Geography defines fate and taste

Geography defines fate and taste

Geography is fate. In Turkey we recognize this fact all the time. Turkey bridges between Asia and Europe, neighbors both the Balkans and the Middle East, stretches between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and owns two of the most critical straits, the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. We surely dwell on one of the most critical lands in the world. Our geography calls for hardship, that is a reality, but it also attracts people. That is why Anatolia has always been home to an immensely diverse range of cultures, a passageway for many people, witnessing the good the and the bad, bearing the rich influences of layers and layers of civilizations.

Geography is also taste. This means that the geography dictates the cuisine of a region and the whole nation, regardless of its ethnicities in most cases. Geography defines the agriculture, the taste of produce, and even cooking ways. People share a culinary culture created together through centuries of accumulation. The reason I am writing about the correlation between taste and geography is because of the “Adana Taste Festival” held in Adana between Oct. 8 and 10. The motto of the festival was rightly chosen as “Geography is Taste!”

This is very true, and I must admit that my trip across the country prior to arriving in Adana proved to be a demonstration of this fact. Mine was a long trip. We started from Istanbul, landing in the western province of Manisa to witness the grape harvest and visit the Alaşehir rakı distillery, and then travelled south to Bodrum for an olive oil panel, picking olives in the gardens of Sea & Garden Hapimag resort and taking a dip in its pristine beaches. Flying back to Istanbul was facing a rainy misery day, but landing in Adana to sweat under the scorching sun was quite the opposite. The whole trip was exciting, as well as mind whirling. Every single stop had another exciting taste profile.

Alaşehir, a district of Manisa, ancient Philadelphia, must be the heaven for grapes, especially Sultaniye grapes which makes the dried golden sultana grapes, and also distilled to make the base alcohol for our ubiquitous national drink rakı. From Alaşehir down to south towards Denizli is like a sea of vineyards, only to be interrupted with occasional olive groves and fig orchards. If Alaşehir is the epicenter of grapes, the nearby province of Aydın is the world center for figs. We took the route up in the hills to go down to Bodrum passing through chestnut forests, which happens to be another significant crop of Aydın. Passing through Milas the landscape was dominated with endless olive groves, which has received geographical indication recognition not only in Turkey, but from the EU as well. Last but not least, all this geography was again dotted by pomegranate trees all along the way. When in Bodrum the garden of the Sea & Garden property was like a garden of Eden, an amazing cornucopia of a pine forest, palm trees, olive gardens, vegetable patches, and the inevitable Bodrum tangerines, another fruit with geographical indication. So, my trip across the country was like swimming in a sea of grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates and tangerines, each product reflected on the foods and drinks. Such a bounty and plenty is unmatched.

In Adana, with the combined forces of the neighboring province of Mersin and its district Tarsus, it is another land of plenty, namely Çukurova being the grain basket of Turkey. Here the citrus gardens also dominate the landscape, besides a rich diversity of other crops. Adana is also the kebab-land of Turkey, the taste of the meat, and of course the amazing mastery of kebab making and grilling, is unmatched. Adana always amazes visitors with its rich tastes, stemming from the bounty of the land, and the diverse richness of its history. I always say, Adana is like a key to open to the world of rich gastronomy in the region. Within close proximity of the city, there are so many places like Mersin, Tarsus, Ceyhan, and in the outer reach there is Hatay and İskenderun, all attraction points with amazing products and food. Here, the motto of “Geography is Taste” is just right. In other words, in such a rich land geography is fate, but a very tasty fate, or better to say in this country our fate is taste!

Book of the Week: Adana amazes with its food. Now we are lucky to have an amazing new book which introduces the cuisine of Ceyhan, a district east of Adana province. The author Gönül Paksoy, a native of Adana, is known for her outstanding couture boutique in Istanbul, exhibiting timeless pieces of wearable art made with precious handwoven fabrics colored with natural dyes. She also hosts an annual lunch where Istanbulites desperately hope to be invited. She already has a line of wonderful books, I dare not to say cookbooks, but more artsy collection of her pretty plates full of inspiration. But this time, her new book is completely different, it is about the local cuisine of the province, titled “Cuisine of Ceyhan: Enriched Through Migrations,” the book is both in Turkish and English. Unlike Paksoy’s previous books, the pages vibrate with locality, each plate placed on old Sümerbank fabrics from the textile collection of Paksoy and served in old-school household plates with flower patterns on the rims. The recipes are collected from home-cooks, and the book is a collective work the Paksoy family with editor Lalehan Uysal and English translation by Jessica Tamtürk, but all in all, it is the celebration of Ceyhan people. For further information:

Taste of the Week: Chef Hakan Alkan, The Hilton Adana pastry chef, created a Şalgam Suyu Sorbet, which bursts with the flavor of the soil of Adana. Şalgam suyu, a nonalcoholic fermented savory drink baser on primarily black carrots and turnips, is everywhere in Adana and it is the most popular pairing drink with the Adana kebabs. Once you are hooked to the drink, there is no coming back. Now this slightly sweet sorbet is a creation inspired from the land, I imagined serving it as a sort Scroppino topping it with peppery vodka or a fiery tequila. I’m sure it will be amazing.