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Regional / Rural Cooking of Turkey

Halim Uludağlı

Societies are composed of various social stratifications. The most significant of these are “urban” and “rural,” a duality which has appeared in many parts of Europe and Asia since the Middle Ages.

The conditions unique to cities have brought about the whole of social behaviors which we know as “urban culture.” Professional life, commerce, industry, law, security and many other such factors have arisen as a result of the reorganization of human life. Within this arrangement, culture was reorganized as well, and was thus able to create its own unique structure. And consequently food and drink, one of mankind’s most fundamental needs, have been approached in a new way within the unique conditions of urban life. Every civilization, within its own unique culture, has created an urban cuisine.

This being the case in the urban environment, the other half of this duality, folk culture, is more bound to the rural environment and is imbued with all the values of rural people in its expression.

Part of folk culture is the local cultural products, which correspond to all the necessities of folk life. The most significant of these are clothing and costumes, literature, music and food preparation. Among these the most basic need – food – and its more institutionalized name, “cuisine,” is one of the most important elements of folk culture. Folk cuisine always reflects the basic elements of the geography in which it exists. All the products which nature provides are complimented with the foods created by mankind in harmony with nature, and it is upon this balance that culinary culture is founded. The search for innovation – and even a direct opposition to nature – is not to be found in folk cuisine, where everything is based on meeting a need and basic life functions. The local elements identifying folk cuisine – environment and climate – are directly reflected in eating habits.

Naturally, Turkish rural cooking covers many different local features of the various Turkic peoples living over a broad geographical area. But we find the greatest variety of ingredients in Anatolia and Thrace, because just as in other areas of Turkish folklore, its culinary traditions are also extraordinarily rich. The great variety of geographical conditions and ethnicities within the borders of Turkey have enriched both tastes and culinary culture. When we speak of Turkish “folk cuisine,” we should really speak of folk “cuisines,” because the unique natural conditions in Turkey bring about a unique variety in each different region. Still, whichever the region, there are common points among Turkey’s folk cuisines. The most important of these are grains, legumes, and various types of fruits and vegetables. Alongside these agricultural products, animal products are also mainstays of Turkish folk cooking. A great variety of meats appear at meals, from mutton to beef, chicken and partridge, prepared in a wealth of styles.

Every region more or less includes these ingredients, but each region uses them within different local tastes. For example breads differ in every region according to ingredients, form and flavor. In reality this difference is due to people’s adaptation in the face of differing environmental factors. In addition, every different region of Turkey provides a different array of natural products. Every region has its own unique flora and local vegetables. The same is true of fruits; for example there are scores of apple varieties, as well as of pears, cherries and plums. Widely differing varieties of honey, kebab, fish and bread add their own variety to the rich Turkish folk menu.

Of course the term “folk cuisine” is not a term that can adequately describe all these ingredients and their processing. In addition to faith and ethnicity’s contribution to culinary culture, Turkish regional/folk cuisine also gains variety and is shaped by manners of serving, ethnographic elements and rituals; and from this standpoint is one of the major culinary traditions of the world.

 
 
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