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.
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.
Remembering is an effort made against time and life that pass us by, against being forgotten and being forced to learn to forget. Sites of memory and museums defy oblivion and contribute to the construction of a future based on co-existence, equality and peace by making remembrance a collective undertaking.
Today there are many words that are subject to widespread censorship, words that are ‘inconvenient’ for or ‘go against the interests’ of those who hold political and/or economic power. However, even though racist propaganda is illegal according to various international documents – and quite rightly so – it is rare for racist discourse to be subjected to censorship: What is called ‘freedom of expression’ can also turn into the freedom to insult.
Shahidul Alam elaborates on the severe human rights violations and abuses in Bangladesh: ‘While we undeniably live in a climate of fear, the role of artists, journalists and prominent citizens is ever pertinent. Forms of resistance and pro-active actions through creative means, should surely have emanated from such citizens. Their conspicuous silence and their complicity in the face of injustice leaves behind a taste that is distinctly bitter.’
Cultures, regions and families across the world have their own style of dumplings. Dumplings are a local dish, heavy with tradition. Stuffing, wrapping and cooking this dish demands effort. It is not an instant meal, it’s a meal that requires time. It is a collaborative meal, often made with the cooperation of a few people. To me, all these features make dumplings the world’s most popular slow food!
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.