would complain about the place – how it always stinks and there is nothing to do. I had to wake up early to go for the morning prayer and help collect eggs. My...

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