Oldways Culinarias are specially-designed, incredible week-long journeys that shine a spotlight on the intersection of culture and cuisine. We’ve just returned from Turkey, where with a group of 60, we traveled from historic Selcuk to Izmir and exotic Istanbul. The trip was long on cultural excursions (Ephesus, Ildiri, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi, the Blue Mosque, The Grand Bazaar and a cruise on the Bosphorus) and full of equally stellar culinary experiences (two cooking demonstrations by award-winning chef Ana Sortun of Oleana, Sarma and Sofra; dinners in a country hotel featuring a chef-sung serenade; meals under the sun in a winery and a small town courtyard; and lunch in the ever-amazing restaurant Ciya in the Kadikoy section of Istanbul). And much, much more.
In between all of these highlights, we enjoyed the company of people from the US and Turkey who love food and appreciate its place in history and its pleasure on the plate.
But now, after the end of a journey like this one to Turkey, I’m reﬂecting on its impact, beyond being a “pinch-me” vacation. At Oldways and Oleana we think about how to bring healthy, “real” eating to everyone’s kitchen and table. How can the pearls of wisdom (and the tastes of Selcuk, Izmir and Istanbul) we learned and experienced in Turkey inﬂuence our everyday meals back in the US?
This is also what I’ve thought about over the last two weeks while speaking at two separate events in New York City – the ﬁrst Mediterranean Diet Roundtable and the New York International Olive Oil Conference.
The old ways can be everyday ways. It takes some planning, but the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid can be the key to succeeding. When a panel of nutrition scientists updated the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid in 2008 they decided to put all the plant foods in one section of the Pyramid – the largest section – to highlight their lush variety and importance to good health (and to avoid playing favorites among these wonderful foods). The guide next to this section of the Pyramid says: “Base every meal on these foods.” Not all of them, of course, but these are the foods that should be the foundation of every meal. Start simply, if needed, look at cookbooks and websites for inspiration, commit to cooking, and focus on plants.
This, I believe, is the key to making the old ways an everyday way of savoring life.