A wonderful way to understand and appreciate a culture is by casting a curious eye upon how food is prepared and served. Great civilizations create grand cuisines where every dish is a reflection of how a people and a place (a nation and its country) spawn and sustain their togetherness in the act of enjoying a meal.
For those who travel to engage in culinary pursuits and for the ordinary tourist, the Turkish Cuisine is worthy of exploration. The variety of dishes that make up the cuisine, the ways they all come together in feast-like meals, and the evident intricacy of the craft offer enough material for life-long study and enjoyment. It is not easy to discern a basic element or a single dominant feature, like the Italian “pasta” or the French “sauce”. Whether in a humble home, at a famous restaurant, or at dinner in a Bey’s mansion, familiar patterns of this rich and diverse cuisine are always present. It is a rare art which satisfies the senses while reconfirming the higher order of society, community and culture.
A practically-minded child watching Mother cook “cabbage dolma” on a lazy, grey winter day is bound to wonder: “Who on earth discovered this peculiar combination of sautéed rice, pine-nuts, currants, spices, and herbs all tightly wrapped in translucent leaves of cabbage, each roll exactly half an inch thick and stacked up on an oval serving plate decorated with lemon wedges? How was it possible to transform this humble vegetable to such heights of fashion and delicacy with so few additional ingredients? And, how can such a yummy dish also possibly be good for you?” The modern mind, in a moment of contemplation, has similar thoughts upon entering a modest sweets shop where “baklava” is the generic cousin of a dozen or so sophisticated sweet pastries with names like: twisted turban, sultan, saray (palace), lady’s navel, nightingale’s nest... The same experience awaits you at a “muhallebici” (pudding shop) with a dozen different types of milk puddings.
One can only conclude that the evolution of Turkish cuisine was not an accident, but rather, as with the other grand cuisines of the world, it was a result of the combination of three key elements: a nurturing environment, the imperial kitchen, and a long social tradition. A nurturing environment is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for an abundance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. Secondly, the legacy of an Imperial Kitchen is inescapable. Hundreds of cooks, all specializing in different types of dishes, and all eager to please the royal palate, no doubt had their influence in perfecting the cuisine as we know it today. The Palace Kitchen, supported by a complex social organization, a vibrant urban life, specialization of labour, worldwide trade, and total control of the Spice Road, all reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in the capital of a mighty Empire. Finally, the longevity of social organization should not be taken lightly either. Time is of the essence, as Ibn’i Haldun wrote, “The religion of the King, in time, becomes that of the people,” which also holds for the King’s food. Thus, the 600-year reign of the Ottoman Dynasty and an exceptional cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey led to the evolution of a grand cuisine through differentiation, the refinement and perfection of dishes, and the sequence and combination of the meals at which they are served.
It is quite rare when all three of the above conditions are met, as they are in French, Chinese and Turkish Cuisine. Turkish cuisine has the added privilege of being at the crossroads of the Near East and the Mediterranean, resulting in a long and complex history of Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia (where they mingled with the Chinese) to Europe (where their influence was felt all the way to Vienna). Such unique characteristics and extensive history have bestowed upon Turkish cuisine a rich selection of dishes all of which can be prepared and combined with others to create meals of almost infinite variety, but always in a non-arbitrary way. This led to a cuisine that is open to improvisation through development of regional styles, while retaining its deep structure, as all great works of art do. The cuisine is also an integral aspect of our culture. It is a part of the rituals of everyday life. It reflects spirituality, in forms that are specific to it, through symbolism and practice. Anyone who visits Turkey or has a meal in a Turkish home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice the uniqueness of the cuisine. Our intention here is to help the uninitiated enjoy Turkish food by achieving a more detailed understanding of the repertoire of dishes and their related cultural practices as well as their spiritual meaning.
