Thanks to a wonderful event called Mediterranean Culinary Days (admirably organized by Adnan Sahin, the president of the Anatolian Folk Cuisine Association), I spent three days in Antakya (Antioch), a city in the province of Hatay, in Anatolia. There, the wind blows with abandon, sweeping this busy, cacaphonic spot free of dust. With a bustling center that smells of peppers and smoke, Antakya is a blend of old and new, where licorice tea is poured from brass urns worn on the backs of traditionally costumed vendors, and the sinuous market offers everything from peppers on strings to the latest Pink Martini CD.
The goal of this event was to showcase the gastronomic traditions of the Hatay region, and to share Mediterranean culinary influences among the group. I was there representing my adopted country, which I did by preparing four French dishes for a crowd. Teams from other Mediterranean countries, including Tunisia and Montenegro, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Spain and Lebanon, were there too. Together we learned and taught.
Hatay didn’t stint in its generosity as it portrayed its vividly flavored and colored gastronomic heritage that hearkens to the Ottoman empire, the Berbers, and a dozen cultures in between. We saw, we tasted, we listened, we experienced the depth of an ancient culture that is fully present in the 21st century.
Aside from tasting and seeing so many rich gastronomic emblems of Hatay and the Mediterranean, the blend of cultures in this lively crowd said one thing. Through sharing our cuisines and sitting together at table we not only get along, we do it deliciously!