Turkish gastronomy at the ITEF Festival

This weekend was a whirlwind of events. Saturday started off with breakfast at the Consul General‘s residence in Arnavutkoy, followed by my Turkish class at ITI, and then catching up on Turkish dizi (TV series) in the evening. On Sunday morning, I attended the Istanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival (#ITEF), followed by re-discovering Hayri Usta Ocakbasi in Taksim and checking out Cihangir’s newest cafe, Geyik Coffee Roastery & Cocktail Bar.

As a wrap-up to the weekend, I thought I’d write a bit about the ITEF festival run by Kalem Literary Agency. My roommate Nazli (couchsurfer extraordinaire, polyglot and professional literary agent) works at Kalem Agency, and it is always a treat to attend one of the agency’s events. This past fall Gurkan and I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 ITEF festival opening at the Austrian Consulate. Although many of the  talks were in German, we were happy to be in good company in a gorgeous building with a variety of refreshments on hand.

This year the ITEF festival was moved to the spring, and I was only able to make it to a couple of events due to my work schedule. I did however get a chance to make it out to Caddebostan today for the the food literature events. I caught the tail end of Evliya Celebi Seyahatnamesi’nde Yemek Kulturu (Food Culture in Evliya Celebi’s Seyahatname) as well as Anadolu Yemekler ve Ritueller (Anatolian Food and Rituals). Among the things I learned were: hamsi was known as hapsi in the Seyahatname, the many regional variations of preparing keskek, and of course, I came home with a new list of Turkish words to study, all related to Turkish gastronomy.

Gurkan and I each picked out a book from the ITEF book tent for further reading. I chose Ilhan Eksen’s Istanbul’un Tadi Tuzu: Saray Sofralarindan Sokak Yemeklerine. I decided if I am going to make myself read Turkish on a regular basis, I should at least be reading something that interests me, and this one covers it all: from palace spreads to street food (Did I mention that Nazli is determined to turn me into a Turkish to English translator?). Gurkan chose Dengeli Demlenme ve Raki Mezeleri a recipe book for raki-meze night by the same author. I’ve already marked the recipes I want him to try and he’s determined that he can make topik (an Armenian meze dish made out of chickpeas and spices). From the topik I’ve seen and tasted in Istanbul’s meyhanes, I’m afraid it might not be an easy dish to recreate.

After a late afternoon lunch on Taksim’s backstreets, we poured over our new ‘foodie’ books at Geyik where we ended the day with iced lattes shaken martini-style and topped with shaved chocolate. Double yum.


A snapshot inside the Austrian Consulate at the 2013 ITEF Festival – the numerous hangers were part of an art exhibit


A presentation on Anatolian food traditions at the 2014 ITEF Festival


ITEF’s weekend events at the Caddebostan seaside


I couldn’t help but take a picture of this guy outside the event


The seaside on a rainy Istanbul afternoon


Nazli (@nazligurkas) at Kalem Agency’s office in Asmalimescit



A Ramshackle Modernity

A Ramshackle Modernity – That’s the name of the NY Times book review on the newly released English translation of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s The Time Regulation Institute. I was surprised to see my Turkish Studies friends sharing this article on their Facebook newsfeeds – it seemed almost too good to be true. As I graduate student at Sabanci University, I had searched for the original English translation of Tanpinar’s Time Regulation Institute long and hard. From what I could tell, there had been an earlier translation but it hadn’t been widely circulated and most people that I talked to didn’t know it even existed. Imagine my surprise when I found out through a simple web search that it was no other than a Madison-based press (Turko-Tatar press) run by a UW-Madison professor that had put the translation out. What an irony I thought. It had been right under my nose for four years and I hadn’t had the slightest clue of its existence. Imagine my horror when I realized that the Turko-Tatar’s website hadn’t been updated since 2007, and the likeliness of every obtaining a copy seemed to fade, especially now that I was in Istanbul and living on a student’s stipend. I decided to settle for Tanpinar’s better known novel, Huzur, and ordered up a copy of it’s English translation, A Mind at Peace, from one of the large Turkish booksellers. They delivered it to my door one summer in Bursa, but that summer was unbearably hot, and I couldn’t find a cool place to sit and enjoy the novel, a novel that required quite a bit from its reader. Sadly, I set aside the book in exchange for a lighter, easier summer read. I thought my ties with Tanpinar’s work had been severed.

By the time I graduated and returned to the US, the quest for an English copy of Tanpinar’s Time Regulation Institute was a distant memory. I tucked my copy of A Mind at Peace away in my antique traveling chest, and felt a slight pang of guilt everytime it caught my eye. After all, I had given up about 3/4 the way through – rarely, do I leave a book unfinished.  I would have altogether forgotten about the other, more desired book, The Time Regulation Institute, had it not been for the recent review in the NY Times. Blindsided by the review, memories came tumbling back. I told anyone and everyone about the article and the new translation. Surprisingly, some of my Turkish friends hadn’t ever heard of the book. Most knew Tanpinar but had no idea any of his books had been translated into English. Luckily, the book’s translation had Maureen Freely’s name on it, and I knew I was in for a treat. I downloaded the book the day it was released… and now.. I am just waiting for the right time to start the first page. This one deserves the perfect timing. I’ve been waiting for almost 4 years, and I’ll wait a few more days.

Fun Fact: Kalem Agency, the company where my roommate, Nazli, works supplied the photo for the NY Times article!tanpinar