Exploring Local Delicacies and Making New Friends Online

As the COVID 19 pandemic continues to spread, many services and activities had to shift into online platforms by offering alternative ways to socialize for the migrant and host community members. In line with the restrictions, IOM Turkey’s Psychosocial Mobile Team (PMT) in Hatay started to conduct online cooking activities in which participants cook Antakya Dishes together. Each cooking session is designed to develop the skills and knowledge of the participants over Antakya cuisine and culture by supporting them in coping with the negative emotions and distress caused by COVID 19. Before cooking the dishes, participants share their opinions about the differences and similarities between Syrian and Turkish cuisines. Once beneficiaries receive the ingredients, they go online and try authentic recipes of the Antakya region together. In this way, online cooking activities aim to engage with all five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste) by offering a calming experience for the participants. 

Fatma* is from Syria and she has been living in Turkey with her sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren in Hatay. She joined the online activities to “familiarize with the Turkish culture and learn Turkish cuisine better”. During the sessions she realized that the Syrian and Turkish dishes are quite similar, yet Turkish dishes are made with different sets of spices. 

She usually cooks for the whole family including her little granddaughter Aya. For the online session, she tried cooking Tepsi Kebabı, and she said that her family really liked the taste of it. Additional to her family, her neighbors also recognized that she was improving her knowledge of Turkish cuisine. Fatma showed the Cookbook distributed by the PMT to her Turkish neighbor and during this, they realized that they had a common interest. After discovering this, Fatma’s Turkish neighbor cooked traditional dishes and offered them to her.  

“I enjoy exploring different recipes. It was surprising to see that in Turkish cuisine, they combine many vegetables in one pot. For now, I do not mix many vegetables as they do but thanks to these sessions, I got socialized and made new friends”    

*Names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.