Regional tastes draw visitors, change perspectives

11th, 2014
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Regional tastes draw visitors, change perspectives

Touring historical sites is often no longer enough for many visitors to Turkey; they now want to incorporate local delicacies and specialties into their Turkish experience.

Thus recipes and tastes discovered long ago by our grandmothers and ancestors are actually contributing to the development of our cities. Restaurants serving the regional flavors of Turkey have become part of the attraction of visiting this country.

Every day, we see more and more magazines devoted not only to travel, but also to cuisine. This is a natural pairing, as travel and eating are not independent of one another. Both are a source of great pleasure for many people, and both depend on one another to some extent. Of course, it is also important that someone who loves to both travel and eat be able to actually learn some new things while doing so.

One result of the growing interest in and openness to regional flavors has been that delicacies which were generally seen only in villages are returning to the cities. And these newly opened restaurants and cafes are serving not only travelers, but also local people from the same region, who can gather at these spots to socialize.

The newly opened restaurants and cafes boasting regional flavors are opening not only in the cities that we all used to think of as Turkey’s big cities — such as Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara –but also Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Mardin and Adana. This being the case, magazines have taken even more of an interest, with the sheer number of travel and cuisine magazines in recent times multiplying to match the pace of the restaurants opening.

Mehmet Yaşin, whose explorations of different cuisines are broadcast on television, believes that the magazines and books which show examples of different ways of eating and living have an especially strong influence on the citification of people living in rural parts of the country. He also thinks these publications encourage people already living in cities to embrace truly citified lives.

Someone who believes that travel and the expanding of kitchen culture knowledge and awareness contributes to the process of becoming more citified is Fatih Türkmenoğlu, who has journeyed every corner of Turkey. He notes that someone who travels gets to know not only the historical structures and nature of the cities and towns he or she visits, but also the cuisine. And interestingly, the restaurants boasting regional flavors and tastes in historical cities such as Mardin and Gaziantep are, these days, attracting just as many local residents as they are tourists.

Yaşin says that eating out at restaurants is more of a city-dweller’s habit, and that, when compared to the past, more and more people are becoming accustomed to this these days. One sign of this is that more people head out now specifically to eat, rather than simply dropping in at a cheap restaurant while on the way to do other business.

The owner of the Çiya restaurant in Kadikoy, Musa Dağdeviren, asserts that traditional kitchen culture has become more widespread and that no matter where people go, they are bound to come across traces of local kitchen traditions. He notes within this framework that many restaurants now serve dishes which used to be limited to some local kitchens and were not widespread. The new restaurants opening up in cities are transforming peoples’ culinary experiences. Azer Bortaçina looks at the general trend at hand through the same perspective as Dağdeviren. Bortaçina says that the flow of tourists into Anatolian cities has meant that certain recipes that were on the way to being forgotten or at least made much less have been rediscovered, and that the general number of spots serving specifically regional tastes and dishes has multiplied. People who travel not only widen their own horizons, but also contribute to the transformations which come to the places they visit. To put it another way, we eat as we travel, and as this happens, we become more citified in the process.

Traveling facilitates acquaintance with locals, dining culture

Azer Bortaçina: One entrepreneurial woman, Ebru Baykara, took the Cercis Murat Konağı, which was built 120 years ago, and saved it from rack and ruin, bringing it back to life while also protecting its original charm. Baykara has introduced economic opportunities to many of the Mardin housewives working in her kitchen, opening up new horizons for them and setting up a “Kitchen Workshop” in which she offers four and six-day cooking courses for tourists in the region. What’s more, the people teaching these courses are actually the housewives working at the hotel. The real goal is to see the religious tourism that has become so popular in recent years in Mardin become combined with the local eating-drinking culture at the same time. In brief, people visiting the Mardin region now have the opportunity not only to become acquainted with the local people of the region, but also with the typical kitchen cuisine that defines the area.

Just living in the city is one thing, but living life as a real city-dweller is an entirely different matter

Mehmet Yaşin: Achieving a certain cuisine culture and traveling to other places helps people adapt more quickly to city life. And this in turn allows “neighborhood life” to expand, and for people to have more varied relationships and see changes in their food culture. Just living in the city is one thing, but living life as a real city-dweller is an entirely different matter. So it’s really teaching how to live a real city life to those living in the provinces and those living in the city.

One indispensable aspect of a big city is its different varieties of food and its many languages

Fatih Türkmenoğlu: We really do now have some true metropolitan cities, such as İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, and even Adana. And in recent years, just as different foods’ aromas have begun to waft onto our sidewalks, you can also hear different languages being spoken. One indispensable aspect of a big city is its different varieties of food and its many languages. As I see it, being curious about others’ ways and wanting to add these to your own life does not mean the same thing as adopting these ways as your own. Americans have embraced Italian, Chinese and Japanese cuisines, and even Moroccan restaurants. A different taste gives a city more color. This is really how it is right now in my circles.

Tastes allow our palates to travel, too

Buket Uzuner: Some regional foods which you may have eaten as a child but then not tasted again for years can have the power to transport you back in time. Which is why foods that you eat while traveling can also take your mind on a journey. Certain tastes allow us to travel via our palates. Differences only wind up making humans all the wealthier in experience, and as our tastes become more refined, we learn to expect more of food than simply to become filled up… we learn to want pleasure from the food, too. The refinement in taste, care shown to cuisine, these are questions of manners, and as people become more cosmopolitan, these things develop. This is connected to the prosperity and freedom that are symbolized by cities and being a city-dweller. Taste and aesthetics are, like true love and true friendships, things which cannot be acquired with money.

Resource: Today’s Zaman

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