Pınar Yaşar is a story-teller by trade and a contradiction by birth. Her work explores the Kurdish diaspora as it affects others like her, born of one Kurdish parent and one Turkish parent. This nuanced sociopolitical context is fleshed out in Yaşar’s work, infusing elements of modernism with the subaltern to indict traditions of erasure and appropriation of Kurdish bodies and narratives in the English language. Her work is concerned with driving out U.S. intellectual and physical occupation of diaspora Kurds through what Yaşar considers to be insurrectionist poetry, an act that does not need to be strictly a violation of political borders, rather a challenging of literary ones. She has been published in Galaxy Literary Magazine, Cyberhex Press, Bruja Roja, Haverthorn Press, Bloc Party, and The Cannon. She has been featured at EMW Bookstore in Cambridge, MA, being the first Kurdish-Turkish woman to do so. Yaşar has also been nominated for “Best of the Net 2016” for her work in Cyberhex Press. She is currently based between Boston and upstate New York, and is working on her first full length book of poetry.
What will you be presenting about? I will be presenting about my complicated relationship to food. My upbringing centered Turkish food, even though only my mother is Turkish. My father is Kurdish, and we come from a long line of leaders (my grandfather was Chief of the Beyzadi tribe). Despite this, I was alienated from my Kurdish background for most of my childhood. Currently, as has been the case for many decades, Kurdish people are oppressed and abused in Turkey. My parents' marriage was controversial and difficult to accept by both sides of the family. At the time they were married, it was still illegal to speak Kurdish in Turkey. After I moved out of the house, at 18, I started to investigate my Kurdish background and consequently developed an unyielding love and dedication to it. I see myself as a child of the Kurdish diaspora before anything else. Yet, when it comes to food, my face lights up at the mere smell of Turkish food. It is the one area of my life I cannot seem to "decolonize" from the erasure and sociopolitical violence my Turkish identity evokes for me. At its heart, this presentation will be about how I find love where I sometimes feel hate, confusion, sadness. How these complex identities--ones that don't even touch on my context as a POC Muslim American woman in a family of immigrants--can be seen through my "secret" love of Turkish food.
Best piece of advice you ever got about cooking: You do not cook with measurements, much like you do not love with predeterminations. You cook based off the sensorial experience, the madness, the multiplicity of all you are. You don't just go off smell, you go off the memory of smells you've traversed, how your grandmother's kitchen smells when she makes this dish versus how your aunt's kitchen smells when she makes the same dish, how it smells in the restaurant you sometimes visit when you miss your home--you collect all of these moments and you use that to decide if you've put enough spice, enough salt, enough milk, enough olive oil, enough sumac, etc. You love people based off the empirical journey you take with them aka you get to know someone and you form your interactions based on a complex marriage of experiences that help you decide what to do next.
If you could only eat one meal forever, it would be: Offfffff, definitely my godmother's dolma. It's small and so tightly wrapped you can eat them like candies, the leaf tears so cleanly when you bite through (which isn't always true of dolmas believe me) and I love the rice-only insides. No ground beef here.
Favorite food: It's more like a favorite ~type of meal~. My mouth is watering thinking about it. Ok so you've got the appetizer, coban salata ("shepherd's salad"), which is diced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, then you've got the side dish of shredded carrots soaked in lemon juice, then you've got the traditional turkish rice (I don't know the english words necessary to describe this) and, of course, my mother's kofte. Tender, a pinch of special spices that we keep in a family recipe. And you can't have this all without sliced white onions tossed in sumac, with another lemon on the side for additional squeezing. Wow. Excuse me while I go call my mother.
Recommended reading: Absent by Betool Khedairi, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Blood In My Eye by George Jackson, The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat, Paradise Lost (yeah I said it. book 4 only because to recommend the entire thing would be a thing greater than madness. proceed with caution)
Best meals: Ra-bokki from the Korean restaurant across the street from the turkish restaurant my family always goes to when we are in Pittsburgh, Konyali Pide from the kebabci near my parent's house in New York
Food you'd like to try: Jollof rice. Like, ASAP. I worked as a College Tutor at my alma mater and all day long I read essays about which Jollof rice is better, Nigerian or Ghanian, and I just gotta know.