Rakı and Fish

Rakı And Fish / Tan Morgül (author), Ceren Oykut (illustrator), Stratis Vogiatzis (photographer), Bob Beer (translator), Halk Plajı Yayınları, Istanbul, 2014

First of all, this book is not a “cook book”. It’s not just a book about fish, nor is it just a book about about rakı; it’s a book that “reads: fish and seafood culture through rakı. It’s a book that chases after the scent of seafood in Mediterranean cities, and never without rakı: It takes the magic of fish and rakı to the ports that keep watch over Mediterranean history and shares it with the local people. It’s a book that savors the aroma of fish at the rakı table, about a kind of pleasure that demands time, taken for oneself and friends, to experience that joy together. In the words of the famous traveler Evliya Çelebi, “…because fish is a food for happiness and celebration!” To sum it up: If fish is happiness, then rakı is the celebration. This book is the product of multiple inspirations. We try to share what the cities we visited shared with us and inspired in us. Rakı and fish may have been our main focus but we also made sure to reflect something of the cities’ history, geography, mythology, poetry, stories, etymologies and even melodies. We’re in the Mediterranean after all, the land of ethics and aesthetics, and our own words, by themselves, would have been insufficient. Archestratus, one of the first gourmets in history, said that a good drinking table must include four or five people at the most. The same is said of the rakı table. So then, in honor of this book, I’ll lay out an “anachronistic” spread and invite Archestratus, Alan Davidson, Fernand Braduel and Evliya Çelebi…and from among the living, Predrag Matvejevic. And as we chat, I’ll be grilling the fish and pouring the rakı, to drink to the honor of the Mediterranean. Let us close with the words of world famous photographer Ara Güler, and let it sum up the entire book: “Fish is caught, not with nets poles, but rakı!”- Tan Morgül

“For me the image that comes up at the word ‘city’ is İstanbul. After all, when my friends in Athens spoke of İstanbul, they used the word Polis, “the city”, for short. For this book, i had to draw many different cities, each different from the next. In reality, i had never seen most of these cities, and of those i had seen, there were only two that i’d spent enough time in to really enjoy and get a sense of them. In designing my drawing, i referred to old and new maps for help, looked at many different photographs, but i didn’t work to come up with a “great city” image. In light of the book’s focus, i went after the image of a fisherman’s town that kept appearing in my mind. The more i drew, the more a new pool of images began to take shape, like a new alphabet… The last city i drew, İstanbul, harbors something from all of these images.”- Ceren Oykut

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