Turkey is one of the hot beds of genetic resources for field crops. Moreover many familiar fruits such as the cherry, apricot and almond, all originated from Turkey, including the fig. This vast fertile geography has been home for countless civilizations for thousands of years. Each civilization has created its own unique cuisine. After the Turks arrived in Anatolia, they blended their own culinary skills with the already established ones. Early historical documents show that the basic structure of Turkish cuisine was already established during the Nomadic Period and in the first settled Turkish States of Asia. Culinary attitudes towards meat, dairy products, vegetables and grains that characterized this early period still make up the core of Turkish thinking. Early Turks cultivated wheat and used it liberally in several types of leavened and unleavened breads baked in clay ovens, fried on a griddle, or buried in embers.
“Mantı”, (dumpling), and “buğra,” (the ancestor of “börek” or filled pastries, named for Buğra Khan of Turkistan) were already among the much-coveted dishes of this time. Stuffing not only the pastry, but also all kinds of vegetables was common practice, and still is, as evidenced by dozens of different types of “dolma”. Skewering meat as well as other ways of grilling, later known to us as varieties of “kebab” and dairy products such as cheeses and yogurt were convenient staples of the pastoral Turks. They introduced these attitudes and practices to Anatolia in the 11th century. In return they met rice, the fruits and vegetables native to the region, and hundreds of varieties of fish in the three seas surrounding the Anatolian Peninsula. These new and wonderful ingredients were assimilated into the basic cuisine in the millennium that followed.
With the combined characteristics of the three oldest continents of the world and an ecological diversity surpassing any other country along the 40th latitude, the Turkish landscape encompasses such a wide variety of geographic zones that for every two to four hours of driving, you will find yourself in a different zone amid all the accompanying changes in scenery, temperature, altitude, humidity, vegetation and weather. Thus, the diversity of the cuisine has taken on that of the landscape with its regional variations. In the eastern region, you will encounter rugged, snow-capped mountains where the winters are long and cold, along with the highlands where the spring season with its rich wild flowers and rushing creeks extends into the long and cool summer. Livestock farming is prevalent. Butter, yogurt, cheese, honey, meat and cereals are the local food. Long winters are best endured with the help of yogurt soup and meatballs flavoured with aromatic herbs found in the mountains, followed by endless servings of tea. The heartland is dry steppe with rolling hills, and endless stretches of wheat fields and barren bedrock that take on the most incredible shades of gold, violet, and cool and warm greys, as the sun travels the sky. Along the trade routes were ancient cities with lush cultivated orchards and gardens. Among these, Konya, the capital of the Seljuk Empire, distinguished itself as the centre of a culture that attracted scholars, mystics, and poets from all over the world during the 13th century. The lavish cuisine that is enjoyed in Konya today, with its clay-oven (tandır) kebabs, böreks, meat and vegetable dishes and helva desserts, dates back to the feasts given by Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad in 1237 A.D.
Towards the west, one eventually reaches warm, fertile valleys between cultivated mountainsides, and the lace-like shores of the Aegean where nature is friendly and life has always been easy-going. Fruits and vegetables of all kinds are abundant, including, best of all, sea food! Here, olive oil becomes a staple and is used both in hot and cold dishes. The temperate zone of the Black Sea Coast, to the north, is protected by the high Caucasian Mountains and abounds in hazelnuts, corn and tea. The Black Sea people are fishermen and identify themselves with their ecological companion, the shimmering “hamsi”, a small fish similar to the anchovy. There are at least forty different dishes made with hamsi, including desserts! Many poems, anecdotes and folk dances are inspired by this delicious fish. The south-eastern part of Turkey is hot and dessert-like offering the greatest variety of kebabs and sweet pastries. Dishes here are spicier compared to all other regions, possibly to retard spoilage in hot weather, or as the natives say, to equalize the heat inside the body to that outside!
The culinary centre of the country is the Marmara Region, including Thrace, with İstanbul as its Queen City. This temperate, fertile region boasts a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as the most delicately flavoured lamb. The variety of fish that travel the Bosphorus surpasses that of other seas.
Bolu, a city on the mountains, supplied the greatest cooks for the Sultan’s Palace, and even now, the best chefs in the country come from Bolu. Since İstanbul is the heart of the cuisine, a survey of the Sultan’s kitchen is required to understand it.
