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Ottoman Cuisine

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Third BBQ party and lecture was held on Saturday August 16th at 4:00 pm. Our speaker Dr. Mesut Sahin, NJIT made a presentation on "Ottoman Cuisine".

 

Before Dr. Sahin made his presentation, some 30 different types of Ottoman food, including soups, salads, and desserts, were served. Dr. Sahin’s presentation was followed by questions and answers.

 


Pictures of some food served

Ottoman Cuisine
Baklava

Ottoman Cuisine
Shish Kebab

Ottoman Cuisine
Islim Kebab

Ottoman Cuisine
Su Borek

Ottoman Cuisine
Stuffed sundried eggplant and peppers

Ottoman Cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine
Dr. Mesut Sahin

Ottoman Cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine


BBQ parties are open to public and free of charge but RSVP is required.

Speaker: Dr. Mesut Sahin, NJIT
Theme: Ottoman Cuisine
Place: IDC Carlstadt Center
545 Interstate Pl. Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Date: Saturday, August 16, 2008
Time: Between 4:00 pm - 6:30 pm


Below is brief information about the Ottoman cuisine

Ottoman Cuisine
For those who travel in culinary pursuits, Ottoman Cuisine is a very curious one. The variety of dishes that make up the Cuisine, the ways they all come together in feast-like meals, and the evident intricacy of each 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 a dinner in a governor's mansion, familiar patterns of this rich and diverse Cuisine are always present. It is a rare art, which satisfies your senses while reconfirming the higher order of society, community and culture.

A practical-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, herbs and all tightly wrapped in translucent leaves of cabbage all 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, now can such a yummy dish possibly also be good for you?

One can only conclude that the evolution of this glorious cuisine was not an accident. Similar to other grand cuisines of the world, it is a result of the combination of three key elements. A nurturing environment is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for abundance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. And the legacy of an Imperial Kitchen is inescapable. Hundreds of cooks specializing in different types of dishes, 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, trade, and total control of the Spice Road, reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in the capital of a mighty Empire. And the influence of the longevity of social organization should not be taken lightly either. The Turkish State of Anatolia is a millennium old and so, naturally, is "the cuisine." 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 reign of the Ottoman Dynasty during 600 years, and a seamless cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey, led to the evolution of a grand cuisine through differentiation, refinement and perfection of dishes, as well as their sequence and combination of the meals.

It is quite rare that all three conditions above are met, as it is in French, Chinese and Turkish Cuisine. Turkish cuisine has the extra privilege of being at the crossroads of the Far-East and the Mediterranean, which mirrors a long and complex history of Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia to Europe (where they exerted influence all the way to Vienna).

All these unique characteristics and history have bestowed upon Turkish cuisine a rich and varied number of dishes, which can be prepared and combined with other dishes in 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 culture.
The importance of culinary art for the Ottoman Sultans is evident to every visitor of Topkapi Palace. The huge kitchens were housed in several buildings under ten domes. Cooks, specializing in different categories of dishes such as soups, pilafs, kebabs, vegetables, fish, breads, pastries, candy and helva, syrup and jams and beverages, fed thousands of people a day and, in addition, sent trays of food to others in the city as a royal favor.

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 Ottoman Cuisine, which was then adopted by the kitchens of the provinces ranging from the Balkans to Southern Russia, and reaching North Africa. Istanbul was the capital of the world and had all the prestige, so that 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 refreshing caravanserais for 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 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 Prophets and Saints. The guilds prevailed in pricing and quality control. They displayed their products and talents in spectacular floats driven through Istanbul streets during 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 the general public. In fact, in each neighborhood, 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.

Anyone who visits Turkey or has had a meal in a Turkish home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice how unique the cuisine is.

Sources:
http://www.about-turkey.com/cuisine/prologue.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_cuisine

 

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