The Baklava Man’s name is Carlos, and he is Turkish. Please do not ask me why a Turkish man would be called Carlos, I have no answers.
I first heard of Carlos the Baklava Man when I, in typical sweet-tooth fashion, happened to be searching for dessert after lunch one day and wandered into a Turkish supermarket. I observed the stale-looking packaged baklava* on display at the front of the store and asked the girl behind the counter, who looked to be around my age, how much it would cost. *For reference, this is what a piece of baklava looks like:
“Oh no,” she responded disdainfully, shaking her head. She raised one perfectly shaped thick black eyebrow and beckoned me to her, leaning in conspiratorially. Having absolutely zero clue what she would say, I hesitantly approached her, and she reached down and slapped a business card on the counter between us with a flourish. She winked at me.
“You want good baklava? This is the best baklava in Edinburgh, I promise you.”
I laughed and picked up the card, expecting your average business card, including a traditional bakery name in bold letters, followed by a mailing address and an email address. However, this business card was not only bright blue, but it was entirely in Turkish, and the only discernable handwriting looked to be a 7-digit phone number.
Well then. I looked at the girl in confusion. “Isn’t there an address?” I asked her. “Where would I go?”
“Trust me.” The girl winked at me. “His name is Carlos. He makes it at home and delivers right to your door.” I thanked her and slipped the card in my back pocket. Just as I was heading out the door, she called to me, “tell him Rabia recommended you!”
I promptly forgot about the incident, and it isn’t until a week later that I am folding my laundry and find the business card in my jean pocket. I hesitate for a second, staring at the 7 digit telephone number. The idea of a random man from only a semi-credible source (sorry Rabia) coming to my house seemed a bit sketchy, but I quickly brushed the thought from my mind. Because hey, it’s abroad, you’re supposed to try new things, and I’m just being ridiculous, right? So I dial the number, and after a few rings, a very deep voice picks up on the other end.
“Halo,” it says in a thick accent.
“Hi!” I say cheerfully. “Can I make an order of baklava for delivery, please?”
Suddenly, the voice on the other end sounds suspicious.
“Who is this?” it demands. “Where you get dis number.”
I slightly panic.
Oh, god. I rack my brain, trying to remember the name of the girl at the Turkish supermarket.
“Um, uh, Rafia! I mean Rabia!” I say excitedly, the name flashing in my mind. “I’m Allegra, and um, Rabia said you, um, make baklava?”
There is a moment of silence on the other line, and I stop my anxious pacing around my dorm room to listen. Then there’s a loud belly laugh.
“Ah, Rabia! You Rabia special friend?”
I’m not sure what a “special friend” constitutes exactly-it definitely doesn’t cover a one time conversation- but I say, “uh, yeah!”
The voice on the other hand laughs again. “Okay,” it says, as though it has come to an important decision.
“You Rabia’s special friend, so I give you special price!! What is your address?”
Without thinking, I spit out my address, and before I know it I’ve got a baklava delivery for Sunday at 3pm. I hang up the phone and exhale loudly.
That Sunday, I find myself outside my dorm building waiting for Carlos at 2:55pm. At 3:05pm, I receive a text saying, “will be10 minutes ok sorry xx.,” and at 3:15pm, a rusty red Toyota screeches to a stop in front of my door, out of which steps a man who looks to be my dad’s age, with dark skin, a bit of a beer belly, and a balding head of black hair. He smiles widely when he sees me, revealing a shiny gold tooth.
“Allegra!” he says, waving his arms in flourish.
He seems nice enough, so I smile and wave. “Hi!” I say. “Carlos, right?” Carlos pulls a large cardboard Dominos Pizza Box and walks up to me. He looks me up and down shamelessly. “So nice to meet you, Allegra!” he says.
I feel slightly uncomfortable about the way this interaction is going so far, but I really do want Baklava but at the same time I am not sure why Carlos is holding a pizza box. Carlos opens the pizza box and reveals about 100 pieces of crispy, honey-filled baklava, all beautifully stacked in rows.
“Wow.” I can’t help admiring. “It looks so good.”
“Made dis morning!” Carlos says proudly. “Now open your mouth.” He pulls out a sliver of baklava and holds it in front my face expectantly.
“Excuse me?” I stare at Carlos, unsure how to react.
“Open your mouth,” Carlos insists, waving the piece of baklava around. “So you can try!!” Without thinking, I open my mouth and Carlos pops a piece in.
Wow. It is amazing. Too bad I can’t enjoy the moment because Carlos is smiling slyly at me. There is a moment of silence.
“Okay, then!” I say cheerfully. I frantically dig into my back pocket and pull out a 20 pound note. “Here you go, thank you so much.” I take the pizza box from his arms hand him the 20, and turn around to almost crash into my flatmate Adam, who I later found out had come down to make sure everything was OK.
“Adam!” I exclaim loudly in relief. With my back turned to Carlos, I widen my eyes at Adam and mouth HELP- HE’S CRAZY. Adam is a tall, lanky but good looking Irishman. He can be plenty chatty, but he does not appreciate people touching him and is therefore quite hard to hug.
“Adam, Carlos,” I introduce. “Carlos, Adam.”
“Um, Adam came down because I told him you were bringing baklava and he’s never had any!” I lie. We definitely don’t need Carlos to know Adam is trying to protect me.
Carlos doesn’t catch on to the lie, and his eyes light up when he hears Adam’s never tried his precious baklava.
“Ah, my man!” he cries. “You must try!” He opens the pizza box I am holding, pulls out another piece of baklava and instructs: “open your mouth.” Adam glances at me nervously, and I can’t help but stifle a laugh. He opens his mouth, and Carlos slowly puts a piece in his mouth. Adam chews in silence, stiff as a board beside me.
“Right,” I say, smiling tightly at Carlos. I think we have all had enough of Carlos for one day. “We’re gonna go now, but thank you so much.” I remember that he took the time to drive over and personally deliver Baklava to my door and feel appreciative, until I realize that he knows where I live and could potentially show up any time unannounced. I shake my head, trying to banish the thought from my mind. I’m being ridiculous.
Or am I? As Adam and I turn to leave, Carlos suddenly grabs my hand and kisses it.
He smiles and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.
“Allegra, I make you baklava whenever you want.” He winks.
I think I offer Carlos something between a smile and a grimace in return, but I cannot honestly tell you because all I remember is desperately wanting to get out of there. “Thanksbye!” I say in one sentence.
I pull my hand away quickly and go inside, where Adam was already holding the door for me, and do not look back.
I am pretty sure that was the first time Adam has been fed anything by someone who isn’t his mother in his entire life. The baklava was incredible, don’t get me wrong, and my flat mates and I devoured it within 48 hours.
However, the experience was a lot to handle in terms of seduction, and I am not sure if I can cave in to my sweet-tooth cravings without putting myself at risk of being taken away to Carlos the Baklava Man’s home and never seen again.
Allegra Hanlon, reporting to you with her account of the Baklava Man. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
P.S. This is a picture of me with an entire box of baklava from ANOTHER Turkish bakery in London because I was not brave enough to take a picture with Carlos and his baklava. Can you tell I like baklava??