We were sitting in the garden of Kuytu Restaurant. There was a smile on the face of my oldest daughter Ceylan put by the rice with artichoke which Mrs Yaprak cooked for us. I glanced over the table; stuffed chards, purslane with yoghurt, Circassian chicken (chicken stuffed with walnut sauce), salad with strawberries, Izmir style rice, and stuffed squash blossoms... With a smile put on my face too, I was grateful that I was brought up in a place with such a nice culinary culture.
Both my job and my passion for gastronomy took me to the restaurants all over the world. Through my numerous experiences at different restaurants, I saw the thing called globalization has long taken over the kitchens. It is true that the globalization has several advantages. But it has such a downside that takes away all the excitement from the trips. Wherever you may go now, you will always get the same kind of food! It has become real annoying to make a visit to a restaurant in a far country and see that it is just the copy of a popular cuisine especially the Italian and the French cuisines, and check the menus filled with the same familiar terms, and finally realizing you’re trapped in the cage of “so-called, artificial international culinary culture”. However such cuisines, once different and attractive, have become the kind of toys that we’re bored of playing every day and hence, left in a far corner of the house. I think, at this point, the “local cuisine” expression seems to be the best choice in the menu.
That is why I opted in without any hesitation and with indescribable excitement when the owner of the restaurant and also my friend Cengiz Uziş said “We will arrange a Vanishing Tastes Festival. The recipes boxed in our houses will be set free and make it to our dinner tables. Are you in?”
The idea was born out of a conversation between Cengiz and Gökçen Adalar. As Cengiz saw the exhibition of the Adar’s archive covering hundreds of kitchen appliances and numerous books shedding a light on the Aegean cuisine, he understood such a task would be an ordeal for them and shouldered this responsibility with the help of Celal Uysal. From then on, Cengiz has been set to revive the recipes which has started to vanish because they are not duly transferred to the new generations, and make them known throughout the world.
In keeping with this idea, they formed a team to visit every house to collect the recipes writing them down on papers. They are still in the process of organizing the festival with several additional activities to offer these old recipes to the visitors.
The reason the festival is called “international” is that besides it will be featuring globally known chefs, the people of our neighboring country across the Aegean Sea, as excited as the Turkish, will be giving a helping hand to the festival. As a result of the collaboration with Chios and Cretan, the festival will successfully turn Alaçatı into an attention center for the Levantines who are interested in the issue as well as the Greek taste hunters. Considering the attention from the other cities too, we plan on organizing a similar festival in Gaziantep and Hatay.
Of course our main concern is that the festival should not be limited to these three days. It is important to take a concrete step for the continuity of the festival. In order to do that, we will select 15 recipes as the jury and hand them out to 15 local restaurants that we trust in. With the reserve of recipes growing every year, we will be witnessing how a culture will rise from its ashes.
I believe it is mostly possible with gastronomy for Turkey, especially the Aegean region to get bigger in the tourism sector. It looks like the center of such a move will be Alaçatı with the successful chefs who comes from that vicinity, plus its dazzling beauty.
For this purpose, nowadays people are trying to pull off a nice job in our cute town; with heart, perseverance, loyalty and love… Alaçatı appreciates the value of the dishes, the products of a culture served for the dinners by the residents of the stone houses like Nurdan Hanım, Zübeyde Hanım or Sibel Hanım. And these values will be journeying the whole country riding the strong winds of Alaçatı.
Hoping to see you all at the festival that Alaçatı will be hosting between 6th and 8th of June.
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…