Even if you have to swim there, get to Istanbul for the festival of culture from 27-29 May 2011. A round up of my creative “dream team”, including the inestimable Tilda Swinton, Sophie Calle, Michael Stipe…. and the roll call goes on. If you can’t make it, at least get yourself one of the gorgeous paint splash posters in red, white and black.
ISTANCOOL is a truly multi-faceted cultural experience, bringing together writers, designers, editors, actors, poets, dancers, musicians…. and food. A place where worlds have met throughout history, Istanbul has richness and complexity in its DNA.
If you need a heads-up on Turkish food, you can’t do better than “Turquoise” by my compatriots, Greg and Lucy Malouf, who combine transporting photography with an anthropological study of the food of Turkey. Read it and you will want to fill your kitchen with orange blossom, pomegranate, aubergine, salty cheese, fragrant herbs, seeds and spices, all arrayed on decorative ottoman tiles. Listen to the music of Yusuf Güney while you patiently layer transparent sheets of pastry with cinnamon, butter, crushed walnuts and sugar to bake while coffee gently percolates.
When you return, inevitably in love with Istanbul, restore your spirits with visits to two of my favourite places: the Jameel Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the magical jewel-box gallery, Wabi-Sabi, in Brussels. The recently re-opened Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms at the Victoria and Albert will allow you to sit with a glass of wine as you gaze at the astonishing concatenation of ceramics that cover every surface and compensate for tearing yourself away from the intricate interiors of Hagia Sophia.
(Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum, photo courtesy of V&A Museum)
Wabi-Sabi in rue Coppens, Brussels, is a tantalising paeon to the perfection of the imperfect. Gallerist and friend, Katty Castiau has recently returned from Istanbul like a modern Sheherezade with treasures and tales. For my Turkish table I will cover the usual white marble surface with a suzani, layer the floor with one of Katty’s pixelated vintage carpets in surprisingly modern colours of acid green, cherry and orange and pile banks of cushions crafted from textiles that have journeyed on the road from Uzbekistan. Platters and dishes will be in the gold-edged jewel colours of Ottoman traditions.
(Mid-century chairs covered in vintage suzani, Wabi-Sabi, Brussels. Photo: Katty Castiau)
To serve, from Turquoise:
Start with: Baby beetroots in herb dressing of parsley, salt, lemon, oil and oregano.
Followed by: Goat’s cheese and pastirma wrapped with mint and lemon in fine pastry packages and fried in a little butter. A salad of bitter greens with artichoke and poppy seeds.
Finishing with: Pomegranate and vodka sorbet embellished with thin curlicues of lime zest.
And finally, to bathe in rosewater and dream the words of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam with its emprecations to relish wine, food, nature and art.