I was born and raised in Turkey. When I was younger, we, as an extended family, used to spend our summer vacations in the Greek Islands belong to our neighbor country. The main theme of our vacations was the cuisine. Or basically, just eating delicious foods and drinking.

To the ones who are not very familiar with them, Turkey and Greece are known for the never-ending political conflict that is rooted in Roman Empire Era, continued in Ottoman Empire-era and present in the Republic of Turkey and disseminated in the mundane lives of the people from both cultures. Ridiculously, this conflict is even reflected in the cuisine and foods. What Greeks call “Tzatziki” is called as “Cacik” by Turks, “Mousakka” as “Musakka”, “Dolmades” and “Dolma”, “Fasulada” and “Fasulye”. The recipes, appearance, and tastes are almost the same, but the origins of the foods are always a “blood feud” between Greece and Turkey. However, what people cannot see is, the origin is the same since these two countries have been united under one empire’s rule for ages.

Since this dilemma is not specific to Greece and Turkey, when I applied for the CHI fellowship, even though I did not know with whom I am going to encounter along the way, I knew that I want to create a project related to food and migration. I was fortunate enough to find out that my two other fellows, Marwa Bakabas and Sari Saba-Sadiya were eager to work on migration and food, as well. So we united as a group and expanded the scope of the project from our personal experiences, observations, and migration stories that we cross over to a visual library of migration of the food that includes the historical, cultural, socioeconomic, and political backgrounds of the food and based on oral histories, manuscript cookbooks, photos from our personal archives, partner organizations. Since it is a shared project, I do not want to steal the thunder of my fellow if they like to tell more about the project, but instead, I’d like to construct a background why I, like many other scholars working on sociology of the food, found the food and eating habits really important.

Food and eating habits are the fundamental mechanisms of how migrated people define themselves in a new setting. For instance, Martinez[1] (2016) explored how, why and through which ways comienda bien – eating good, feels “right” among Latino immigrants who lives in San Francisco. Here, comienda bien, refers to eating culturally, socially, emotionally, and contextually healthy in terms of ethnic backgrounds of the migrants. In addition, comienda bien, serves as a transnational time/space travel machine that brings the cultural remittances from home to migrated spaces. Despite most of the ingredients, recipes, and eating habits may have lost along the way, the performances of cooking the right foods whose recipes are thought by their ancestors, eating, and serving help the migrated people to cope with liminality and create a sense of belongingness in transnational spaces.  This might be one of the many reasons why we picked Greece over other places for our summer vacations: Yes, we were looking for “comienda bien”.

Hence, I started to wonder how do the sense of belongingness provided by the food and personal experiences of migration combine, how do ethnic foods belong to ‘home’ change over migration and migrated generations, how do they help migrants and transnational subjects to adapt, cope, and carry the transnational food over generations as well as how they evolve and transform, and how do these interrogations become visual, digital, and accessible by the individuals as the sources of the knowledge, scholars, and beyond academic spheres. I am in the hope that, with our final project, while we are learning from each others’ experience, we will also achieve these goals.

Until getting our project done, I am leaving the cookbook archive of MSU library here that may capture your interest.

[1] Martínez, A. D. (2016). Comiendo bien: The production of Latinidad through the performance of healthy eating among Latino immigrant families in San Francisco. Symbolic Interaction39(1), 66-85.