Simran Sethi Takes Us On an Eating Tour of Istanbul

By on November 13, 2012

Our globe trotting friend, Simran Sethi finds herself in Turkey, eating her way through, as is her wont, and bringing us access to a Turkish site that can help you plan your next trip to Istanbul, a city where you should – if nothing else – go for the food. thanks for pointing the way Simran. With Istanbul in my sights for a 2013 visit, you’ve given me a culinary passport to the city. Thanks.

Eating Your Way Through Istanbul

Istanbul food shops beckon

Author: Simran Sethi

For Ansel Mullins, food is a passport. It is a means of understanding and supporting the culture of place that happens to occur through the senses. This isn’t to say that food isn’t important. Ansel is the co-founder of Istanbul Eats, the recent winner of the 2012 SAVEUR award for Best Culinary Travel Blog. He and his co-founder Yigel Schleifer have spent a combined 12 years eating their way through Istanbul, Turkey, highlighting what Ansel describes as “super-local, small craftsman, more traditional cuisine.”

I met Ansel during the Istanbul Migrant Kitchen Taste of Cameroon, an event co-sponsored by Istanbul Eats and the International Organization for Migration as part of IOM’s broader event on migration and intercultural exchange. Ansel is no stranger to migration: the Chicago native and his girlfriend (now wife) embarked on their journey to Istanbul over a decade ago, propelled by a desire to live an adventure.

Ansel Mullins, co-author of Istanbul Eats

Although he now speaks fluent Turkish, his expat status has served to benefit Ansel’s culinary inquiries. “Being a foreigner has given me a different kind of access. It has allowed me to make certain kinds of mistakes and approach people with a naïveté. I can ask questions [natives] couldn’t and apologize for my ignorance.” This curiosity serves readers well, allowing access to a far more intimate experience of Turkish history, culture, and food. “Travel allows you to expand your palate,” Ansel explains.

The site is written in English, and was started as a response to what wasn’t being said about Turkish food. “The articles [we read] were incomplete pictures. We were experiencing all these really great meals close to cooks, culinary traditions—and what threatened [their existence]. We wanted to tell those stories.”

And they have. Compelling and deliciously. For Ansel and Istanbul Eats, food is “the narrative of the city.” Ansel and his colleagues not only know the food; they know the culture. “You have to be local to know the bigger story.” What began as a site for expats and travelers has expanded into a platform for explorations about the impacts of globalization on local food, relationships built through food, and ways in which eating can buttress small-scale restaurants and culinary traditions. “By supporting the unsung heroes of traditional food cultures, we hope to sustain these traditions. We think of Istanbul Eats as a tool for some good.”

About Simran Sethi