International Alert and Caucasus Business and Development Network (CBDN) partners – Gyumri Development Foundation (Armenia) and Kars Urban and Culture Research Association (Turkey) – have launched a new initiative: “Recipes for Peace.”
Its aim is to challenge negative narratives about Turkish–Armenian relations by exploring the emotional and cultural experience of preparing and sharing food, and by identifying the traditions, practices and stories associated with cuisine, which are common to both cultures. The project brings together culinary experts from both sides of the border to taste the dishes cooked in different villages, visit the homes where they are cooked, and hear the stories behind them.
The first field trip was organized in October 2014 to the Shirak region in Armenia. CBDN representatives together with Turkish and Armenian culinary professionals visited homes in 10 different villages to talk with local cooks about the project, taste their recipes and hear their stories. Those interviewed were more than willing to share their experiences of what cooking means for them and their heritage, speaking of the recipes handed down from generation to generation. It was highlighted that:
Food encapsulates not only nourishment but also an entire culture and history of its own, and triggers nostalgia for bygone days
In December 2014, a second field trip was organized to Kars in Turkey. The programme for the trip was designed to capture the multicultural setting of the Kars region, incorporating visits to the different ethnic groups who reside there, including Azeris, Kurds, Terekeme and Yerlis. Over the course of the five-day trip, culinary professionals from Armenia and Turkey visited more than 10 kitchens in different locations, including households and restaurants in the Kars city centre and villages across the wider region. The variety of different contexts visited on the trip was reflected in the diverse range of dishes cooked, just a few of which included lahana sarması (stuffed cabbage – pictured above), pishi (fried dough), evelik corbaci (sorrel soup) and et kavurmasi (chopped roast beef)
As well as visiting kitchens, the team also spent time talking to different people in many of the towns and villages, especially those close to the border with Armenia. The local people we met proved to be extremely open to the idea and were excited to engage in the project activities. The trip verified that:
Food can demonstrate a common language that brings people together
We are documenting the process to produce a documentary film and disseminate the peacebuilding message of this cross-conflict culinary initiative to the wider Turkish and Armenian public. The film will aim to open viewers’ eyes to the possibility of peaceful collaboration and positive relations between Armenian and Turkish people, based on shared understanding and common values, contrasting with the atmosphere of tension felt between the societies.
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