March 2016

Gaziantep, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy

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Claudia Roden, the Symposium’s President, reports on recognition recently given to Gaziantep’s culinary heritage

Those of us who were present at the 2012 Symposium when the theme was Wrapped and Stuffed enjoyed a fantastic Gaziantep lunch. You will be interested and happy to hear that UNESCO has invited the Turkish city to become a member of their Creative Cities Network in the field of Gastronomy (other fields are Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Literature, Media Arts and Music). It is a huge honour.

On the 20th of February I was among the guests at the gala dinner at the Çırağan Palace in Istanbul to celebrate the occasion. Oxford symposiasts Ken Albala, Charles Perry, Alicia Rios, Aglaia Kremezi and Aylin Öney Tan were there too.

Gaziantep is on the border with Syria, near Aleppo. When the cooks from Gaziantep brought us the Symposium feast, their city was already hosting the first great wave of Syrian refugees. It now has a staggering 400,000 refugees, most of them inside the city itself. Despite this heavy social and economic burden the city has managed to remain economically and culturally dynamic – it has opened a culinary education centre to protect their culinary culture.

Both delicate and famously hot and spicy, Gaziantep cuisine is the richest and most varied in Turkey, combining as it does rustic foods of the Anatolian heartlands, and legacies from the Ottoman courts and of the Arab world (it was once part of Syria). Those of you who have the Gaziantep cookery book, A Taste of Sun and Fire edited by Aylin Öney Tan (she gave it away at the Symposium) do try the recipes and raise a glass to the city.