It was in this environment that hundreds of the Sultans’ chefs, who dedicated their lives to their profession, developed and perfected the dishes of the Turkish cuisine, which was then adopted in the areas from the Balkans to southern Russia, and even as far as North Africa. İstanbul then had all the prestige, so its ways were imitated. At the same time, it was supported by an enormous organization and infrastructure which enabled all the treasures of the world to flow into it. The provinces of the vast Empire were integrated by a system of trade routes with caravanserais for refreshing the weary merchants and security forces. The Spice Road, the most important factor in culinary history, was under the full control of the Sultan. Only the best ingredients were allowed to be traded under the strict standards established by the courts. Guilds played an important role in the development and sustenance of the cuisine. These included hunters, fishermen, cooks, kebab cooks, bakers, butchers, cheese makers and yogurt merchants, pastry chefs, pickle makers, and sausage merchants. All of the principal trades were believed to be sacred and each guild traced its patronage to the saints. The guilds set price and quality controls. They displayed their products and talents in spectacular parades through İstanbul streets on special occasions, such as the circumcision festivities for the Crown Prince or religious holidays. Following the example of the Palace, all of the grand Ottoman houses boasted elaborate kitchens and competed in preparing feasts for each other as well as for the general public. In fact, in each neighbourhood, at least one household would open its doors to anyone who happened to stop by for dinner during the holy month of Ramadan, or during other festive occasions. This is how the traditional cuisine evolved and spread, even to the most modest corners of the country.
Before describing each of these categories, some general comments are necessary. The foundation of the cuisine is based on grains (rice and wheat) and vegetables. Each category of dishes contains only one or two types of main ingredients. Turks are purists in their culinary taste, that is, the dishes are supposed to bring out the flavour of the main ingredient rather than hiding it under sauces or spices. Thus, the eggplant should taste like eggplant, lamb like lamb, pumpkin like pumpkin, and so on. Contrary to the prevalent Western impression of Turkish food, spices and herbs are used very simply and sparingly. For example, either mint or dill weed is used with zucchini, parsley is used with eggplant, a few cloves of garlic has its place in some cold vegetable dishes, and cumin is sprinkled over red lentil soup or mixed in ground meat when making “köfte” (meat balls). Lemon and yogurt are used to complement both meat and vegetable dishes as well as to balance the taste of olive oil or meat. Most desserts and fruit dishes do not call for any spices. So their flavours are refined and subtle. There are major classes of meatless dishes. When meat is used, it is used sparingly. Even with the meat kebabs, “pide” or the flat bread is the largest part of the dish alongside vegetables or yogurt. Turkish cuisine also boasts a variety of authentic contributions to desserts and beverages.
For the Turks, the setting is as important as the food itself. Therefore, food-related places need to be considered, as well as the dining protocol. Among the great food places where you can find ingredients for the cuisine are the weekly neighbourhood markets (“pazar”) and the permanent markets. The most famous one of the latter type is the Spice Market in İstanbul. This is a place where every conceivable type of food item can be found, as it has been since pre-Ottoman times. This is a truly exotic place, with hundreds of scents rising from stalls located within an ancient domed building, which was the terminus for the Spice Road. There are more modest markets in the city centres that sell fresh fish and vegetables. The weekly markets are where sleepy neighbourhoods come to life, with the villagers setting up their stalls before dawn in a designated area to sell their products. On these days, handicrafts, textiles, glassware and other household items are also among the displays at the most affordable prices. What makes these places unique is the mixture of sounds, sights, smells and activity, as well as the high quality of fresh food, which can only be obtained at the pazar. There is plenty of haggling and jostling as people make their way through the narrow isles while vendors compete for their attention. You can navigate through the cuisine (just in case you get the urge to cook a la Turca) as well as the streets of Turkish cities, where it is just as important to locate the eating places as it is the museums and the archaeological wonders.
