John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Mantı, Börek, Baklava | Cooking with Derya Akay

It’s been raining for days on end now, but late on Sunday afternoon, the sun appears and its light falls across the Field House.

We’ve gathered for the beginning of Derya Akay’s project Mantı, Börek, Baklava and for this initial dinner, Akay is sharing southern Turkish recipes inherited from his grandmothers.

This spring, we have the pleasure of hosting Akay at the Burrard Marina Field House. In collaboration with women elders from a variety of diasporic cultural backgrounds, Akay will host intimate and participatory dinners both at the field house and off site at Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre and the Jewish Museum and Archive of BC.


The Field House creates the kind of intimacy that those who host dinners in Vancouver’s small apartments will recognize. The kitchen is the dining room, the living room and in this case, the artist’s studio.  Food appears in waves, seemingly out of nowhere and “tucking in” takes on a double meaning– somehow there is always just enough space for one more person.


Guests get a chance to partake in the preparation of some of the dishes. A mixture of lentils, spices, onions and garlic gets formed into bite-sized logs before it’s garnished with flat-leaf parsley and pomegranate molasses.

Cabbage rolls decorated with lemon slices, yogurt soup, tomatoes, parsley, onion, olive oil tossed into a salad, and feta cheese nestled in tender sheets of filo dough all form part of the feast.


The word feast shares roots with “fête”, a French word that connotes celebration; to “faire fête” means to show honour or respect to someone. What is so vital about Akay’s project is that it celebrates the knowledge these women elders carry with them. Food is sustenance not just because it keeps us alive but because it sustains our connections to one another through the cultural and personal histories it activates through the senses.