V for Val Cenis and vegan vine leafs

V for Val Cenis and vegan vine leafs

Aylin Öney Tan - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
V for Val Cenis and vegan vine leafs It has been three years since I’ve been a part of the Ski Club International des Journalistes (SCIJ). This year’s meeting is in France, at Val Cenis, a ski resort close to the Italian border. As we depart from Torino Airport, I have a feeling that it will be more like a spring meeting, as the trees along the way are already blossoming. The first impression of our home to be for one week is mixed. We have a feeling that the place is almost deserted, as it is the end of season, with little slushy snow here and there in patches. Our French friends affirm us that there will be fantastic skiing with excellent snow in the week to come. Having walked under heavy rain to the opening ceremony of the meeting, it is hard to believe. However, they are right. Miracle happens and the raindrops turn into the most pillowy featherlike snowflakes. It is magic!

SCIJ was first founded in France in 1955 at the “founding” meeting of Méribel, since then France has hosted a total of nine international meetings including the one in l’Alpe d’Huez to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club. This year, from March 25th to April 1st, it is the turn of the resort of Val Cenis in Haute-Maurienne Vanoise (Savoie), at the gateway to the Vanoise National Park. So the French team was right, the skiing season here lasts longer than most places, normally till the last week of April. When we thought we came to a snowless area, we open our eyes to a white Sunday as if it is Christmas time. The snowflakes welcomed us in the heart of the Alps. 

SCIJ has a unique sense to it. Every year 200 to 250 journalists from 32 countries gather to have a convivial meeting to ski, race, network and have discussions on issues that concern journalists globally. For most seasoned regulars it has become like an annual family gathering. One expected outcome is the reporting of the attendees. During its history of 60 years, tens of millions of people have followed journalists’ adventures on print media, on television and radio, and have been encouraged to head to the mountains and experience the thrills of winter sports. The SCIJ archives run over with folders full of those articles. Tens of the most recent ones can be found in the press book of the club. However, one very much expected and enjoyed activity of the SCIJ often goes missing in the reports. It is the Nation’s Night!

The lack of reporting might be for various reasons. First, there is so much amazing food and drinks from all nations that it is hard to pick a few for writing, but another strong reason is that very few happen to remember what was eaten or drunk the previous day or may rather not want to remember the latter. Last but not least there is an unwritten rule every journalist strictly follows: What happens in SCIJ remains in SCIJ!

That is a real pity as the unbelievable efforts of the teams goes unmentioned. There are teams that do the same thing every year, their dedicated determination has to be appreciated. The Swiss team brings elaborate equipment and a whole wheel of Swiss cheese to make an authentic raclette; no need to say that there is a long queue in front of their station at all times. The Dutch are the cleverest; they never even bother to join the nation’s night with food and drinks. On the contrary, they fully enjoy the night to its fullest extent without the hassle of organizing a table and serving, which is wise of them, but instead take the task of preparing a hearty Dutch pea soup for lunch and serve al fresco after the cross-country race. And what about the Turkish team? I can only write about what I witnessed so far, or what I contributed as the so-called “culinary” member of the team. In my first year it the meeting venue was Baqueira –Beret in Spanish Pyrenees. That year we had the richest table laden with preserved fish delicacies and cheese and of course our national booze rakı. Most of the journalists suffered from that last one; actually not the food and drink, but many casualties were reported. The reason for our choice to have a fish & rakı night was to pay salute to our host country, as Spain and especially Catalonia have strong tradition of tapas, so our gesture was the Turkish counterpart mezes. Our only miscalculation was to consider the effect of the anise-based grape distillation on first timers. In my second year, it was the turn of Sestriere, Italy. Unfortunately we could not have pasta as cooking facilities were restricted, so we had to have pre-prepared food, our pick was dürüm, or the wrapper, with çiğ köfte (raw meat balls but without the meat). Rakı was again on the table but no casualties were reported. Apparently SCIJ members have already become seasoned on the thing. This year our pick for Val Cenis is the letter V, we have a strictly vegan table with zeytinyağlı yaprak sarma, which is wrapped vine leaves with rice cooked with olive oil, as the main taste, again to pay a respect to rich viticulture of our host country, along with some wines from indigenous local grapes of Anatolia (as a milder choice to avoid casualties of course). Cheers for the feathery snowflakes and the SCIJ spirit!

Bite of the Week

FORK & CORK OF THE WEEK: When one hits the slopes in Val Cenis, here are the spots to have nice bite and a sip, a good Plat du Jour along with a glass of vin rouge: Creperie des Glaces; La Fema; La Ranova;Le Refuge; L’Arole; Le Relais du Col; Le 1480; Le Bella; Le Petit Chalet; Les Rochers; Tata Tine; Le C2; La Peau de Vache; L’escale; La Trappeur; L’Estanco; La Bergerie; Le St Charles.