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Turkish delight

Annual festival offers a taste of the Middle East

Volunteers from the Raindrop Womens Association make the food for the Turkish Food and Art Festival, including couscous salad, baklava, and crystal cookies with Nutella.

Greg Bollinger

As the tulips come into bloom, Raindrop Turkish House in Broken Arrow is gearing up for its signature Turkish Food and Art Festival, which will take place Saturday, March 30, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Like his home country’s native tulip, executive director Muhammet Sezer comes from Turkey but is putting down roots in Oklahoma. His youngest child was just born here six months ago, and his work with Raindrop is building bridges between various faith and culture groups in the Tulsa community.

“We are trying to find excuses to bring people together from all walks of life … anybody and everybody,” Sezer said.

Though currency also originated in what is now Turkey, you can hold onto yours—in true Turkish fashion, this event is free and open to the public. Proceeds from food and drink sales will benefit Raindrop.

Guests can expect a range of flavorsome fare, from stuffed grape leaves, beef kebabs, and mouthwatering köfte—Turkish meatballs hand-rolled with bulgur wheat and Middle Eastern spices such as coriander, and cumin—to desserts like handmade baklava.

Beverages will include Turkish black tea, which is brewed in a specially made double-sided pot; and Turkey’s popular unfiltered coffee, a drink with special cultural significance that is sure to put some hair on your chest.

Brought to the Ottoman Empire in 1555, coffee in Turkey has had roles in royal court, marriage traditions, and fortune telling.

Traditionally made in a beautiful cezve, a small copper vessel with a long handle, finely ground coffee beans and water are placed over a flame and transform into a thick and frothy drink that is quite strong. “This is why we serve it in small, tiny little Turkish coffee cups,” Sezer said.

If you want the flavor of Turkish coffee at home but lack a cezve, don’t despair—instant Turkish coffee will be available for purchase.

Also for purchase will be traditional art pieces, pottery, and handmade mosaic lamps, turning Raindrop Turkish House into a small, colorful bazaar. Live demonstrations of ebru—a printmaking artform in which paper or fabric is marbled with colorful dyes—and Turkish calligraphy will also take place.

Rounding out the agenda will be live Turkish dance performances and music featuring traditional instruments like the ney, a Turkish flute.

Above all else, Sezer hopes the festival will showcase Turkey’s famous hospitality. “That’s the main thing I want to bring and show my friends in Tulsa,” he said.

Festivalgoers can look forward to developing a personal connection and better understanding of Turkish culture. “There is a big misunderstanding about Turkish people and people from the Middle East and Muslim world … Yes, we have differences, but at the end of the day, we are all human beings,” Sezer said. “I’ve heard so much great feedback from families that this event helped them to change their mindset.”

Sezer misses plenty about his native Turkey—namely his parents, whom he has been unable to visit since 2014 due to political challenges. “We see each other through WhatsApp, but it’s not like seeing them in person,” he said.

But some of that heartache has been eased by new friendships, and by the spirit of connection and hospitality animating the Turkish Food and Art Festival. “Tulsa is a welcoming, friendly city.” Sezer said. “I feel like I’m a part of this big family.”