For those wh travel to engage in clunary pursuits,
the Turkish Cuisine is worthy of exploration. The variety of dishes that make up the cuisine,
the ways they all coma together in feastlike meals, and the evident intricacy of each craft
involved offer enough material for life-long study and enjoyment. It is not easy to discern
a basic element or a single dominant featura, like the Italian pasta or French sauce. Whether
in a humble home, at a famous restaurant, or at diner 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 child watching Mother cook "cabbage dolma"
on a lazy, grey winter day is bound to wonder: "Who on earth discovered this peculiar combination of
sauteed rice, pinenuts, 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 souch 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 smilar thoughtsupon
entering a modest sweets shop where "baklava" is the generic cousin of a dozen or so sophisticated sweet
pastries wiht names l
Ke twisted turban, sultan, saray(palace), lady's navel, or nightingale's
nest. The same experience awaits you at a "muhallabici"(puding shop) wiht a dozen different types of
One can only conclude that the evolution of this glorius 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 imperialkitchen, and a long social
tradition. Anurturing environmental is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for an abudence and diversity
of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. Secondly, the legacy of an
imperial kithcen is inescepable. 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 labor, wordwide trade, and total kontrol 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. The
Turkish State of Anatolia is a millennium old and so, naturally, is its cuisine. Time is of the
esence, as Ibn'i Haldun wrote, "The religion of the King, in time, becomes that of the people",
which also holds true for the King's food. Thus, the 600-year reign of the Otoman Dynasty an
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 in which they are found.
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 prilege of
being at the crossroads of the Far East and the Mediterranean, resulting in a long and complex
history of Turkishmigration 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 bestowedupon Turkish cuisine a rich selection of dishes all of which can
be prepared and combined wiht others to create meals of almost infinite variety, but always in a
non-arbi-trary 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 the culture. It is a part of the rituals of everyday life. It
reflects spirituality, in forms that are specific tı it, through symbolism and practise.
Anyone who visits Turkey or has a meal in a Turkish home,
regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sur 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.