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Paphlagonian Culinary Culture

Paphlagonian Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is generally classified as the palace cuisine, local cuisines and ethnic cuisines generally more over Istanbul. Palace cuisine is defined as the Ottoman palace cuisine. One encounters different sub-strata when doing local cuisine research in Anatolia.10 With regard to culinary culture I have to dwell shortly on a triad social structure that showed almost no change until the 20th century. I classify them as: 

  • Turks
          - Urban dwellers
          - Turcomans
  • Local inhabitant

Based on this classification, when appropriate, I will also interpret Turkish cuisine under the two sub-headings I have indicated above. What is meant by local population should be read as the local social synthesis of the 12th century when the Turks took control of the region. Sometimes, I also refer to them as the Rûm or Rûm-Orthodox but this definition is mostly superposed with the Byzantine period and leads to misunderstandings. As I have already indicated above, this set-up consists of a local population that lived through the almost 4-thousand-year long history of Anatolia but never Hellenized.   With time, some of these people became Muslims and the rest underwent population exchange beginning in the 1920s. As with Turks, the situation was more complex. In fact, we know that the Seljuqs had a war and urban administration mechanism that was shaped by Farsi culture. The Seljuqs and Anatolian Principalities that opened the door to Anatolia with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and Turkified almost all of Anatolia in the following 200 years were in fact an administrative class and with the exception of 3-5 settlements in Anatolia they did not interfere with the local population. In contrast, the nomadic Turkomans who flocked to Anatolia 11 at the same time with the Seljuqs and settled in the meadows in groups created problems for the Seljuqs and later, the Ottomans brought by major administrative solutions in order to enable them to gain a settled social structure.12

Under these geographical characteristics and historical view, I read the Paphlagonian cuisine as a synthesis created by different cultural groups.

Local Ingredients

Wheat, barley and corn is grown in the region. At this point, I must specify that corn came to the region only in the 18th century and was planted only on slopes where wheat could not be grown. The region also contains the most important rice growing areas of Turkey. Tosya and Osmancık - and once upon a time Kızılcaören and Safranbolu - are important rice producing centers. Kaplıca is a grain known as one of the oldest relatives of wheat and referred to as "sys: siyes"in Hittite sources and triticum monucocum or einkorn in Latin. Recently it has been included in "presidia" by Slow Food. All bulgur obtained from kaplıca grown  in a narrow area in the region (Kastamonu, Seydiler, Devrekani, Ihsangazi)  as a result of a grueling process is used within the region. It is actually not suitable for making yeast bread as it contains no gluten. Therefore, before wheat (triticum aestivum) was cultivated as a crop plant kaplıca was inevitably made into a batter and fermented and consumed in the form of porridge.13This grain was cooked in the form of porridge in Byzantium.14

I already mentioned above that Paphlagonia was the animal husbandry center of Rome. Although with time animal husbandry is turning from small (sheep, goats) to large (cow,buffalo) animals, the meat need of the region was supplied from sheep, goats and particularly emasculated goats. Moreover, the river bed of the Bartın Çayı is perfect for buffalo breeding. We know that the forests of the region are rich in terms of game. Eflani, a district of Karabük, is an important center of poultry. It is famous for its free ranging chicken, turkeys and geese. I must point out that turkey was introduced to the region in the 18th century and goose was brought by Caucasian immigrants in the 19th century. In addition, the Black Sea coastal region is naturally highly developed with regard to fishing.

The region also has very favorable properties for vegetable, fruit, herbs and mushroom growing. Nevin Halıcı remarks that the Black Sea region has a richer herb culture than the Aegean. Beans and tomatoes entered the region’s cuisine in the 18th century and should be regarded differently. The traditional way of cooking beans is almost like asparagus. The fact that it is only steamed and consumed with a butter sauce must be an indication that it is considered very important. The fact that tomatoes are called “manya” which means “attractive” in Russian is an important reference to its origin. However, as specified by Stefanos Yerasimos, tomatoes have made major changes in Ottoman cuisine. Therefore, particularly in doing a survey of local dishes one must be extremely careful with regard to dishes containing tomatoes. The North Black Sea forests are very rich in fungi. This richness has also found its reflection in the region’s cuisine. The reliefs in the rock tombs show that the region has always been a grapery – most probably a wine producing - center. The çavuş (big white grapes) type grape is a preferred type all over the country. By the way, I must also mention a very important source of vitamin C. Kızılcık, cornelian cherry, “krána” in Greek that has entered local Turkish as “kiren”, is used in numerous dishes in the region. No oily seeds are grown in the region. Therefore, all food is only cooked using animal fat (butter and tallow). I also know that flax and poppy was grown in the region in the past and that flax and poppy seeds were used to make oil. However, today there is not the slightest trace of this.

I will mention an invaluable spice: saffron. In Anatolia, saffron which is extremely difficult to grow and harvest and therefore a very expensive spice only grows in Safranbolu. It has received the “Geographic Indication” certificate recently. It is interesting that saffron15 which was used rather as medicine in Byzantium is found in Ottoman palace cuisine but with the exception of ‘zerde‘ that is prepared in the region it is not used in the preparation of any other dish.  it is used as an ingredient of ‘aşure (Noah’s pudding) prepared in the houses of the rich.


10 There is an assessment that I definitely shate in Özkosif (2009) p. 441.  Classical Turkish cuisine has in fact excluded local cuisines.  However, local dishes that have started to be attached importance to and researched in recent years will definitely add dimension to Turkish cuisine. Their present status can be defined as side by side.
11 We know that Turcomans were present in Anatolia much earlier.
12 Gordlevski (1988), p. 316. For details about the cooperation and friction the Seljuqs and Turcomans during the Turkification of Anatolia.  There was both a class difference as well as a sect difference between the urban dwellers and villagers.  
13 Bober (2003) p. 38, 199.
14 Dalby (2004) p. 71. The recipe found here shows that kaplıca is prepared like keşkek.
15 Dalby (2004) p. 38 and 153. 

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