Perhaps following the Latin proverb "in vino veritas," a group of Azeri hackers decided to recently use the website of a major Armenian wine producer to spread their version of the "truth." Reports Armenia's News.am:
Azerbaijani hackers cracked the website of Armenia-based “Armenia Wine” factory on the night of June 25.
A group of hackers calling themselves “Anti-Armenia team” posted an article about alleged Armenia’s “aggression” towards Azerbaijan, photos, videos about Azerbaijani leader and armed forces.
In response, the Armenia Wine company said the hack was not fueled by the political tensions that exist between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but rather by Azeri sour grapes over the recent growth of the Armenian wine industry. Again, from News.am's article:
In its statement the company said Azerbaijanis are angered by Armenia’s ability to develop production and enter international market even being under the blockade. The company representatives assured that promotion of Armenian wines in the international market will continue regardless of any attempts.
Indeed, as previously reported on this blog, the Armenian wine industry has been making strides lately, with the creation of a handful of new wineries that are working to bottle world-class wines and with several older wineries also revamping their production to boost the quality of their product.
The international sanctions against Iran were designed to punish the country for the continuing efforts to develop its controversial nuclear program. But it appears the sanctions are also starting to impact the daily life -- and eating habits -- of average Iranians. As the Wall Street Journal reports, rising food prices have led to a spontaneous three-day boycott of grocery stores and bakeries that a surprising number of Iranians appear to have joined. From the WSJ's report:
Iranians protesting soaring food prices launched a spontaneous three-day boycott of milk and bread purchases, in a sign that growing economic hardship could lead to more civil disobedience.
The grass-roots campaign, which ran from Saturday through Monday, wasn't affiliated with any opposition group. Dozens of Iranians said in interviews and on social-networking sites and blogs that they had participated in the boycott, and a number of bakeries and grocery stores across Tehran, the capital, reported declines in milk and bread sales of as much as 90%.
Iran's economy has been deteriorating amid domestic mismanagement, corruption and international sanctions that have made it difficult for manufacturers to import raw material and to conduct banking transactions. A European Union embargo on Iranian oil is set to start July 1.
Prices of basic goods rise almost daily. Independent economists estimate annual inflation is hovering between 50% and 60%. In the past two weeks, the price of bread has increased 33%, chicken 28.5% and milk prices are climbing daily, according to Iranian newspapers and semiofficial news websites.
As Eurasianet's Justin Vela recently pointed out, the dispute over who has the right to explore for oil and gas in the waters off the divided island of Cyprus has all the ingredients for a major geopolitical confrontation. But oil and gas are not the only natural resources that are fueling the Cyprus conflict. Turns out cheese is also one of the island's disputed commodities.
As anyone who has visited Cyprus knows, the island essentially runs on one kind of cheese, the rubbery, briny white kind known as "halloumi" in the Greek-speaking south and "hellim" in the Turkish north. As one Greek Cypriot website puts it, the cheese is "the flagship of Cyprus’s authentic cuisine." On both sides, the cheese -- made from a combination of goat, sheep and cow's milk -- is often fried or grilled in chunky strips.
The cheese of either side of Cyprus's dividing Green Line might taste the same, but the issue of who gets to claim halloumi/hellim as their own is pitting the two parts of the island against each other. Greek Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union, has asked Brussels to give halloumi Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, which would mean that only Cypriot cheese could be given that name. Similar protection is offered to Stilton cheese from England and other European cheeses and food products.
Perhaps aware of Hillary Clinton's fondness for cutting loose with a bottle of brew in hand, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hosted the visiting American Secretary of State at a wine-filled dinner at restaurant in the Black Sea resort town of Batumi. Reports the, ahem, Daily Mail (in a photo-filled dispatch):
Hillary Clinton made sure to have a little fun on her latest official trip by taking some time out to taste the best wine that Georgia had to offer.
The Secretary of State seemed to be in high spirits as she chatted with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and surveyed a variety of wine at the Adjarian Wine House in Batumi, a beach town decidedly off the beaten path of high-level political conferences.
She was pictured trying at least three different variations of the restaurant’s vintages, and laughing with the President and First Lady over champagne when they first sat down to dinner.
Anyone who's ever eaten in a school cafeteria has been exposed to mystery meat, the strange substance used to make hamburgers and other dishes that are staples of the classic school lunch. Turkish officials, though, may have just added a new item to the school lunch repertoire: mystery milk.
According to reports in the Turkish press, a newly-launched government effort to distribute free milk to Turkey's 7.2 million schoolchildren started off on a disastrous note, with more than 1,000 kids going to the hospital on the program's first day after complaining of food poisoning-like symptoms. The reason? According to some doctors who treated the kids, it was a case of drinking spoiled milk. A member of the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), went even further and suggested government-affiliated "partisan" milk firms were to blame.
In Turkey, the victim often gets blamed when something goes wrong, even if that victim is a child. Not surprisingly, government officials quickly dismissed the possibility that the children drank tainted milk, saying instead that many of them simply were not used to drinking the liquid or were allergic to it. Turkey's Education Minister even told reporters that perhaps some of the sickened students simply drank their milk too fast. Either way, samples of the supposedly long-lasting ultra pasteurized milk, which was distributed in individual cartons, were taken to a lab and results are expected on Friday.
