One meal, two cities, two languages, two women and two different stories: The word mantı, and everything about it reminds me of two different flavours: One is the joy of reward, and the other, even today, carries the residue and bitterness of sadness and regret.
Whatever its origins, dumplings are a universal dish. ‘Anywhere you find wheat, you will find people boiling it and eventually figuring out how to make thin sheets and either wrap fill, boil or bake them,’ says Ken Albala, Professor of History and Food Studies at the University of the Pacific.
№ ② Yıldız Horata
Yıldız Horata was among the participants of the Kayseri Dumpling Festival, organised by the Hrant Dink Foundation on 26 October 2019. She has spent years contemplating on the region’s multicultural cuisine, especially the culinary culture of Kayseri and its Armenians, and sharing what she has gathered with the new generations.
We can talk about an Istanbul cuisine today because of its adaptability, as Istanbul’s long-time inhabitants and its newer arrivals, regardless of when they came, share this common culture with an open mind: seeing, tasting, trying and exchanging recipes for the food each other eat, making it the same way or with some modification according to taste.
Turkish cookbooks published since the Republican era continue to include recipes for Tatar böreği, mantı, and its variations known by different names, prepared in different shapes and sizes, and cooked with different techniques in Turkey’s different regions.
Since 2020, the Hrant Dink Foundation has cast a spotlight on the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Turkey with its mobile application KarDes: Multicultural Memory Tour Guide, which also aims to disseminate multicultural stories that are often excluded from the official narrative.
Since the main ingredient is dough, everyone could put their own touch on hangel as if playing with playdough. The dough could be made thinner or thicker, filled or empty; it was topped with all kinds of ingredients; and based on the geographical conditions of the people making it, together with their cultural backgrounds, the dish took on different names and local flavours.
I believe that food tells us about the climate, migration, lifestyles (even modes of survival), economic conditions, innovations and traditions of communities and regions. Like every food, dumplings have diversified and adapted to the conditions of time and place in the Black Sea region.
As I grew from a child into a young man and got to know my butcher grandfather, grandmother, aunt and uncles better, I came to see that dumplings were not just a simple meal in their lives. It was practically an indispensable object in a sacred ritual that held the whole family together.
The Kourounlian, Avakian, and Batanian families, all originally from Cappadocia, have been using traditional methods to produce pastırma (cured spiced beef) in Greece for four generations. Their products are found in supermarkets, delicatessens, and small traditional grocers in the country, as well as across Europe and elsewhere around the world. A good meze, after all, knows no bounds.