The groundwork for this book took us to eleven different cities. In making our choices, we tried our best to represent the regional differences of the Mediterranean. We knew however, that this culture was not bounded by mere geography, so we also went out of the Mediterranean proper, to Tangier and Lisbon.
We knew that this would be no easy undertaking, and obviously, we have skipped several cities renowned for their fish cuisine. Within the glorious history of the Mediterranean, this short story of rakı, fish, cities and humanity is no more than a footnote added in 2013.
This book is the product of multiple inspirations. We try to share what the cities we visited shared with us and inspired in us. 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.
This book is often spontaneous. Neither Stratis nor I are chefs or gourmets. We could call ourselves curious traveler/explorers, but no more. I carried my words and knowledge of fish culture; Stratis, his camera and knowledge of photography. Because of this, we were careful to plan our route with the recommendations of the people who showed us around their cities. When they were not with us, we simply followed our noses wherever the aroma of fish beckoned. Consequently, you will find more about streets, seafood feasts and fish markets than menus, recipes or tasting notes.
This is a book of experiences. In some cities cuisine played the central role; in others, it was the streets, and in yet others, conversations. Our choices took shape in tandem with our personal experiences; we took whatever a city offered us, and tried to reflect that in our book as best we could. Sometimes we happened upon a particular fish in season and couldn’t bear to leave the feast; at other times the streets beguiled us and we headed out onto them at every opportunity. But without a doubt, we spent most of our time speaking with people, because both Stratis and I love talking, telling stories, and listening to them.
Stratis and I tried to maintain a common approach throughout the travel and writing stages. This was not a strictly-defined partnership; we did maintain our own areas of freedom. Just as I was chasing after the story of fish, Stratis was after ‘pose’ of fish. Neither of us intervened much in each other’s work. There were even times when we came up with separate itineraries. Just as my text has its own free structure, Stratis’ photographs present their own unique narration.
As we travelled, the places we visited were not experiencing the best of times; there as the economic crisis, political and social upheavals, communal disturbances and even revolutions. In other words, in these tense times in the Mediterranean, we went in search of a warm conversation. And we noticed that despite all manner of disquiet, people unhesitatingly broke into smiles when we invited them to the feast of fish and sea chat