The bakers of the Ottoman period believed that after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam, the Patron Saint of Bakers, learned how to make bread from the Archangel Gabriel. Obviously, the secret is still held dear by present-day Turkish bakers. No other bread tastes like every day Turkish bread. One realizes the wonderful luxury of Turkish bread only upon leaving the country. This glorious food is enjoyed in large quantities and is loved by all, rich and poor, simple and sophisticated. Every neighbourhood has a bread bakery that produces the golden, crisp loaves twice a day, morning and afternoon, filling the streets with their irresistible and wholesome aroma. People pick up a few loaves on their way home from work, and end up eating the crisp ends by the time they get there. After a hard day’s work, holding the warm loaf is the best reward, convincing one that all is well.
Along with bread, “pilav” is another staple of the Turkish kitchen. The most common versions are the crackedwheat pilaf and the rice pilaf. A good cracked-wheat pilaf made with whole onions, sliced tomatoes, green peppers sautéed in butter, and boiled in beef stock is a meal in itself. Many versions of the rice pilaf accompany vegetable and meat dishes. The distinguishing feature of the Turkish pilaf is the soft buttery morsels of rice which readily roll off your spoon, rather than sticking together in a mushy clump.
“Izgara” (grilled) is how the main course dishes are prepared at a meat restaurant. Mixed grills are likely to include lamb chops, “köfte”, or “şiş”. Köfte or meatballs can be grilled, fried, oven-cooked or boiled, after being mixed with special spices, eggs, and grated onions and carefully shaped into balls, oblongs, or round or long patties. Another popular dish is raw meatballs, inspired by the nomadic Turks who carried spiced, raw meat in their saddles, and is known to Europeans as “steak Tartar.” It is made of raw, twiceground meat, by kneading it with thin bulgur and hot spices vigorously for a few hours. Then bite-size patties are made, and served with cilantro, known for its stomach-protecting qualities. Some restaurants specialize only in grilled meats, in which case they are called meat restaurants. The fare will be a constant stream of grilled meats served hot in portions straight off the grill, until you tell the waiter that you are full.
Along with grains, vegetables are also consumed in large quantities in the Turkish diet. The simplest and most basic type of vegetable dish is prepared by slicing a main vegetable such as zucchini or eggplant, combining it with tomatoes, green peppers and onions, and cooking it slowly in butter and its own juices. Since the vegetables that are cultivated in Turkey are truly delicious, a simple dish like this, eaten with a sizeable chunk of fresh bread, is a satisfying meal in itself.
In addition to these general categories, there are numerous meat and vegetable dishes which feature unique recipes. When talking vegetables, it is important to know that the eggplant (or aubergine) has a special place in Turkish cuisine. This handsome vegetable with its brown-green cap, velvety purple skin, firm and slim body, has a richer flavour than that of its relatives found elsewhere. At a party, a frustrating question to ask a Turk would be “How do you cook an eggplant” A proper answer to this question would require hours! Here, too, it will have to suffice to mention just two eggplant dishes that are a must to taste. In one, the eggplant is split lengthwise and filled with a meat mix. This is a common summer dish, eaten with white rice pilaf. The other one is “Her Majesty’s Favourite,” a delicate formal dish that is not easy to make but well worth trying. The name refers to Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, who fell in love with it on her visit to Sultan Abdülaziz. To taste these dishes, look for a “Lokanta,” a word borrowed from the Italian “Locanda,” describing the type of establishment where traditional cooking is prepared, usually for those who work nearby.
In Turkey, there is a rich tradition associated with liquor. Drinking alcoholic beverages in the company of family and friends at home as well as in taverns and restaurants is a part of special occasions. Similar to the Spanish tapas, “meze” is the general category of dishes that are brought in small quantities to start the meal off. These are eaten, along with wine or more likely with “rakı”, the anise-flavoured national drink of Turks sometimes referred to as “lion’s milk”, until the main course is served.
