Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Culinary and Earthquake Diplomacy

This New York Times article's main focus is on the symbolism of a Turkish restaurant established at a newly opened mall in Athens...and the relative success it has enjoyed as Greek patrons enjoy dining there:

All is definitely not forgiven, but a warmer climate between Greece and Turkey is showing up in the daily lives of Greeks. From pricey stores to growing tourism, from belly dancing to a Turkish television show popular here with its Romeo-and-Juliet theme played out by a Greek man and a Turkish woman, cultural barriers are eroding here. Such things are changing faster, perhaps, than the political differences that still divide the two nations.

What Greeks say they are learning in this glasnost of food, fashion and travel is that, for good and bad, much still unites the two countries — one at the edge of Europe, the other at the edge of Asia.

Both share a fascination for baklava and the stuffed leaves known as dolmades. And then there is kokoretsi (if you are Greek) or kokorec (if you are Turkish). Both nations claim this dish — lamb intestines, heart, liver and lungs or kidneys, or both.

The Turkish version is on the menu at Tike, an upscale chain restaurant popular in Turkey, and now doing well in Greece, too.

“Turkish food is very close to our tradition,” said Alexandros Louvaris, 37, a prominent Greek businessman who opened the restaurant in northern Athens two years ago with Turkish partners and 11 imported Turkish chefs and other employees. “O.K., so we had the Turks here for 400 years. Some things stayed.”

Aside from cuisine (which, like music, art, fashion and general culture is often leaps and bounds ahead in helping build bridges among people and nations), the article highlights other elements of what clever political scientists would call "Soft Power" which are at work beginning a slight warming of rleations between Greeks and Turks.

But the changes are broader. They began in many ways in 1999, when a pair of earthquakes — one in Turkey, one in Greece — spurred mutual rescue teams and sympathy.

The “earthquake diplomacy” was followed by a rise in tourism: 540,000 Greeks visited Turkey in 2005, up from 350,000 in 2001 (though the number dropped last year to 480,000, after several attacks in Turkey and worries about the Iraq war, tourism officials say).

I found this reference to "earthquake diplomacy" to be timely, as I first heard of it just a few days ago. A colleague drew the parallel between 1999's "earthquake diplomacy" with the tragedy of Hrant Dink's assasination which seemed (seemed) to have brought Armenians and Turks together- if for a moment. It's unfortunate to realize that sadness and tragedy are often the impetus to bring people together. Nonetheless, a shared sentiment is a shared sentiment, and the first way to feel connected to other human beings is to recognize that they are more similar than different from you.


Evangelia said...

Anoush, maybe it's the wine- but i'm pretty sure i always smile this much when i realize how amazing what you're doing is :)

miss you, but glad i miss you doing what you're doing.

Iman said...

Dear Anoush
Human race is in a critical phase of its history. It is being unified. Good or bad, welcomed or not, that is happening. people are more and more being categorized as "who they are" rather than "where they were born". Those who realize the change can win tomorrow, and those who can not realize the winds of change will be left far in dust. As I wrote you earlier, "Nationalism" and "Religion" are going to lose their clustering influence on nations rapidly. Busch, Bin laden, Ahmadi Nejad, and many others do not want such changes. But regardless of what they want, and what they are doing, the future is there for those who think of new nations. Nations based not on genes and bloods, but based on thoughts and ideas.