A year of hard working, travelling and tasting
All my Scorpio friends, they say that our agony of so many years is now over and 2018 will be brighter. I’m personally fed up with frustrated end of the year moods, and unkept promises and resolutions I keep repeating each year with despair. Last year I remember promising myself that there has to be an end to presenting papers at symposiums, and if possible avoiding them all. Though challenging and stimulating, attending symposiums and preparing papers and presentations consume a lot of time and energy, two precious things that we all have lack of. Like all end-of-the-year resolutions, my idea of skipping such occasions proved to be a total lie.
2017 has been another year of symposiums, conferences, panels and gatherings for me, this time at an almost global level, crisscrossing countries starting from New Delhi, finding myself on the slopes of Savoy at Val Cenis, visiting usual favorites such as Tours, Bordeaux and Oxford, a formidable dinner in Milan, having an exciting visit to Phuket and Bangkok, followed by the most stimulating working sessions in Copenhagen, finding and talking all about köfte in Thrace and discovering Krakow, of course not to mention the several in-between events in Turkey where I either participated, talked or contributed.
The end of February and March were marked by an exciting visit to New Delhi. Thanks to Sanjoo Malhotra and Sourish Bhattacharyya for including me in the newly started Tasting India Symposium, where I experienced amazing tastes and met wonderful people. The street food walk with Anubhav Sapra, Delhi Food Walks, was eye-opening, tasting menus of new young chefs was exciting and inspiring (visiting Qla with my food writer friend Bikramjit Ray was delightful), the tasting menu of Nishant Choubey at the Roseate Hotel was memorable, being invited to the home-cooked lunches in the houses of food writer Sumeet Nair and environmentalist and activist Sunita Narain was exceptional. My talk titled “From Tandır to Tandoori” was a mere attempt to delve into the culinary links between Turkey and India.
From the warmth of India I found myself in the mountains of Savoy in early April, on the slopes of Val Cenis, just near the Italian border. This is the spot where Hannibal tried to pass through the Alps with elephants. This exciting geography at the junction of French and Italian Alps was the venue of the annual meeting of the Ski Club International des Journalistes (SCIJ). A lovely gathering as ever, this time the tastes of Savoy was great to explore, I still savor the thought of delicious tartiflettes oozing with melting cheese, not to mention the fragrant mountain honey.
May was marked with a fun wine tasting with Oz Clarke and Caro Maurer in Istanbul. It was highly interesting to hear their comments on Turkish wines. With still the taste of this tasting lingering in my palate, soon I was popping bottles of Vouvray in France’s Tours. The Third International Conference on Food History and Cultures was overwhelmingly packed with scholars. I managed to compile my talk on Culinary Heritage as a Branding, Bragging and Bracing Vehicle tying the topic to the Gaziantep Experience in Turkey and UNESCO listings. Tours was charming as usual, and topping it with a visit to Bordeaux was the best idea ever.
July was again Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, though I had given a pause in presenting for a couple of years, when the topic was chosen as “Landscape and Food,” I could not help but send in a proposal on how the landscape of a whole eastern Black Sea region and how the drinks-cape of the Turkish nation has changed after the political decision of becoming a self-sustained country starting tea cultivation. So that was it, there I was again, devouring everything written about tea in Turkey, and working like a maniac till the last minute on my laptop again.
August was planned to be leisure time, and in a way it was, but it was also the time I had the two pinnacle experiences of the year: An amazing travelling experience and a very stimulating meeting. I was invited to an international conference, the 2017 Asian Heritage Forum, organized by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Having my daughter as my travel companion, I arranged our flights via Phuket, and there we split our time in two amazing Anantara resorts and the unforgettable Trisara. The BKK experience was no less, the conference was hosted by The Mandarin Oriental Hotel and our one-night stay at the urban-resort The Siam was just unforgettable. Our Thailand initiation was like a dream honeymoon, just as the title of the conference, “Culture of Leisure.”
In a couple of days I was flying the opposite way, finding myself spotting Thai restaurants all the time as the taxi drove to our hotel in Copenhagen. The World Food Summit hosted a well-studied series of meetings, organized by the Environment and Food Ministry of Denmark at the National Parliament Christiansborg, right in the heart of Copenhagen. I was attending the Food Diversity sessions, and I am proud to say that I was on the same panel as Minister Esben Lunde Larsen. It was an honor representing Turkey together with Sitare Baras of MSA Culinary Arts Academy and chef Maksut Aşkar. All the talks and discussions were extremely stimulating, though I could skip the fried unidentified creatures in my salad.
September was relatively slow, though I had a memorable travel through Thrace following the third Thrace Wine Competition organized by Burçak Desombre, with the support of Mayor Ekrem Eşkinat. Visiting the Chamlija vineyards with owner Mustafa Çamlıca was priceless, just a week later we had the most fun event on Thracian meatballs in Tekirdağ, the ubiquitous köfte found almost at every corner in the region. Again another high point was visiting Kırklareli with Deniz Alphan, director of the moving documentary “A Fading Language, A Fading Cuisine,” a tribute to the Ladino language and Sephardic cuisine. After strolling in the streets of her ancestral town, a couple of weeks later, we were on stage together in a Q&A session at Yedi, the thought-provoking food conference at The Seed, SSM, Sakıp Sabancı Museum.
October was concluded in Krakow where I talked about symbolism of wheat in Anatolian rituals and celebration at the conference “Food and Drinks as Symbols.” Just before going to Krakow I had the most exciting proposal of recent years, but had to wait for another year to hear about its results. Many more events took place in November and December but my mind was fixated with my little secret that I’ll keep till the next year’s accounts. I promise it will be a perfect year, the year of plenty hopefully!