At the end of November 2022, 22 young people from Germany, Croatia, Turkey and Lithuania joined together to take part in a youth exchange project in Van, Turkey.
The theme of this project was breaking barriers through food around the globe, so naturally all participants came with ideas of ways to exchange food from their cultures.
Each evening the representatives of their country joined together in the kitchen to cook 2-3 traditional dishes for all participants to try. This was a test for the teams to manage their time, budget and ensure enough quantity of food for all. We as a team decided to cook a pumpkin soup, there were also fried potatoes with mushroom sauce and apple pie. Some of the delicious dishes from other countries were, to put it simply, meatballs from the Croatian-Team, stuffed eggplant from the Turkish-Team, and bread with cheese from the Lithuanian-Team.
Throughout the project the participants were given fun tasks to do with the history and origin of our food. To give a more concrete example, the result of a task was the prelude to a theater play that arose solely from the imagination of the small team on the theme of the origin of fire, since it revolutionized the methods of cooking.
We were often mixed with the teams and were able to exchange ideas easily. This allowed for cross-border collaboration and conversations as we needed and wanted to speak to each individual through our duties.
One memorable task was to come up with a new food with just three ingredients and a budget of 100TL. There were things that had to be taken into account, namely the dish was not allowed to exist in the form it was in and depending on the team, you were either allowed to cook or not. With the help of a video, we then advertised our product, watched the videos together and ate our result together.
All participants enjoyed spending time with each other on tasks. Another task of the team was to prepare and implement so called Energizers, which are technically little games. There were certainly games that were known in each of the participating countries, but at least as many new games that we got to know. So it happened that some days we struggled to get into a chair as quickly as possible as the numbers dwindled in order not to get eliminated and other days we tried to move as little as possible once the music stopped.
We were able to integrate well with the Turkish participants and explore the surroundings in their free time. Some participants even came across a traditional Kurdish wedding as well as a few visited a traditional hamam.
In our free time we have made it our task to discover delicacies in Van and privately made a small food tour through the city. There we came across traditional restaurants and also came into contact with locals. We communicated in English, Turkish as well as with hands and feet. We also did not miss the famous Van Breakfast, which we highly recommend if one gets a chance.
On the cultural evening we had the opportunity to taste both sweet dishes from the respective countries and hearty food such as Çig Köfte from Turkey. By the end of the project the participants had divulged in delicious food from the different countries and created a recipe booklet together from the meals that were shared.
We were all happy to be able to participate on such a project and take a way new ideas and infuences of the food we consume on a daily basis.
We hope to get the chance to visit Van again! We definitely keep Van in good memories of new friends, music, lots of fun and delicious food!
The project “Food Exchange” was financed by the Erasmus+ Programme.