Has the White House inadvertently stepped into one of the Mediterranean's oldest unresolved conflicts, namely: which country in the region gets to claim itself as the inventor of baklava?
The issue has been heating up over the last few years. In 2006, for example, Turkish makers of the flaky dessert were outraged when European Union tourism posters featured baklava as a, gasp, Cypriot invention. But the baklava battle has opened up a new front after a March 22 White House dinner in honor of Greek Independence Day. Although it was a closed affair, Maria Loi, a New York-based Greek chef who prepared the evening's dinner, told a Greek-American publication that President Barack Obama "loved baklava." Picked up by the Turkish press, the story became one of the President saying how much he loved "Greek baklava," leading to angry denunciations from columnists who suggested Obama brush up on his Balkan culinary history and that Loi's entire menu for the affair -- moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, Greek salad and the offending baklava -- was comprised of nothing more than Turkish dishes dressed up as Greek ones.
Worried about the Greeks claiming other cross-border staples as their own, some Turkish foodmakers are now taking preemptive action. Reports Turkey's Cihan news agency:
The İstanbul Simit Tradesmen Chamber has launched a process to get an international patent for the number one Turkish street food, the simit, a ring of chewy bread coated with toasted sesame seeds.
As anyone who has visited Turkey knows, the fruits and vegetables there taste, well, simply more like what fruits and vegetables should taste like. To anyone used to the mealy, flavorless tomatoes sold in American supermarkets, their first taste of a vine-ripened Turkish tomato is likely a revelation.
But a new report by Greenpeace's German branch could make that tomato and other Turkish fruits and vegetables a little less appetizing. From the Green Prophet blog:
Of 76 different fruits and vegetables recently evaluated, Turkish peppers contained the most excessive and dangerous amounts of pesticide chemicals, according to Food Without Pesticides, a new 26-page guide to European food released this week by Greenpeace Germany.
Turkish peppers topped the list of “most contaminated” produce in the guide, with an average of 24 chemical substances found in the specimens analyzed. In second place, with an average of 10 chemical substances, were Turkish pears. Nine chemical substances were found in Turkish pears, on average, putting them at third place.
Eleven different Turkish crops were rated, using 582 samples. The guide used a green/yellow/red light system to show its ratings, with a red light meaning that more than one-third of the samples had dangerous levels of chemicals in them.
With financial sanctions against it getting tighter and tighter and the drums of war beating louder and louder, Iran appears to be getting proactive -- at least on the food front. As Reuters reports, Tehran is busy stockpiling grain in anticipation of the sanctions' effect on daily life. From the Reuters report:
Vessels carrying at least 360,000 metric tonnes (396,832 tons) of grain are lined up to unload in Iran, Reuters shipping data showed on Thursday, a sign that Tehran is succeeding in stockpiling food to blunt the impact of tougher Western sanctions.
Iran has been shopping for wheat at a frantic pace, ordering a large part of its expected yearly requirement in a little over one month and paying a premium in non-dollar currencies to work around toughened Western sanctions and avoid social unrest.
Food shipments are not targeted under western sanctions aimed at Iran's disputed nuclear program, but financial measures have frozen Iranian firms out of much of the global banking system.
Since the new year, some vessels had turned away from Iran without unloading after Iranian buyers were hit by a trade finance squeeze, but Thursday's data appears to show that shipments are now arriving successfully.
Meanwhile, this stockpiling is having the unintended consequence of helping American wheat growers and the US economy. As Reuters notes in another article, Iran's stockpiling includes buying large amount of wheat from the land of amber waves of grain:
In an effort to forge a unified Turkish nation out of a society that was far from homogenous, the Turkish state for decades tried to suppress Kurdish cultural expression (not to mention political expression). But recent years have seen something of a change. Kurdish music, film and theater and now a visible part of the cultural scene in Turkey in a way that they weren’t only a decade ago, while a Kurdish-language national television network (albeit state-run) has been on the air since 2009 and the first-ever undergraduate program in Kurdish was launched last year.
But there has been one aspect of Kurdish culture that’s been conspicuously absent from all this activity: food. In Istanbul, for example, it’s now possible to find films or plays in Kurdish, but good luck finding a restaurant dedicated explicitly to serving Kurdish food. And while bookshops are filled these days with food books that explore Turkish cuisine, you would be hard pressed to find something that deals with Kurdish cooking.
Although there have been some recent indications that there might be a bit of a thawing out in the tense relations between former allies Turkey and Israel, some Israeli egg producers are having none of it. According to a report in Globes, an Israeli business publication, a lawsuit has been filed against Tnuva, one of Israel's largest food producers, charging the company with selling Turkish eggs disguised as Israeli ones. The switcheroo is no yolk, the suit says. Turkey, the petition, notes "is a country that has turned into a hostile country to Israel in recent years and where the level of veterinary inspection is lower than the level prevailing in Israel."
This is not the first time eggs have come in the way of Turkish-Israeli relations. In late 2009, Israel's then ambassador to Turkey, Gabby Levy, had to cancel a scheduled visit to a university in the Black Sea area's Trabzon after students pelted him with eggs. The egg-hurling students were protesting Israel's Gaza invasion earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, while on the subject of eggs, Istanbul Eats has a recommendation for what is very likely the best spot in Istanbul to eat eggs, Turkish or otherwise.