Balat Istanbul Online
Syrian and Turkish Women
Neighbours in Balat
One of our priorities in designing the Cooking Up Dialogue sessions was to bring Syrian women and Turkish women together. We selected the neighbourhood of Balat, Istanbul as here both Turkish and Syrian women live together.
We planned to host these gatherings face-to-face in the spring of 2020, but due to Covid -19 pandemic we first postponed to the summer months and then reformulated as online gatherings.
Women who pass each other by at the bazaar or at the market do not have a chance to get to know each other because they are not in the same social group, or due to language difficulties and sometimes because of various pre-acceptances. We intended to provide an opportunity for them to meet each other, share their stories and realise their commonality.
While the intimate atmosphere that would be formed much faster in face-to-face gatherings started with a more timid and food-oriented online meeting, it was still provided with personal sharing, emotional expression, and smiling faces that increased towards the last meetings.
All participating women were very positive and open to differences, new tastes, and new friendships. Sometimes we talked about how different the local dishes are, sometimes how similar the food of two different countries is... We discovered a new spice or learned the secret to a cooking trick... Even though we couldn't be at the same table, the recipes were enough to share women's stories.
We talked about childhood memories and childhood feelings through meals usually learned from the mother and shared at large family tables. While we talked about how spicy the first meal one woman made for her mother-in-law was, or how much another missed the meals of her mother whom she left in her country, how one woman is reminded of her neighbour every time she makes the recipe she learned from her and how one woman felt inhaling the scent of a mother's meal coming from the street on her way home, we also talked about the feeling of trust and freedom, healthy days, peace, hope, and solidarity.
It was worthwhile to get two groups with different native languages together to try and understand each other in conversations that started timidly, (the timid start may have been because of the distance caused by being together online).
While Syrian women wanted to get to know Turkish women better, understand what they thought and felt, Turkish women also wanted to understand Syrians and discover their commonalities.
The meetings were also an opportunity for Syrian participants to be more comfortable when speaking Turkish.
Providing a social environment for women who could not leave their houses during the epidemic also had a positive effect.
Cooking Up Dialogue was a daring journey for people who would meet each other over the phone screens and open their kitchens and stories to the other side.
With our gratitude to all women who opened their kitchens and hearts on this brave journey...
Now our wish is to overcome the epidemic, come together at a common table and imagine a sincere smile on the faces of these women who only know each other from the phone screen. We imagine that they will now when they see each other in the marketplace...
Community Women of Balat