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When Turkish food and protests collide

Care for a side of red hot chili peppers and ironic social commentary with your protests? The photo that went viral this week of a policeman pepper-spraying a young woman in a red dress in Istanbul inspired a response from an unlikely place: the food section, Fork & Cork, of the Hurriyet Daily News. As ...

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

Care for a side of red hot chili peppers and ironic social commentary with your protests? The photo that went viral this week of a policeman pepper-spraying a young woman in a red dress in Istanbul inspired a response from an unlikely place: the food section, Fork & Cork, of the Hurriyet Daily News.

As unrest has gripped Turkey in recent days, the country’s press has been criticized for its lack of coverage of the demonstrations and clashes (as my colleague Dana Stuster pointed out, CNN Turk aired a cooking show while CNN itself aired footage of the protests).

But on Monday, Turkey’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News ran an article titled "Defining ‘Red Hot Chili Pepper‘" in which food writer Aylin Oney Tan dishes up an ironic social commentary on the "unintended ‘new’ flavoring of a great number of Istanbul’s residents," referencing the iconic photo of police spraying the woman in red.

Tan gives a rundown of the scientific history of capsaicin, an active component in chili peppers and pepper spray, noting specifically that alcohol can ease the burn caused by the ingredient (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported a bill passed last month that bans the sale of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and prevents liquor companies from sponsoring events).

Tan goes on to thank the police for giving Turkish peppers international media attention. "Turkish pepper gas is world famous and is on the agenda of many international chefs and food writers," she writes. And she ends her piece as you would any traditional food column — with a recipe:

Recipe of the Week: This week’s recipe is inspired from the streets of Istanbul. During the riots another scary rumor was that Agent Orange, a nearly lethal gas was used to pacify the demonstrators. It’s now said that an intensified orange-color chili gas was mistakenly interpreted as the Orange gas. Suddenly realizing that oranges and chilies go well together, I whipped up the recipe for an orange salad with a kick. Peel and slice an orange thinly crosswise. Sprinkle with salt and hot chili flakes. Pour a splash of vodka and serve on a bed of arugula leaves.

And who says the Turkish press isn’t covering the protests?

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