I had the pleasure of joining a Culinary Backstreets tour in Istanbul for my latest “happy-maker” audio piece for Deustche Welle radio’s Inside Europe. You can listen to the hour-long show here.

In the tour, we strode along the alleyways of Eminönü, wound behind the Grand Bazaar an the Süleimaniye mosque, meandered the backstreets of Vefa, and landed in Fatih Square. Along the way we ducked into centuries-old khans to enjoy some eat-as-you-go treats and tons of tea. Guided by the lovely Angelis Nannos, a Greek who settled in Turkey about four years ago, learned the stories behind our stops, and the tales behind our food.

Tasting pistachio baklava dripping in syrup gave a high-speed energy boost that morning, while lamb döner slow-roasted and hand-layered with tomatoes and peppers on the stake, oozed its savory juices through the lavaş wrap, forced us to lick our fingers by the end of it. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore, Angelis finished off the 6-hour food-a-palooza with traditional Kurdish pit barbeque lamb (büryan) in Fatih, accompanied by rice baked in a flakey shell (perde pilavı) extra-creamy yogurt drink (ayran) and topped off with a cheesey yet crispy but practically sweating syrup künefe for dessert.

All in all, it was the best day of my life. Okay, fine, I won’t exaggerate. It was one of the best days of my life.

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I also had the pleasure of speaking with Culinary Backstreets and Istanbul Eats (the blog that started it all) founder Ansel Mullins. We had a great conversation and he had some inspiring and resonating points about food and its role in culture. I do believe that writing about and acknowledging the importance of food in culture and societies is crucial, and it offers so much insight into any particular segment of society. I’ll work on cleaning up that interview and post the full thing so you can take a listen.