The once strict division (or hierarchy) between culinary books and magazines has become increasingly difficult to define. One such example is Fare magazine. With each issue the magazine attempts (successfully) to explore one city through food and community. And, whose inaugural issue is solely dedicated to Istanbul. The name of the magazine was inspired by all definitions of the word “fare,” from eating and drinking to travelling and experiencing both the good and the bad. This first issue covers all of these topics (and then some) through the great many “little things” that Istanbul offers.
Firstly, the magazine is beautiful and beautifully organized. The cover, alone, is a tribute to the city. A man is carrying a tray of simit on top of his head is walking across the Galata Bridge. Anyone can snap a photo of the simit-munching tourists atop the bridge. This photo captures a lifetime of simit balancing, cigarette smoking, and bridge walking. The image might be bleak, but the two tiny vibrant red flags and a glowing simit tray add the right amount of light and hope, a balance that is reverberated throughout the magazine. In an interview, editor Ben Mervis is explicit; he is not trying to sell Istanbul as a perfect city. Rather it’s the city’s imperfections and chaos that have and continue to make it great.
If you’ve spent any time in Istanbul as an English speaker, you’re bound to recognize most of the contributors in addition to some of the content. The charming Vogue Turkey food editor and Academy Chair for the World’s 50 Best Cemre Narin covers the equally lovely Şemsa Denizsel, owner-chef of Kantin. While this piece doesn’t necessarily dive into the hidden treasures of Istanbul’s restaurants – Kantin has been around for a while, and it’s not for nothing – any issue on Istanbul would be incomplete without looking at Kantin. After all, with so many restaurants and eateries bringing their own regional dialect to their plates, Denizsel is a purebred İstanbullu (Istanbulite) – still living in Istanbul. This fact alone makes her concept all the more unique. Other well-known contributors include prolific journalist both in English-speaking and Turkish press, Andrew Finkel.
The magazine also turns to more local experts such as journalist Jennifer Hattam who with a dives into sweets unknown from the mastic goodness of beyaz tatlı (white sweet) – the dollop of gummy mastic that used to accompany Turkish coffees, before it was replaced by the ubiquitous lokum (Turkish Delight) – to the traditionally Armenian pudding havidz. Istanbul Food founder Tuba Şatana looks at the disappearing breed of artisanal offal shops. Perhaps hers is a more sobering approach alongside others like Paul Benjamin Osterlund’s look at the 50-person Karaite community. The issue ends on a comforting note, however, in its last chapter, “A City of Quiet Hopes.” Writer Olivia Rose Walton takes a more personal approach, discussing the tart green plums that we dip in salt (with a side of whiskey). Mervis explains that he wanted to move the spotlight off of the “innovators” in the city and expose the “maintainers.” And, he does this well when exploring the world of the çaycı (literally, the tea man), dolling out all those glasses of tea that we’ve all sipped while sitting in the cramped shops of the Grand Bazar.
The issue captures many of Istanbul’s essences through the content and around it, literally. (Flipping through the pages, you’ll notice small, playful illustrations of cats circled around bylines or hanging on the edges of paragraphs.) As much as this issue is literary it is also stunning. If at all possible, read your issue in your hands, not on your screen.
Aside from the travel section of North American dailies, Istanbul is unfortunately absent from these types of magazine-cum-book formats. That said, there are a few moments when Istanbul shines through. One memorable piece was published in the trailblazing Lucky Peach – Nicholas Bredi’s fantastic tale of smuggled pork. Nevertheless, Turkey in general has often been overlooked as a serious culinary hub, that is up until recently. In 2015, the southeast province of Gaziantep was added to the gastronomy category under UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Later that year and into the following, director Luis González’s The Turkish Way, produced by BBVA Contenidos, screened at festivals throughout the world. Early in 2017, Mehmet Gurs’s Mikla deservedly creeped on to the Academy’s extended list. Now, Istanbul is featured (finally) in one of the latest and most thoughtful magazines, Fare.