Those meandering by Tracy Lynn Green’s culinary arts classroom at Newport High School this fall may smell an array of spices or the sweet syrup poured on top baklava. When they’re not sneaking bites of their Turkish creations, Green’s students will be cooking some of the recipes she sampled during her trip to Turkey this summer.
Green was one of seven Puget Sound-area teachers to partake in the trip through the Turkish Cultural Foundation. Each took away real life examples they can use to supplement their history, literature, art and even culinary arts curriculum.
“I was so happy that the Turkish Cultural Foundation was willing to take culinary arts teacher. Turkey had a really rich hospitality heritage, but the culinary school I went to and a lot of others are very euro-centric,” she said.
“These types of opportunities bring so much to our classroom that you may not have otherwise.”
Altogether, 22 teachers from across the U.S. spent two weeks traveling through Turkey before returning on Aug. 4.
During the expedition, organized by the Turkish Cultural Foundation in cooperation with the World Affairs Councils of America and its local chapter in Pittsburgh, Green and her fellow travelers visited cultural and architectural landmarks and interacted with Turkish educators in Istanbul, Gelibolu (Gallipoli) and Troy, Canakkale, Bursa, Kusadasi, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Konya and Catalhoyuk, Cappadocia and Ankara.
“There is no better way for a teacher to get excited about teaching a subject than having actually been there,” said Meltem Ercan, Program Coordinator for the Turkish Cultural Foundation. “Turkey receives almost no or only passing reference in the American school system. What we hope the teachers take home is...that Turkey played a key role in history and is poised to play a key role in its region and the world today.”
Green quickly began to realize the extent of Turkey’s influences and the role is has played in cuisine, she said. As the general border between East and West, Turkish dishes often reflect both influences.
“Turkey is the intersect of two continents – Europe and Asia, and it was a gateway to both,” she said “There’s a lot of crossover from what we know as Greek food, like the flat bread they eat and a great cheese that’s similar to feta.”
The Turks are also creative with vegetables, braising their vegetables for than Western cultures do, and skinning eggplants, drying the exterior and grinding it up to use as a spice.
Green quickly became infatuated, and said that this school year, her catering students are serving Turkish food or nothing at all.
Although there was normally 6,000 miles between them, Green said Turkish teachers share similar frustrations and concerns around education. The American contingent were joined on their trip by two young Turkish teachers, and visited an elementary school and a high school.
“They have the same challenges we do– funding, the challenges of where you live, so on and so forth. Education kind of always gets shortchanged, and that was as evident there as it is here,” she said. “It was an amazing opportunity to go and travel together and learn from each other.”
Teachers are selected after a rigorous process, submitting recommendations, a lesson plan, and an essay on how they hope to benefit from the tour and bring their experience back to the classroom. They also were given reading to complete before the trip that Green said made her see how experiences such as hers benefit students.
“We had a lot of reading going into it, and it was hard to wrap your head around, but now that I’ve been there, it makes it so real. It makes it come alive,” she said. “Like, before I left, I was trying to make sense of what’s going on with their government and the Syrian border and other things. Now that I’ve been there and have a frame of reference, they make more sense.”