Turkish food collective ISCHTA for Cooklife

There’s a tree in Berlin Grunewald whose split trunk has slumped over, its crown suspended indefinitely above the ground—upside down. It is here that the women of ISCHTA decided to set up their table, decorated in the tepid colors of autumn, candles flickering wildly in the wind, dried leaves covering the earth. The thick tree tentacles dressed in an installation of red hanging amaranthus and rose hip branches.

Sisters Eda and Ezgi Polat founded ISCHTA in 2019 as a blog to develop recipes reflective of their native Berlin’s diversity, but also of their Turkish heritage. By 2020, cake designer Dilek Topkara joined them, with an equal urge to place Turkish-influenced recipes and their imagery in the modern realm of food styling and photography. With images shot by Ezgi, an already established portrait photographer and Instagram influencer, the project became a visual spectacle made of nature’s seasonal ingredients, often captured in nature itself. A constant accompaniment are the striking floral arrangements and installations created by the botanic artist Hürriyet Bulan, an expert in creating perfect harmony through color and form.

ISCHTA (taken from the Turkish word iştah) is not only an amalgamation of these women’s individual talents, but a self-sustained side project in their free time that relies solely on the homemade ethic without any monetary profit. Recipes are planned and created from scratch, photoshoots are organized in unofficial locations, props are gathered from members and reused. The purpose of the self-sufficient project is artistic expression, an exploration of identities, which glides back and forth between Turkey and Europe. A visual diary that records the women’s progression as they each discover who they are and what satiates their creative hunger.

For this particular shoot, the last quinces were picked from Dilek’s family garden—bruised slightly in nature’s imperfection—and were used to create a signature jam as well as a quince dessert accompanied by mascarpone and almond brittle. Recipes have been provided so that a touch of the ISCHTA spirit can be recreated at home, for self-reflection and other personal journeys inspired by beautiful and delicious food.

Cooklife, January-February 2021

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