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Charles County residents got the chance to experience the marriage of Turkish culture with coffee and tea right in La Plata.

The smell of Turkish coffee and food Thursday evening filled one of the rooms of the World Gym in La Plata as folks gathered for an event presented by Sukruye Johnson, the county’s self-proclaimed “Turkish Lady” who presents cooking classes in the tradition of her homeland and also runs a stall at the farmers market in La Plata. Johnson said she enjoys having the chance to bring the traditions of her native culture to the people of her adopted one. Johnson maintains people come for the “coffee, food and hospitality.”

“[I enjoyed] people asking me questions about my food and culture. They even took a lot of the food home,” Johnson said. “It’s not just about coffee. It’s about introducing Turkish culture to others.”

Upon arrival, guests at Thursday’s event entered a room that featured a table of traditional Turkish food, and two others set up for coffee, tea and desserts. The country’s flag hung on the walls, and Turkish music played softly as people milled about conversing.

In the corner was a low sitting-table with pillows around it where some guests sat sipping their sweet black coffee and talking. That table, Johnson said, is a traditional feature in most every Turkish home, and she set it up for the guests to get a more authentic experience.

Robyn Parabis of Waldorf and Barry Cahen of La Plata were among the people sitting around the table and enjoyed coffee and conversation for quite some time, taking in the evening’s leisurely atmosphere.

“My sister told me to come. She said I’d love the food and the culture,” Parabis said. “I would love to learn how to make some of the food.”

“I like it all,” Cahen said of the evening. “I like the baklava, and I like spicy food.”

“[Johnson] is a very energetic promoter of Turkish culture in Charles County, and I think the introduction she does to the cuisine and culture is one of the benefits of diversity in Charles County,” said Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), who stopped in briefly.

“And the food is just delicious.”

Ayman Hakki, a local plastic surgeon who also has Turkish roots by way of Syria, said the event hearkened back to memories of his childhood.

“When I see a Turkish event in La Plata, I have to go, and I bring my friends,” Hakki said. “La Plata is becoming much more multicultural. I can see the transformation. The food is all the same, as is the culture. The people’s hospitality is what really defines them.”

lrenner@somdnews.com