The bare minimum meze for rakı are slices of honeydew melon and creamy feta cheese with freshly baked bread. Beyond this, a typical meze menu includes dried and marinated mackerel, fresh salad greens in thick yogurt sauce and garlic, plates of cold vegetable dishes cooked or fried in olive oil, fried crispy savoury pastry, deep-fried mussels and squid served in a sauce, tomato and cucumber salad, and fish eggs in a sauce. The main course that follows such a meze spread will be fish or grilled meat. When the main course is kebab, then the meze spread is different. In this case, several plates of different types of minced salad greens and tomatoes in spicy olive oil, mixed with yogurt or cheese, “humus” (chick peas mashed in tahini), bulgur and red lentil balls, “çiğ köfte” (raw meatballs made of minced meat, pounded wheat and chili powder) marinated stuffed eggplant, peppers with spices and nuts, and pickles are likely to be served.
The places to taste fish are fish restaurants and taverns. Not all taverns are fish restaurants, but most fish restaurants are taverns and these are usually found on the harbours overlooking the sea. The Bosphorus is famous for its fisherman’s taverns, large and small, from Rumeli Kavağı to Kumkapı. The modest ones are small with wooden tables and rickety wooden chairs; nevertheless they offer delicious grilled fish. Then there are the elaborate, fashionable ones in Tarabya and Bebek. Fish restaurants always have an open-air section right by the sea. The waiters run back and forth between the kitchen, perhaps located in the restaurant across the street, and the tables on the seaside. After being seated, it is customary to visit the kitchen or the display to pick your fish and discuss the way you want it to be prepared.
The price of the fish is also disclosed at this time. Then you swing by the meze display and order the ones you want. So the evening begins, sipping rakı in between samplings of meze, watching the sunset, and slowly setting the pace for conversation that will continue for hours into the night. Drinking is never a hurried, loud, boisterous, or lonely affair. It is a communal, gently festive and cultured way of entertainment. In these fish restaurants, a couple of families may spend an evening with their children running around the restaurant after they are fed, while the teenagers sit at the table patiently listening to the conversation and occasionally participating, when the topic is football or music.
The most well-known sweets associated with Turkish Cuisine are “lokum” (Turkish delight), and “baklava”, giving the impression that these may be the typical desserts eaten after meals. This, of course, is not true. First of all, the family of desserts is much richer than just these two. Secondly, these are not typical desserts served as part of a main meal. For example, baklava and its relatives are usually eaten with coffee, as a snack or after a kebab dish. So, to further our education in Turkish cuisine we will survey the various types of sweets.
There are shops where baklava, börek, or muhallebi are sold, exclusively or together with other things. People come to these places for take-away or to sit down at one of the tables tucked away in a corner of the shop. The baklava shops usually feature “water börek”, an especially difficult börek to make. Most börek shops also make milk puddings. These are excellent places to eat breakfast or lunch at any time of the day. Many pudding shops also serve chicken soup. In any event, it is possible to feast on börek and milk pudding for an entire holiday, if on a tight budget. You have to be in Turkey to get the real and the best taste of the desserts above. However, in addition to the variety of Turkish delights, there is a lesser-known type of dessert that can be taken back home in a sweet box. These are nut pastes - marzipan made of almonds and pistachios. A few boxes will usually last for a month or so and bring delight after dinner. Another unique sweet taste is “akide şekeri”, one of the oldest sweet delicacies of the Ottoman kitchens. It was also a symbol of janissaries’ loyalty to and trust in the Empire. Finally, candied chestnuts, a specialty of Bursa, are among the most wonderful nutty desserts.
Tea, on the other hand, is the main source of caffeine for the Turks. It is prepared in a special way, by brewing it over boiling water and served in delicate, small, clear glasses to show the deep red colour and to transmit the heat to the hand. Drinking tea is such an essential part of a working day, that any disruption of the constant supply of fresh tea is a sure way to sacrifice productivity. A park without tea and coffee is inconceivable in Turkey. Thus, every spot with a view has a tea-house or a tea-garden. These places may be under a plain tree overlooking the village or town square, on top of a hill with majestic view of a valley or the sea, by a harbour, in a market, on a roadside with a scenic overview, by a waterfall or in the woods. Among the typical tea-gardens in İstanbul are: the Emirgan on the European side, Çamlıca on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, the famous Pierre Loti cafe, and the tea-garden in Üsküdar. But the traditional tea-houses are beginning to disappear from the more tourist-oriented seaside locations, in favor of “pubs” and “Biergartens”.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, Rakı, made of either grapes or raisins, is the anise-flavoured national alcoholic drink of Turks. It is often served with seafood or meze particularly at “meyhane”. Another taste whose history goes back to very old times across these lands is wine. Many wine types produced from far more grape varieties of the Anatolian lands delight gourmets.
