Breakfast of Champions

If it's not liver kebab, it's not Sunday morning in Adana

By / March 2014

It’s Sunday morning. The sun is up but still struggling to peek over the buildings in the heart of Adana’s çarşı, or downtown district. On the narrow street, under the watchful eye of the city’s landmark clock tower, rolling metal doors remain shut while the usual vendors enjoy their one weekly day off. In their places, purveyors of grilled liver kebab set up their mobile charcoal grills as they’ve been doing here every Sunday for over 100 years.

The smoke and smells beckon to us as we drift around the corner and find a seat at one of the folding tables set up in a road now cut off to traffic. Just a few feet away the grill masters work their magic over the hot coals. Their assistants busy themselves with the obligatory accoutrements for this almost ceremonial meal — diced tomatoes with crushed red pepper flakes on top, lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad drizzled with pomegranate dressing, finely sliced onions sprinkled with dark purple dried sumac and a plate of fresh parsley and lemon wedges.

At our table we listen to the banter as cooks call to each other and prospective patrons ambling by. More and more people inch around the corner: couples, whole families, groups of friends, two men fresh back from the Turkish bath. Our order arrives, a plate piled high with two-foot long skewers, each with a few inches worth of succulent chunks of liver. On top is a blanket of flat bread. We each take a piece of bread and, like a taco, swipe a skewer’s worth of liver into it, sprinkle with a little cumin from the small plastic bowl on the table and fill it up with the sliced onions and sumac.

We take our first bite and feel the stares of those around us, curious at the presence of the Americans in the midst of this weekly ritual. I think they’ll be seeing more of us on Sunday mornings to come.


Michael Cervantez is a writer living in Turkey.