Disruption and resumption

Disruption and resumption

For six years, end of May has been Dublin time for me. One year I’m actually there, the other, I miss being there. This year, I was supposed to be in Dublin, but because of obvious reasons I’m here in Istanbul, in lockdown. The reason for my biannual pilgrimage to Ireland is because of Dublin Gastronomy Symposium, organized by the School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology within the Dublin Institute of Technology. To admit, the symposium was an excuse to visit Ireland to start with, I attended the first year, because I wanted to see Dublin and a bit of the country, as I have never been there before. Being there for once, made me hooked forever.

The first year I wrote exactly this: “Only four days in Ireland made me a convert. I feel Irish in a strange way. It is not that my name resembles the Irish name Eileen [or Eibhlín in correct Irish], but there must be something hidden in its air and water.” That year the theme of the symposium was revolution, including war as a sub-theme. I chose a topic in line with not only the theme, but also with the revolutionary Dublin spirit. My title was “ANZAC Biscuits versus Turkish Peksimet: How Food Logistics Affected the Gallipoli Campaign,” and realizing that the war meant much to the Irish, paving the path to the Irish War of Independence, I started my presentation with a line from the Irish ballad “The Foggy Dew”: “Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr.” I remember feeling very Irish, when our dear friend, Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire sang The Foggy Dew at the gala dinner in the historic dining hall of King’s Inn, leaving us all in tears under the Irish sky. I think, apart from the symposium, it was that very moment when I decided to turn back to Dublin on every possible opportunity.

Symposiums are full of surprises. I think that is what lies under my addiction to attend many and take all the toil and spend precious time and considerable amounts of hard-earned money to join the food nerd symposium gangs. That year there was a paper very surprising for me, presented by Alison McKee, titled “Lessons Learnt: Fanny Marion Higgens, Military School of Cookery, Alexandria, Egypt, 1915-1918.” Now what a happy coincidence was that! The paper was about the cooking education given to New Zealander boys before their departure to war fronts, some destined to end up in Gallipoli. Interestingly the cooking skills they were introduced were not about developing survival camping tricks that can save lives in the wild, but they were more about polishing the boring rations into a more polished fare. Eventually the students who succeeded in passing the initial stages and practical examinations would proceed to the “High Class Cookery Kitchen,” where more elaborate dishes, such as clear soups, ices, and fine sauces was to be taught. The final examination dinner would be of seven courses prepared in four hours. Not really the sort of skills one would need in the horrid condition of trenches uphill in the Dardanelles strait. Learning about this military cooking school was a huge happy surprise for me. It was eye opening and supporting my thesis on how ridiculously over-designed and totally useless the food provisioning of the ANZAC side was. Under Gallipoli conditions, it proved to be a total disaster.

I think that is what makes the symposium-trotting gang of ours keep on revisiting our beloved symposiums. To meet like-minded people, to be connected to the amazing researchers out there around the globe, to get inspired by others’ work, and to learn, and learn, and learn again and again, and get inspired.

This year DGS-Dublin Gastronomy symposium was cancelled in vivo but went online. The theme was just in line with the coronavirus times: “Food and Disruption: What shall we eat tomorrow?” It could not be a more apt topic these days.

The opening keynote speaker was Tim Lang. His talk titled “When food disruption becomes real: thoughts on COVID-9 and food systems” was inspirational in these days of disruption, tackling with the key problems of today and on how we can carry on, and find a way out for resumption. Lang is a professor of Food Policy at the City of University of London. His personal journey started from being a psychologist, turning to being a hill farmer for seven years, and eventually becoming a professor of food policy. He has been questioning the current food systems, convinced that it is fatally flawed. Lang stressed the need for a complete change of mind to have a new direction to achieve a sustainable model saying that COVID-19 is a wake-up call

Listen at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/dgs/2020/record/2/

The virtual symposium, with fifty papers from 17 countries took over five days from May 25 to 29. The sessions and keynote speeches can be watched at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/dgs/2020/

My talk on our joint paper with Nilhan Aras based on our book from MSA Culinary Academy is titled “Tarhana: An Anatolian Food Concept as a Promising Idea for the Future” is here, the last one in the session. https://arrow.tudublin.ie/dgs/2020/commod/