A year ago, Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin made waves when he published a book that claimed that immigrants were making Germany a dumber society and accused them of having lower levels of education, perhaps even due to hereditary reasons. The publication of the book, "Germany Does Itself In," led to his resignation and to widespread condemnation.
Sarrazin may have moved on, but it appears that Berlin's large Turkish community has not forgotten him and his book. From Der Spiegel:
"Get lost!" and "Nazis out!" were among the epithets lobbed at controversial author Thilo Sarrazin during a recent trip to Berlin's Kreuzberg district, according to newspaper reports on Monday. The city's former finance senator had taken a trip to the area with broadcaster ZDF to film a TV special ahead of the one-year anniversary of the publication of his controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" ("Germany Does Itself In").
The memory of the book's content, which sparked massive controversy in Germany for what many called its anti-immigrant sentiments, was apparently still fresh in the minds of some residents of the district, known for its high concentration of Muslim immigrants.
Accompanied by Turkish-German journalist Güner Balci, Sarrazin took a tour of the district, stopping by a Turkish market where he wrote in Die Welt he was yelled at by an "angry man in his fifties" whom he dubbed "the squaller," before a group of other "politically correct" market patrons joined in, calling him a racist until he and the camera team left.
This one is certainly going to hurt Greek national pride: According to the Wall Street Journal, famed Athenian baklava seller Epe has not only been importing Turkish baklava for the last decade to sell in its stores, but has now had to be bailed out by its supplier from the east. From the WSJ's article:
Greeks and Turks have bickered for centuries over which nation makes the better baklava, a sticky-sweet dessert of layered pastry devoured in huge quantities across the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. But for the past 10 years, Turkey's best-known producer, businessman Nadir Gullu, has been supplying Greece's closely held Baklavas Epe, which operated five stores in Athens. He provided about two tons of baklava and other Turkish sweets per month.
Old rivalries aside, Athenians lapped them up—until, that is, they ran out of cash.
Baklavas Epe's most profitable shop is on Athens's landmark Syntagma Square. Before the crisis, tourists and locals queued up in droves to buy the pastries. But as the government embarked on a severe austerity program to reduce its debt burden and qualify for international support, demand sank.
Baklavas Epe closed three of its five stores in Athens as sales dropped. Meanwhile, it ratcheted up close to €160,000 (about $226,000) in debt for deliveries of sweets from across the Aegean Sea, according to the company. Plunging revenue made it impossible for Baklavas Epe to finance baklava purchases from Istanbul.
"Baklava has become a luxury. Think about it: Three kilos of minced beef costs the same as one kilo of baklava," said a company spokesman. (A kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.)
In Turkish newspapers, Mr. Gullu, the owner of Karakoy Gulluoglu, a well-known baklava shop near the shores of the Bosporus in Istanbul, said the Greeks should pay their debts within a year and the business relationship was in jeopardy.
[UPDATE: Just noticed that Eurasianet's Justin Vela has a brand new story on the same subject that this post deals with.]
I missed this when it first appeared, but RFE/RL has a very interesting blog post up about the Kyrgyz city of Osh's struggles to regain its status of a gastronomic capitol in the wake of last year's ethnic clashes, which pitted the city's Uzbeks and Kyrgyz against each other. From the blog post:
Osh was once a city of restaurants and cafes -- spacious, welcoming eateries whose owners and cuisine, more often than not, were Uzbek. (In a city of many divisions, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, even now, are nearly unanimous in agreeing that Uzbeks are far better cooks.)
A year after ethnic clashes left southern Kyrgyzstan in tatters, Osh is laboring to restore its gastronomic reputation.
Throughout the city, and most noticeably along the city's main Kyrgyzstan Street, dozens of the burned-out hulls of businesses destroyed in the 2010 clashes have been rebuilt and reopened.
But there's a difference: this time around, the owners are Kyrgyz. And local Uzbeks blame criminal groups close to the mayor for squeezing them out of their businesses.
