Ceremonial and Celebratory Meals
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Kitchen Organization, Ceremonial and Celebratory Meals in the Ottoman Empire

On the Ramadan Bayram of 1739, according to the old order, the Grand Vizier and the sultan on his throne received Ramadan greetings in the Kubbe-i Hümayun, following which a meal was eaten. The Jannisaries ate pilaf and zerde.

The feast served to the deputies in the inner palace on Friday, July 24 1912 included 1 okka (1.28 kilograms) of caviar, 1 okka of Dutch chees, 2 okkas of Balkan kaşar cheese and 5 okkas of string cheese. The iftar menu that day was (14):

Çubuk börek
Roasted lamb
Red mullet in paper
Cold chicken
Pilaf with tomatoes
Pistachio and strawberry ice cream
Almond muhallebi

During the World War I, food became scarce in the Ottoman Empire, and this affected the palace cuisine as well. Certain strictures were applied to the distribution of food on trays. Trays which contained chicken would not include meat in the evenings, only chicken; those which did not include chicken would include meat in the evenings. Thus the foods served for iftar were 1 soup, one egg, two vegetables, one pilaf, 1 sweet, and 1 iftariye. The sahur contained 1 meat, 1 vegetable, 1 pilaf, 1 börek and 1 hoşaf.

In Ramadan 1914, the menu for iftar meal served to the governors was (7):

Asparagus soup
Sigara böreği
Roast chicken
Pilav scented with ambergris
Keşkül-ü fukara


The Kırka-i Şerif Visitation Ceremony

Every year on the 15th day of Ramadan, the Hırka-i Şerif (the mantle of the Prophet Muhammed, which is kept in the palace as a relic) was viewed; all the statesmen took their places according to protocol, headed by the sultan. One day prior to the visitation day, letters of invitation were written and sent by the chamberlain. First the Holy Koran was read. Following this, the sultan would open the chest in which the cloak was kept and was allowed to brush it over his face. After this ceremony, it was customary to serve baklava to the Janissaries and other corpsmen. The kitchen officer, the head chef and other kitchen staff distributed baklava, recorded in the registers, to every corps (21). Before the Janissaries were abolished by Mahmut II, a pan of baklava prepared in the palace kitchens was presented to the sultan, and one pan for each ten Janissaries. The pans prepared for the Janissaries were taken to their rooms in a ceremony in which each pan was carried by two Janissaries. The next day the pans and the futa (cloth in which they were wrapped) were returned to the palace (27).

After the sultans moved their official residence to Dolmabahçe Palace, an official procession was held for the viewing of the cloak. That day, they broke their fast in Topkapı Palace.

The Ceremony for the Sending of the Sürre-i Hümayun

The ceremony, held on the 12th day of the month of Recep, in which money and gifts were sent from the Palace to Medina and Mecca, was known as the Sürre-i Hümayun. For this ceremony, an official letter was first sent by the harem lord to the registrar, the head librarian and the nişancı to inform them. On the day of the ceremony, everyone took their places according to protocol. At this point coffee and sweets were served. Afterwards the the Sürre-i Hümayun register received the seal of the harem lord, followed by those of the harem inspector, and signed by the registrar. After the seals and the adding of the tuğra, the official seal of the sultan, sherbet and incense water was drunk, and later everyone ate a meal together (21).


Another group days of religious significance in Turkey are the kandils, which commemorate the Prophet Muhammed’s conception, his birth, the revelation of the Koran and his ascent into the heavens. The kandils were a time of great activity. The sultan sent invitations for the kandil, statesmen and clergy came to the palace and were taken into a hall prepared for the kandil, where they greeted the sultan, who was standing. The princes and crown prince took their places next to the sultan. If there were screened places there for the women they would sit there; if not, screens would be moved to enclose one section of the hall. The women in the palace, princesses, princesses from outside the palaces and other women invited would sit on cushions placed there for them (10).

As the Mevlüt was being chanted, the attendants were sprinkled with rose water, and candy was passed around in fine bowls. When the Mevlüt was over, the sultan would stand, and the guests would immediately leave the hall. The sultan would go from there to the harem, where he would receive the greetings of the women of the harem. When the greeting ceremony concluded, he would stand next to his mother and they would speak for a bit. During this time, the wards distributed sherbet to all present (10).

The menu for the feast given for the deputies in the palace for Kandil on June 9, 1912 was (7):

Sigara böreği
Red mullet in paper
Meat baked in a jug
Roast chicken
Göveç pilaf
Strawberry cream
Ice cream

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