Gaziantep to shine with gastro-diplomacy
İpek Özbey - GAZİANTEP
“This is a project of employment, development, and in fact, of world peace. People with different languages and religions come and sit at the tables, which connect them and increase brotherhood,” Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin told daily Hürriyet.
“People from 40 countries participated in the first GastroAntep festival last year,” she recalled, saying that a total of 1 million tourists, including some 200,000 foreigners, were drawn to the province.
The population of Gaziantep is around 2 million and a quarter of that figure corresponds to Syrians who have fled the civil war on the other side of the border.
When asked about the contribution of the Syrians living in Gaziantep to the local cuisine, Şahin said: “The culinary styles of [Syrian city] Aleppo and ours are very similar… Their cold meals are very good, whereas we are good at hot ones. When the two come together, it makes a rich cuisine.”
“They have brought their own cuisine. They produce their own baklava and bread. They have a separate market now,” she added.
Gaziantep’s traditional dessert baklava has become the first ever Turkish product registered in the European Commission list of protected designations of origins and protected geographical indications.
The province was added to the list in the gastronomy category of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in 2015.
During the festival, products of local brands will be tasted by Michelin star chefs and they will be included in the recipes of world cuisines.
In defining gastro-diplomacy, Gaziantep Mayor referred to the Turkish idioms, “Let’s eat sweet and talk sweet,” and “The road to the heart passes through the stomach.”
“Even the stiffest issues ease when speaking at a table, because everyone approaches in a more solution-oriented manner,” she said.
“Actually, if social gastronomy hadn’t taken place properly we would face huge difficulties in a province housing 500,000 refugees and also local migrants from other eastern and southeastern provinces. Social gastronomy is encoded in our civilization,” said Şahin.
The international gastronomy festival will be hosted by the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality and Gaziantep Development Foundation (GAGEV) and organized with the collaboration of the Culture and Tourism Ministry.