There is an old saying that goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. But I believe now it is more apt to say “When in Turkey, do as the Turks do” because you’ll never run out of things to do here. Travel is a combination of experiencing the culture and cuisine, and as far as the latter is concerned Turkey provides enough to load the palate. But it is not solely about tasting the food, rather being a part in creating a dish using local recipes and ingredients that makes the whole experience so rewarding.
There are many cooking classes organised in various cities catering specially to tourists, particularly in Istanbul. Most of these classes last about 4-5 hours, wherein you are taught to prepare a five course meal and later on can enjoy the fruit of your own labour in the form of lunch or dinner (depending on the class you choose). Sample it and also prepare some extra for the other diners. Personally, I am thrilled at the idea of returning from one of my travels and surprising my family with my adeptness at making a Turkish five course meal!
Of course, the chefs don’t promise to make you an expert within a single class. It all depends on your previous experience and the skills you bring to the table. The environment is laid back and hassle free, and it depends on team work, with tasks like chopping and cutting divided. However, everyone is made privy to the crucial steps of preparing any dish. The local ingredients generally include, but are not confined to, lamb, eggplant, vine leaves, yogurt, mint, chili, cumin, lentils, figs and walnuts.
Cooking Alaturka is a popular class, focusing on Anatolian dishes. The chefs provide hands on training, which means you are actually doing the cooking, not just watching the pros do it. Many classes in the area focus on the culinary heritage of the Turkish and Ottoman dishes. You can also boost up your knowledge by visiting the renowned Spice Bazaar, as well as the Wednesday Market in the streets around Fatih Mosque for full immersion in the local culture and what makes them tick.
For confirmation, at least two people are required, and the classes may extend up to ten members. It is not advisable to have many members as that could create hindrance towards learning. The classes cost about €65, which is totally worth it for one whole day spent among people experienced in local cuisine, picking up tips and tricks from them. Moreover, many of these classes also arrange for refreshments like tea, coffee and soft drinks as well. Needless to say, aprons and kitchen tools are provided.
I think whoever came up with the idea must have had a brilliant insight, because what more is travel but a new sensation for all your senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste! So make sure you enroll for this class, which is mostly available from Monday to Saturday, and therefore ensure that you take a part of Turkey home with yourself.