Sounding Off: Turkish coffee and friendship

A recent trip to Turkey has resulted in some introspection. My wife, Sheila, and I always have tried to be gracious hosts whenever special guests have been invited to our home. Because we are involved in Orange County's interfaith community, many times our visitors are from other countries, cultures or religions. We were careful to be aware of dietary restrictions and special needs of our guests; however, this Turkish excursion has caused us to consider reevaluating our efforts.

Wherever we went, whether meeting with government officers, heads of TV stations, presidents of charitable foundations, journalists, or dining in the home of a citizen, we faced a formidable array of refreshments, including the thick and rich Turkish coffee, tea, and a variety of sweets. This was followed by more coffee — and a large plate of fresh fruits, including apples, apricots, cherries, plums, watermelon and some varieties I didn't recognize. Just when I thought the evening was over, another round began: more coffee and sweets followed by gifts for each guest!

My suitcase coming home was crammed with the demitasse coffee serving sets, larger cups in elaborate presentation boxes, fountain pen sets, shawls, ornate grinders for coffee/pepper, hand made ceramic pieces, original paintings and unique art, and boxes of exotic candy.

Now, as hosts, Sheila and I have determined that this ritual of gift giving can add an important flavor to our hosting and we are considering how we can add it to our future gatherings. Since I have traveled fairly extensively in the East, the gracious nature of our welcome was not totally a surprise, but I have never had it demonstrated so emphatically before. The friendships we made will be long-lasting.

TOM THORKELSON is the director of Interfaith Relations on the Orange County Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He lives in Newport Beach and contributes regularly to the Pilot's "In Theory" column.

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