Turkish Food Culture

The Evolution of Turkish Cuisine - Part 2

Turkish food culture, What little is known of Turkish dishes today is usually limited to pastries, bread, and kebabs.  Although these foods are prominent in the Turkish diet, they barely compromise the tip of a culinary iceberg.  In order to get a more complete understanding of modern dishes from Turkey, we need to start at the beginning.

Central Asian Turks are where the roots of Turkish cuisine started. Most historians agree that Turkish peoples were nomadic people, some of whom came from as far as Mongolia over a thousand years ago. As these people migrated, they began to include agriculture and farming as they assimilated cultures and customs as they migrated Southwest.  This time is known as the pre-Seljuk or Central Asian period.  At this time, Manichaeism was the religion that was followed before the arrival of Islam.  This is significant because food and drinks have a significant position in the beliefs of Turkish people and have been shaped based on the regions they lived in and the beliefs they followed.

Turkish food at the time featured horse meat, mutton, animal milk, and milk products. This should come as no surprise considering their nomadic life. The people known as Huns, of which many modern Turks are also related to, are mostly believed to have developed agriculture extensively while living their nomadic lifestyle.  Because of this, grains eventually became a staple food.  Some of the crops early Turks cultivated were:  wheat, barley, maize, corn, rice, as well as apples, grapes, watermelon, various other melons, and a wide variety of berries.

The Humble Origins of the Dishes from Turkey

From the limited sources of information available, it is believed the Seljuk period before 1037 featured such foods as muffins, thin dough, bread, halvah, koumiss, buttermilk, and molasses. Due to their history as nomads, there was apparently was a high demand for things like sour yogurt and sour foods, especially mixed with vinegar among 11th century Turks.  Sour foods became prominent in the Turkish diet at this time.  At this time many soups, stews, skimmed cheeses, as well as milk and buttermilk were all central to the Turkish diet.

Turks arrived in  Anatolia in 1071 and established the Anatolian Seljuk State. They created an outstanding civilization for the time.

During the Seljuk period, the area called Anatolia was ruled by a Sultanate.  This elaborate governance allowed elaborate and sophisticated gastronomy to develop in the palaces.  What came to be known as Konya cuisine, which is the ancestor to the Turkish dishes that came from Turkish cuisine. They were developed in Seljuk castles.

This led to some very structured meal customs and table rituals, some of which sometimes came from outside influences such as Mawlawi dignitaries. These were the beginnings of a Turkish food culture that’s breadth and width were second to none.

Inside the First Turkish Kitchens

Konya cuisine was developed in Seljuk castles. The Seljuk period had a significant effect on Turkish dishes and Turkish food culture.  This period resulted in the creation of many delicacies.

Both the Seljuk sultans and the common people of this era were not very much interested in showy tables and banquets. This change could be expected because of the different climate and geographic conditions. Concerning vegetation, Anatolia is very different from Central Asia. Even as they transitioned to settled life, Turks did not leave behind livestock farming. Mutton still dominated the Turkish diet of the time, called the Seljuk period diet. Supplies of milk and the work done by cattle in farms prevented them from being slaughtered. None of the ingredients they had become accustomed to, from nuts, hazelnuts to locust beans, were forgotten.  Grapes in all forms featured heavily in their diet.

Foods and beverages such as thin dough, meat bread, tandır bread, pastries, tutmach, baked head, bulgur, soup, eggplant, pickles, candy, sweet pastry, kadayıf, rose jam, and zede all started in this period.  This could be considered the true beginning of both Turkish dishes, and Turkish food culture.

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One Comment

  1. Everything is very open with a precise description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

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