What it’s like to be hand fed sultanas.

UNDERSTANDING A CULTURE THROUGH FOOD.

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It wasn’t until we got to the sultanas that I started to feel uneasy. The same way you feel uneasy when your token odd uncle hugs you for slightly too long.

I watched him pick up the singular withered grape between his stumpy fingers, knowing all too well it was headed for my mouth like the hummus bread and olives that went before it. I shivered.

Unlike its predecessors, the humble sultana wasn’t offering me the chance to snatch it with my teeth and return it to the privacy of my mouth. Rather, it sat wedged between his digits looking more terrified than I was.

I tried desperately and awkwardly to articulate that I was “not too fond of grapes”. He retaliated, expressing concern that I had never properly allowed myself to experience the taste of the grape by eating it slowly and absorbing its true flavour.

His fingers hit my pressed lips and I opened up obligingly, curling my tongue around the scared little fruit and feeling every tiny crevice of his thumbprint. I quickly washed it down with some more grapes, the squashed variety sitting in my wine glass.

Being hand fed an entire meal by a strange man left me burning with embarrassment and anxiety, but in truth, this was not a sordid encounter. It was an innocent exchange that spoke volumes about the passionate and affectionate ways of Turkish culture. A culture unashamed by human contact, where grown men kiss on the lips and women walk the streets holding hands.

A culture that is deeply patriotic, particularly when it comes to their culinary world.

(NB: The guy in this photo was not the sultana feeder.)

Got a story about understanding a culture through food that trumps this? Submit it to Rough Guides here by April 19 for your chance to win a travel writing scholarship in China. 

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