UNESCO Decision Helps Start a Turkish-Armenian Food Fight
DIsputes over who was the first to cook a certain dish are not a new thing for Turkey and its neighbors. Of course, there is the ongoing argument over whether it was the Turks or the Greek Cypriots who invented baklava, or about who was the first in the neighborhood to stir coffee and lots of sugar in a pot of boiling water and serve it up in a demitasse.
Now it appears that UNESCO may have inadvertently helped start a whole new regional food fight, this time between Turkey and Armenia. Along with Korean traditional tightrope walking and Mexican Mariachi music, the UN body recently voted to add keskek, a traditional Anatolian stew usually served on the morning of weddings, to its "Intangible Heritage" list. The porridge-like stew, made of lamb or chicken cooked with wheat berries, is cooked in large cauldrons that can feed hundreds of hungry guests.
While Turks were probably firing up big pots of Keskek to celebrate UNESCO's decision, Armenians were crying foul. As ArmeniaNow.com reports:
One of the most popular dishes of the Armenian ethnic cuisine – harisa – has appeared this week on the UNESCO list of world heritage as a Turkish national dish called Keshkesk. The news has outraged many in Armenia.
Sedrak Mamulyan, heading Development and Preservation of the Armenian Culinary Traditions NGO, says harisa can absolutely not be Turkish.
“We have had two kinds of harisa: the harisa itself and kashika, which has been transformed by the Turks into keshkesh. Kashika is cooked in a tonir (cylindrical clay oven), and the fact that only Armenians have had in-ground tonirs excludes the possibility of this dish being Turkish. Turks never had tonirs,” he says.
Like most of these regional food fights, a resolution to the keskek/harisa dispute is probably not anywhere on the horizon (especially considering both Greek and Iranian cooking feature a similar dish). Meanwhile, in the video below (taken from YouTube's surprisingly large library of Turkish villagers making keskek), check out the residents of Uckoy making the dish for the masses: