Turkish cuisine serves as culinary bridge on Capitol Hill


Türkiye’s rich and diverse culinary landscape served as a pivotal connector Tuesday in bringing together US lawmakers, dignitaries, prominent members of the Turkish American community and officials.

Addressing the eclectic crowd as they dined on Turkish staples including sigara boregi, dolma and baba ganoush, Representative Pete Sessions said the US-Turkish relationship is “one of the most important that we share” in the international community.

“America wants to be important to Turkey, and I know that the Turkish people want Turkey to be important to the United States. Increasingly, as this world finds tension, it is important that our two countries find commonalities, commonalities that take place in this room, not only with friendships, but also best wishes, or outcomes that will be in everyone’s best interest,” the Republican lawmaker from Texas who hosted the night’s event said.

“We invited you to the House of Representatives, where we can not only show off your cuisine, but to make sure that each and every one of you know that as we sit back today, the world is a better place because people want it to be better,” he added.

In addition to the dining options, guests were afforded the opportunity to taste varieties of Turkish coffee and were able to view an exhibit of world-renowned micro artist Hasan Kale’s works depicting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic.

Hasan Murat Mercan, Ankara’s envoy to Washington, said gastrodiplomacy “is one of the leading aspects of nations’ soft power” and a “strong representation of a nation’s cultural identity.”

“It builds bridges between people and reinforces mutual understanding. For that reason, in addition to introducing the Turkish recipes for our guests, this event is also particularly important to raise awareness of the rich historical and cultural background of our cuisine,” he said. “Turkish cuisine is an accumulation and reflection of different ethnicities who lived in Anatolia for centuries.”

Speaking exclusively to Anadolu after the event’s conclusion, Gamze Cizreli, the keynote speaker and founder of Big Chefs, a restaurant group with over 100 locations worldwide and thousands of employees, emphasized the importance of gastrodiplomacy, saying Türkiye “should be more proactive” in the field.

Cizreli, who hails from the city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Türkiye, said the country boasts “a great gastronomical culture,” including the world’s oldest kitchens in the famed 12,000-year-old archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe, and should use that history to bring people worldwide closer together.

“Just sharing food and sitting around the table is getting more important every year, because, as I told you, it’s more than just sharing the culture and winning hearts through gastronomy. At the same time, dining out is getting higher and higher in terms of economic growth,” she said, pointing to cultural and culinary advances that Italy made in the past.

“We have to be more proactive to show our tastes and show our cuisine more,” she added.

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