Almost every region of Turkey is home to extensive vineyards where authentic grapes like papazkarası, karasakız, çalkarası, sultaniye, bornova misketi, kalecik karası, emir, narince, öküzgözü, boğazkere, dökülgen, acıkara are cultivated and then fermented to produce original wines that revive even the jaded palates.
Food, Culture and Identity It is customary to have three “sit-down meals” a day. Breakfast or “kahvaltı” (literally meaning ‘before the coffee’) typically consists of bread, feta cheese, black olives and tea. Dinner starts when all the family members get together and share the events of the day at the table. The menu consists of three or more types of dishes that are eaten sequentially, accompanied by salad. In summer, dinner is served at about eight. Close relatives, best friends or neighbours may join in on meals on a “walk-in” basis. Others are invited ahead of time as elaborate preparations are expected. The menu depends on whether alcoholic drinks will be served or not. In the former case, the guests will find the meze spread ready on the table, frequently set up either in the garden or on the balcony. The main course is served later. Otherwise, the dinner starts with a soup, followed by the main meat and vegetable course, accompanied by the salad. Then the oliveoil dishes such as the dolmas are served, followed by dessert and fruit. While the table is cleared, the guests retire to the living room to have tea and Turkish coffee.
Women get together for afternoon tea at regular intervals with their school-friends and neighbours. These are very elaborate occasions with at least a dozen types of cakes, pastries, finger foods and böreks prepared by the hostess. The main social purpose of these gatherings is to chit chat and share experiences about all aspects of life, public and private. Naturally, one very important function is the propagation of recipes. Diligent exchanges occur while women consult each other on their innovations and solutions to culinary challenges. By now it should be clear that the concept of having a “pot-luck” at someone’s house is entirely strange to the Turks. The responsibility of supplying all the food squarely rests on the host who expects to be treated in the same way in return. There are two occasions where the notion of “host” does not apply. One such situation is when neighbours collaborate in making large quantities of food for the winter such as “tarhana” - dried yogurt and tomato soup, or noodles. Another is when families get together to go on a day’s excursion into the countryside. Arrangements are made ahead of time as to who will make köfte, dolma, salads, pilafs and who will supply the meat, the beverages and the fruits. The “mangal” or the copper charcoal burner, kilims, hammocks, pillows, musical instruments such as saz, ud, or violin, and samovars are also loaded up for a day trip. A ‘picnic’ would be a pale comparison to these occasions, often referred to as “stealing a day from fate.” Küçüksu, Kalamış, and Heybeli in old İstanbul used to be typical locations for such outings, as numerous songs tell us. Other memorable locations include the Meram vineyards in Konya, Lake Hazar in Elazığ, and Bozcaada off the shores of Çanakkale. The May 5 Spring Festival (Hıdırellez), commemorating two Saints: Hızır and İlyas (representing immortality and abundance), would mark the beginning of the pleasure-season (safa), with lots of poetry, songs and, naturally, good food. A similar “safa” used to be the weekly trip to the Turkish hamam. Food prepared the day before would be packed on horse-drawn carriages along with fresh clothing and scented soaps. After spending the morning at the marble washbasins and the steam hall, people would retire to the wooden settees to rest, eat and dry off before returning home.
Deaths are also occasions for cooking and sharing food. In this case, neighbours prepare and send dishes to the bereaved household for three days after the death. The only dish prepared by the household of the deceased is “helva” which is sent to the neighbours and served to visitors. In some areas, it is a custom for a good friend of the deceased to begin preparing the helva, while recounting fond memories and events. Then the spoon would be passed to the next person who would take up stirring the helva and continue reminiscing. Usually the helva is done by the time everyone in the room has had a chance to speak. This wonderfully simple ceremony makes the people left behind talk about happier times and lightens their grief momentarily, strengthening the bond between them.
