International Alert has launched a new initiative with the Caucasus Business and Development Network (CBDN) called ‘Recipes for Peace’. Its aim is to challenge negative narratives about the Turkish–Armenian conflict and promote long-term reconciliation between these communities by discovering and celebrating the strong similarities in their culinary tastes and traditions.
The project was inspired by research conducted by CBDN’s offices in Kars (Turkey) and Gyumri (Armenia), which revealed that there are a large number of recipes that were and are still cooked on the both sides of the border.
Recipes for Peace will connect Turkish and Armenian culinary professionals with ordinary women in the regions adjacent to Kars and Gyumri, collecting their recipes and the stories behind them. Public events will also bring together public and local authorities to share recipes and memories of cultural traditions from the two communities and, in doing so, explore and celebrate the commonalities and differences between them.
During our first field trip to the Shirak region in Armenia, CBDN representatives together with Turkish and Armenian culinary professionals visited homes in 10 different villages to talk with local cooks about the project, taste their recipes and hear their stories. They found that food encapsulates not only nourishment but an entire culture and history of its own, and triggers nostalgia for bygone days.
Those interviewed were more than willing to share their experiences of what cooking means for them and their heritage, speaking of the recipes handed down from generation to generation. Next month we will be organising a corresponding trip to Kars in Turkey.
International Alert and CBDN have been working on promoting dialogue and regional cooperation among the business communities in the South Caucasus and Turkey (Kars) since 2002, and Recipes for Peace is a new and exciting part of this effort.
In Turkey and Armenia, most of our work involves engaging with people in the border regions. This includes working with the business communities to organise study trips and business forums in Gyumri, Kars and Trabzon, promoting Turkish–Armenian business relations and cooperation. Our goal is to gain increased support for Turkish–Armenian cooperation in both communities and encourage people to see the value of change over confrontation.