To Turks’ taste, restaurant food cannot take the place of home cooking. They prefer home cooking, and the reasons for this preference include factors such as cleanliness, care taken in its preparation, flavor and economy. In addition, the habit of eating food out is relatively new to the Turks.
Even on days where women get together, they prefer not to have pastries or ready-made foods from the store; they absolutely prefer salty and sweet cookies and böreks prepared by the woman of the house. This is because it is an opportunity for a woman to display her skill as a cook, and the women prefer that the food be fresh.
Our foods tend to be spicy and oily with much sauce. Europeans tend to find these foods heavy. Most of these foods stimulate the appetite.
Meals are eaten in the home; whatever God provides is eaten there and everything stays within the home. One doesn’t tell others, neighbors, what one ate. If one is obliged to tell, one says “It’s shameful to say so, but today we ate chicken.” People who brag about what they ate are despised. A requirement of the privacy of the home is that what is eaten there is not talked about to others.
In rural areas, whenever a guest comes to the home, he must be fed; this is truly a requirement of Turkish hospitality. A guest generally does not give notice that he is coming to dinner. There is no formal etiquette on this matter. Whatever there is, he eats, as indicated by the common saying, “The guest eats what he finds, not what he hopes for.” A foreign writer said: “Rather than filling up on just one or two thing, Turks prefer to eat a variety of foods” (Amicis, 1874). As much as possible, people try to give the best quality food and drink to their guests; if one doesn’t serve other light foods such as cookies, pastries or çörek alongside a meal or tea, they will become the subject of gossip.
When a neighbor borrows a kitchen pot or other vessel, she will make sure to return it with something inside it. This might be a dish she cooked herself, a piece of fruit, sweets, pickles, etc.
When a guest comes for dinner, the owner of the house first begins to eat. The host does not get up from the meal before the guest; this is considered impolite to the guest.
Turks must make sure to eat all the food that is on their plates, and scrape the bottom of the plate. Leaving a portion on the plate is considered a sin; this is based on a religious law regarding avoidance of waste. However in Europe, it is generally considered impolite to eat everything on the plate. The saying “işten artmaz, dişten artar” is an expression of the necessity to avoid waste and be frugal in the kitchen. This frugality is also evident in the fact that leftover food is sure to be used the next day.
In the countryside especially, one eats loudly, belches, and licks one’s fingers. In the cities such behavior is considered rude and shameful; and this leads to conflicts between young people and parents who continue this behavior in the cities. We need to become more educated on the issue of not making others uncomfortable while they are eating.
Before sitting down to eat, one washes his hands, and it is customary to wash the hands and mouth after eating as well.