Almost 4 weeks we spent on the road this time, starting in Ankara where we picked up our car and moving on to Corum, Zile, Turhal, Sivas, Tokat, Kahramanmaras, Antakya, Malatya, Kemaliye, back to Sivas and Tokat again, then Kastamonu, and up to our beloved Sinop on the Black Sea (where we ate the fish stew pictured above), and then finally back to Ankara, where dropped off our car -- odometer reading some 3,000+ kilometers more than when we picked it up -- and caught a flight back to Istanbul.
It was one amazing trip. We revisited favorite places (Corum and Tokat and Sinop and Kastamonu, especially), and met up with old friends, and ate favorite dishes. In Antakya, we worked, spending a couple days in a village learning about pomegranate molasses. We watched the pomegranates go from tree to bottle -- an incredibly laborious, time-consuming process that caused me to shake my head in disbelief when our host said that many Turks balk at spending 20 lira for a 1-liter bottle of the stuff. I spent alot of one of those days helping the village ladies seed the pomegranates by hand; by the time we returned to our room that evening my back was aching and my hands were black from holding the halved fruit in one palm as I used a rod to tap out its seeds. Most of the women I worked with spend days, weeks even, a year doing the same thing. They should be charging $50, not $10, per liter.
Before we hit the road we spent a week in Sapanca, a town about 2 hours by car from Istanbul, where Dave co-taught a photography and cooking workshop with Olga Irez, who writes the Delicious Istanbul food blog. We -- Dave, Olga, Olga's husband Ozgur and I -- had been planning for the workshop since January, and we all had a bit of stage fright right up until the workshop's 8 participants and 3 non-participating partners arrived on a Monday evening. In the end, the week was more wonderful than I think any of us could have hoped for.
We were a diverse group -- a Canadian travel blogger, a Croatian living and working in Oxford, England, a Russian-Canadian Bangkokian, two Indian Singaporeans, a South African food and travel writer and her Dutch husband, an Australian travel blogger and her husband, and two Americans. Ages ranged from (I'm guessing) late 20s to late 60s. Some new to Turkey, some not. Somehow, we all clicked.
Over 4.5 days we visited a couple of markets, spent a morning on a small farm watching cheese be made and baking bread in a wood oven, wandered a lovely old Black Sea town, rode 4-wheel drives to a high plateau where a hermit and his wife entertained us with music and then to the top of a mountain where a shepherd tended sheep to the backdrop of golden late afternoon light illuminating a sweeping view of hills and sea. Many photographs were taken. Much delicious food was cooked and eaten. (And yes, some beer and raki and wine was drunk too.) We laughed A LOT.
At the end of the week, after our last dinner together, we watched a slideshow, 10 images selected by each participant. Given the quality of the work put forward by these folks, most of whom would probably call themselves amateurs, Dave felt a bit like a proud father. The next day we all parted as friends. All in all, a pretty wonderful experience.
We're planning a repeat workshop, maybe two, for Spring 2014 -- which we'll announce within the next couple of weeks here, on Dave's photo blog and on his photography Facebook page, on Twitter and on EatingAsia's Facebook page. In the meantime, Dave has written about and shared some photographs of the workshop -- have a look at the shortened slideshow of participants' work, at the bottom of the post, and see if you don't agree with my kudos. Olga has thrown up a few workshop posts (with a recipe or two) on her own blog. A few participants have shared impressions of the week on their own blogs: here, here, here and here. You can see more work by participants on their Flickr streams, here, here and here.
Whew! That's a lot of linking. A few more:
Last spring, while Dave and I were on a dream assignment on the Turkish Aegean, I got a call from an editor at Wall Street Journal Asia, asking if we'd be interested in another dream assignment: eating and photographing in Istanbul. (This sort of thing happens, like, never, by the way.) At any rate, the resulting piece, on eating "beyond the kebab" in Istanbul, was a great opportunity to promote cooks and restaurants who who serve up regional and seasonal fare. Read the article here. Do not view Dave's accompanying slideshow on an empty stomach. Share with anyone you know who's heading to Turkey's most touristed city. Kebabs are great but really -- there is so much more to Turkish food.
The week before this article came out WSJ published another, on the Istanbul chefs behind what's been called "New Turkish" or "New Anatolian" cuisine. We ate at one of the more popular restaurants mentioned in the article and left disappointed (and with the taste of old oil -- from a deep-fried dessert -- in our mouths). It may have been an off night, and it was our first and only experience there, so I won't say which one.
But Dave's workshop partner Olga who's been eating in Istanbul for a few years now and has become a formidable cook of Turkish food herself, has an interesting take on all the hubbub over Istanbul's recent culinary revival. You can read it here. I can't agree more with this sentiment:
We are still publishing EatingTurkey, a tumblr with short, 1 or 2-photo food posts from our road trips (and a bit of Istanbul). It's off and on, more on when we're there than when we're here in Penang ... but we've got a bit of material up from these recent 7 weeks. View it here.
And Dave's thrown up a first bunch of photos from our 4-week road trip, some food and some not but all pretty great (yeah, I'm biased), on his blog SkyBlueSky, here.
In August a Portland, Oregon radio station aired an interview with me about road tripping and eating regionally in Turkey. The interview is about 3 minutes long, and you can listen via the MP3 below.
In July we spent a very short 6 days in Taipei, a city that too few foodies appreciate. When we returned to Penang I penned -- in 3 days, record time for me -- a feature story for the September issue of Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia. It's accompanied by Dave's mouthwatering photographs, and you can read it here.
I penned an ode to George Town for the August issue of Malaysia Airlines' Going Places magazine. Here's a pdf of the piece, accompanied by Dave's photographs (which are, unfortunately, miscaptioned. These things happen.)
I'm still writing a regular column on street food in Asia for Wall Street Journal Asia. I don't usually announce it here on EatingAsia when a column goes up, but all to date can be viewed here. Recently I've written on som tam as a technique and flavor profile, not a dish, and the joy of tofu, in all its various street food incarnations around southeast Asia. Anything you'd be interested in seeing me cover in the column? Leave a comment below.
Finally -- and congratulations if you've made it this far -- Dave and I are pondering the possibility of staging a worshop, for a maximum of 4 to 6 participants and with a bit more emphasis on photography than the workshops in Sapanca (but with plenty of delicious food) in Turkey next autumn away from Istanbul, in an photogenic region that we have come to adore. No details on that yet, but if it sounds like something you might be interested in knowing about please drop me (email@example.com) or Dave (firstname.lastname@example.org) an email. As with the Sapanca workshop -- all photographers welcome, amateur to professional.
That should do it for now. It's good to be home. Now to get back to regular posting.....