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8 November 2014  |  0 comment  |  Zeynep Bakir

Taste Keepers

Maybe you have heard the term 'palate cracking' many times from Mehmet Yaşin, who tracks down taste.

Taste Keepers

Personally, I would find this metaphor a bit exaggerating. What can you eat that is really extraordinary. But, it seems there are really things that can crack your palate with taste. Besides, there is no need to go far away for this too. It came all the way here back then, with Sefarats.  Its name is borekitas. I don't know how to tell it. You see, it's the kind of taste that words just can't describe. Ala Fırın owner Petek Çırpılı says there is roasted eggplant and curd cheese in it, but I believe there is a secret ingredient that she just won't reveal. 

Petek Çırpılı is a special name. Her happy zone in life is tasty foods. She also names herself the keeper of traditional tastes. She holds meetings called Kuzine 34 at the ground floor of her home in Kuzguncuk; meetings that sail to the depths of gourmet food. Those who wonder can follow Kuzine 34 from its Facebook page. And Ala Fırın is where the traditional İstanbul tastes she cooks for Sahi are prepared. 

Now, let's move on to my questions and Mrs. Petek's answers... 

- You are interested in food but not only in cooking and handing out recipes, I see... 

I am interested in many subjects like food history, sociological place of food, its cultural value, effects of belief systems on food. 

- You just said kitchens 'that are not afraid of trying'... Don't kitchens have strict rules?

No; all the things we eat today had been discovered by accident, aren't they? But the experience of the past is important. If a couple of ingredients are grown in the same land but did not end up in the same pot, it means they are already incompatible. Thyme and peppermint don't go well together because both have very strong aromas. Aroma that tries to get to the top in your mouth is not a good one. Now there are other experiments; for example, the food is cold when you put it in your mouth, but gets hot when you chew it. But there are no fantastic things like this in traditional cuisine. 


Are you just a person who is interested in the traditional? 

I believe in the wisdom of cuisine that has been refined through centuries. I believe it shouldn't be lost but it is. There are reasons of course, life is getting faster. The moment wisdom is lost, it is gone and no one turns to look at books again. So I dedicated myself to create curiosity about it and preserve it. I call myself the 'taste keeper.' 

What makes your pastry special? 

It must be my Don Quixote streak. I am not interested in what people think, what they want. My own taste is important. I am after natural tastes. When you bite anything that comes out of my kitchen, you are face to face with real taste. This is an experience no one can have in the daily routine. 

You are talking about chemicals? 

Especially in pastries... There is a very big industry that makes life easier for pastry chefs and decreases costs; and all pastry chefs use this industry. Cream powder, sour cherry syrup, thickeners and many more. None of them interest me. I am after where I can find the best raw sugar. 

What are you cooking in Ala Fırın for Sahi displays?

Sahi is a place that tracks down İstanbul, and also Anatolia. And I am after traditional tastes as well. This intersection made both sides happy. Of course, we are familiar with İstanbul tastes. There are also old tastes from Anatolia but we consider all of them as food that gather in İstanbul. Since İstanbul is a place where people from all nationalities have stayed throughout history, the pot becomes truly large. So we did our homework and selected 40 beautiful products from that pot. 

Is borekitas among them? 

Of course! Borekitas is a food of the sefarads that arrived at this land in 1492. It has belonged to this land for 500 hundred years. We will present the products we select in Sahi, considering their seasonality. 

Forgotten foods... That's how people forgot about the foods they constantly cooked and the foods couldn't make it to this day...

By not cooking them... I believe they have been forgotten for the past 30-40 years, ever since fast moving consumer habits have entered the country... People used to cook those foods when large tables were set, feasts were given in public holidays. But cuisine knowledge is thankless, if you don't cook you forget, you also lose your craft as well, and you cannot give the recipe to anyone since you don't cook it. 

What is the best side of cooking? 

Very little number of people cook for themselves. Food is cooked for others, and we say 'may your hands have health'. The only motivation is the foods to be liked, appreciated and eaten with appetite. 

Talking balloon: When I left Ala Fırın, I ate the borekitas I wrapped in a napkin on the road. I was too much of a grown-up to go back and fill my pockets with what's left in the bowl on the table. It seems one loses so much by growing up!

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