Each religion has its own food and dietary practices. Islam is perhaps the one that influences the cuisine culture at most. These practices have been reinterpreted in regional adaptations, particularly in Turkey, where it is harder to find orthodox Muslims. In Anatolia, where once a variety of Sufi orders flourished, food gained a spiritual dimension above religious requirements, as seen in their poetry, music, and practices. The month of Ramadan, when all Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to dusk, is also a month of feasting and charitable feeding of all those who are in need. Fasting is to purify the body and the soul and at the same time, to develop a reverence for all blessings bestowed by nature and cooked by a skilful chef. The days are spent preparing food for the breaking of the fast at sunset. It is customary to break the fast by eating a bite of “heavenly” food such as olives or dates and nibbling lightly on a variety of cheeses, slices of sausage, jams and pide. This would be followed by the evening prayers and then the main meal. In the old days, the rest of the night would be occupied by games and conversations, or going into town to attend the various musicals and theatres, until it was time to eat again just before the firing of the cannon or the beating of the drums marking the beginning of the next day’s fasting. People would rest until noon, when shops and workplaces opened and food preparation began.
The other major religious holiday is the “Sacrifice Festival”, commemorating Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God. But God sent him a ram instead, sparing his son’s life. Most of the meat of the butchered animal is sent to neighbours and to the needy. There are a number of occasions in which food is served to commemorate prophets. The six holy nights marking events in Mohammed’s life are celebrated by baking special pastries, breads and lokma. The month of “Muharrem” occurred when the flood waters receded, and Noah and his family were able to land. It is believed that then they cooked a meal using whatever remained in their supplies. This event is celebrated by cooking “aşure”, or Noah’s pudding, made of wheat berries, dried legumes, rice, raisins, currants, dried figs, dates and nuts. You can also taste this most nourishing pudding year round at most muhallebi shops. The feast of Zachariah is prepared after one’s wish is fulfilled. This feast consists of a spread of forty-one different types of dried fruits and nuts served to guests. Prayers are read and everyone tastes all forty-one foods. A guest can then burn a candle and make a wish. If the wish comes true, one is obligated to prepare a similar “Zachariah Table” for others.
One of the main culprits in the modern-day diet is the snack, that horrible junk food designed to give a quick sugar-high to keep one going for the rest of the day. Again, modern science has come to the rescue, and healthy snacks are now being discovered. Some of these are amazingly familiar to the Turks! Take, for example, the “fruit roll-ups”. Visit any dried-food store that sells nuts and fruits, and you will see the authentic version, such as sheets of mashed and dried apricots and grapes. In these stores, there are many other items that await the discovery of some pioneering entrepreneur from Western markets. Another wholesome snack, known as “trail mix” or “gorp”, is well-known to all Turkish mothers, who traditionally stuff a handful of mixed nuts and raisins in the pockets of their children’s school uniform to snack on before exams. This practice can be traced to ancient fables, where the hero goes on a diet of hazelnuts and raisins before fighting with the giants and dragons, or before weaving the king a golden smock. The Prince always loads onto the mythological bird, the “Zümrüd-ü Anka”, forty sacks of nuts and raisins for himself, and water and meat for the bird that takes him over the high Caucasus Mountains. As far as food goes, it is reassuring to know that we are re-discovering what is good for our bodies. Nevertheless, one is left with the nagging feeling that such knowledge will always be incomplete as long as it is divorced from its cultural context and metaphysical traditions. The challenge facing modern Turkey is to achieve such continuity in a time of genetic engineering, high-tech mass production and the growing number of convenience-oriented households. But for now, the markets are vibrant and the dishes are tastier than ever, so just come and enjoy!
Stosunki dyplomatyczne pomiędzy Osmanami (Imperium Osmańskim) i Królestwem Polskim zostały nawiązane w 1414 roku, ponieważ oba państwa były bezpośrednimi sąsiadami od późnego średniowiecza do końca 18. wieku.
600-lecie nawiązania stosunków dyplomatycznych było obchodzone w 2014 roku.
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