Free in Dublin and Venice
Free spirit will be on air in two cities this week: Dublin and Venice. My heart lies with Venice, but I’m flying to Dublin. I’m sorry to miss the first week of the 16th International Venice Architecture Biennale where the theme is “Freespace,” but I promise to myself to make it until Nov. 25 before the closing date. Instead, I’m heading for another interesting event for food researchers, another biannual event. It is the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium, organized by the Dublin Institute of Technology. This year, it has the strong theme of “Food and Power.”
Both Dublin and Venice have strong ties with Turkey. Venice and Istanbul have been like sister cities in history, often tied with the powerful umbilical cord of trade, nurturing both cities in various ways. The Irish spirit of freedom has flakes of inspiration from the Battle of Gallipoli, which lead to the Turkish War of Independence. The heart touching Irish ballad Foggy Dew, tells the story of the courageous Irish youth that fought and died in Gallipoli for a cause that was not theirs. The unforgettable line, “’Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sedd el Bahr” turned out to be inspirational in the onset of the Irish War of Independence.
Food and power are two interwoven aspects of life, both being a weakness or strength of mankind. Food is grown in the countryside but traded in cities. Trade of food and interaction of cuisines occurred in the markets of towns and cities, and in particular port cities. In the Mediterranean basin, through these port cities, food culture was generated to other great port towns or inland cities like Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa, Milan, Florence, Palermo, Naples, Ragusa, Algiers, Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo, İzmir, Bursa, İskenderun and so on. The port towns were also open to a multitude of cultures where traders and travelers from all faiths met in markets and communicated. Our heritage and food culture today is greatly based on the legacy of these great cities of the past.
Istanbul and Venice had been two great port cities of the Mediterranean leading in sea trade from the 14th to 16th centuries. Venice had been the gate to the mystical Orient and Istanbul was the door opening to Western culture. Venice was the serene port of peace and Istanbul was the sublime gate to happiness. The tales of the two cities are intertwined with each other, with many Venetians coming into crucial positions in Istanbul and being influential in Ottoman life, from Safiye Sultan to Alvise Gritti aka Beyoğlu. Ottoman merchants crowding in and around Fondaco dei Turchi right in the heart of Venice surely had a great impact on Venetian life and food culture.
I’m sure the Irish free spirit will still be felt, though I’ve already missed Dubliners celebrating the results of the abortion referendum empowering Irish women. The symposium however, is very much related to freedom or dependence. The symposium presentations cover a wide range of topics from slavery to freedom, politics to branding and marketing, history to contemporary and last but not least gender and the role of women in food production and gastronomy. Proud to say that there are three presenters (all women) from Turkey including myself.
Banu Özden will talk about how food was a tool to demonstrate power. Her paper is titled “Political Power Behind the Feasts: Food as a Symbol of Authority and Obedience in the History of Turks.” Nihal Bursa has the catchy title “Powerful Corps and Heavy Cauldrons” aimed at examining the role of food as an instrumental way of expressing power by focusing on some customary practices of the janissaries, the disciplined body of military corps in the Ottoman Empire, and the Sultan.
I will be bringing the issue of power-food relations to a more recent past, starting with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, delving into the economic leaps of the early years of the Turkish Republic, struggles of economic independence and sovereignty all symbolized with tea and sugar by my paper titled “Empowerment Through Tea and Sugar: A Story of Sovereignty by Self-Sustenance.” It is a story worth remembering today.
This year, curated by Kerem Piker with the title “Vardiya/The Shift,” Turkey’s pavilion in Venice will be perfectly in line with the theme freespace. The stage will be free to future architects and students providing an open space for encounter, exhibition and production shifting a series of public events providing a participatory platform with workshops, digital roundtable discussions and meetings.
Another interesting twist: The curator of the Venice Biennale is the Irish architect Shelley McNamara, along with her colleague Yvonne Farrell, who is also from Ireland. So the power of Irish women rules Venice this summer, cheers to that with a toast to free space, free spirit and women power!
Fork and Recipe of the Week:
The spread of coffee to Europe and the world began in Istanbul with Ottoman merchants. In a close encounter with the Ottomans, the Venetians were first to discover this strange dark fluid. G. Francesco Morosini, ambassador of the Venetian Republic to the Ottoman Sultan, reported in 1582 from Istanbul about numerous public places where people meet each other several times a day over “acqua nera,” a dark and boiling hot beverage. “Acqua nera,” which literally means black water, was soon to conquer Venice.
European Heritage Year was recently celebrated by the European Delegation in Turkey at the Venetian Palace in Istanbul with a menu themed “A Taste of Two Cites” based on heritage recipes from Venice and Istanbul. One sweet served was a typical Venetian dessert Tiramisu, with a Turkish twist. Prepare your favorite tiramisu recipe but do not dust with cocoa powder; instead, dust liberally with medium roasted Turkish coffee, it is as powdery as cocoa anyway. It gives a miraculously powerful touch, believe me!
Cork of the Week:
“Spirit of the week” would have been more appropriate for the title, as it will be a week of Irish whiskey for me. I am excited to be re-visiting the premises of Teeling, known as the spirit of Dublin, the only whiskey distillery inside the city. I will be comparing their whiskey tasting glass with that of a Turkish tea glass, as there has been a fad about claiming that the ideal tasting glass was the tulip shaped glasses identical to the ones we use daily for tea. I am particularly anxious to compare it with Refika’s “Gönlübol” glasses, which are rightfully named “Big-hearted.” These voluptuous tea glasses are newly launched by Turkish food celebrity Refika Birgül, and are round, generous, and big-hearted, just like herself.