One case in point is Nostalzhi, a sleek cafe-hotel complex in a central district of the city, not far from its main bazaar and mosque. The cafe, opened by an Uzbek family in 1997, was soon followed by a sister cafe, Nostalzhi-Plus in the city's Aravan district.
The family took evident pride in its slowly growing empire. "We really put a lot of thought into our designs," says one family member, "Aibek," who refused to give his real name, be photographed, or even have his voice recorded, out of fear for his safety.
"We chose beautiful marble, lovely gates. We even got a patent on the names. We were always very careful with the law."/
A Washington, DC neighborhood blog has a very tantalizing post up about the possibility of Uighur activist and businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer opening a kebab restaurant in the city's historic Anacostia neighborhood. With that neighborhood located just a hop and a skip away from Capitol Hill, it's not hard to imagine that Kadeer's culinary venture (if it opens) will have a a bit more than kebab and lagman on the menu. Politics or no politics, this is a development that DC foodies should definitely keep their eye on. More details here.
PS -- Visitors to Istanbul looking for good Uighur food (sans politics) should visit Mihman, near the Grand Bazaar. An Istanbul Eats review here.
Georgia's The Financial has a great story up about a Georgian company's failed efforts to break into Azerbaijan's banana market. Encouraged by Azeri President llham Aliyev's recent calls to streamline the country's customs procedures, the company registered itself as an importer in Azerbaijan and sent truck laden with bananas to the border, only to be denied entry.
According the the article, Azerbaijan's banana business is controlled by a monopoly. Says a representative of the Georgian company: "We will not be discouraged and will keep our trucks at the Azeri border for as long as it takes to break the monopoly no matter our financial losses; I find it laughable reading a statement from the Azeri Ambassador to Georgia claiming that there are no monopolies in Azerbaijan and that the market is open to everyone.
We will invite all the Georgian and Azeri press next week to the Azeri border to witness how our trucks are prohibited from entering the country; I will also personally invite the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to attend the event along with the media."
[UPDATE -- It's been pointed out to me that this blog may have slipped on a banana peel by quoting The Financial, which doesn't have a very good reputation in Georgia as a news source. Point well taken.]
An intergovernmental meeting between China and Armenia was just wrapped up in Yerevan, with the Chinese expressing their wish to see trade between their two countries grow, specifically through the import of Armenian cognac and wine. More details here.
How to gain influence and win over neighbors? The Uzbek government seems to think the answer to that question lies in "banquet diplomacy," most recently treating the Pakistani Prime Minister to an evening of non-stop food and entertainment. More here.
It appears that Greek Cyprus has opened up another front in its ongoing battle with Turkey to claim certain traditional food items as its own. Before it was baklava and Turkish (or, if you prefer, Cypriot) coffee. But now Turkish food makers are crying foul over Cypriot attempts to stake a claim as the creators of lahmacun -- a baked thin round of dough covered with a savory minced meat paste (and which actually has Syrian roots). From the Hurriyet Daily News:
Recent Greek Cypriot claims that lahmacun, a thin-crust snack food topped by minced meat, is a Greek dish have angered Turks, adding a new chapter to a long-running culinary battle about who invented what food.
Greek Cyprus attendants at the International Food and Drink Event in London this week presented “lachmazou” to visitors, defining the food as a “traditional Cyprus home-made pastry.” The culinary claim reportedly angered Turkish visitors to the fair.
“I won’t say anything about Greeks copying baklava and lahmacun from us [Turks] but they can’t manage to make either,” said businessman Hüseyin Özer, who was attending the fair. According to Özer, the “lachmazou” lacked taste in comparison to lahmacun made in Turkey.
Lahmacun belongs to the area from around the southeastern Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep, Özer said.
More here. And click here for a recommended lahmacun spot in Istanbul.
Could the opening of a Georgian restaurant in Moscow in a spot previously occupied by an Italian joint -- serving khachapuri instead of pizza -- be the sign of some thawing between Russia and Georgia? The Moscow News thinks so, in this report.