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Paphlagonian Culinary Culture

Turcoman22 Culinary Culture

Yük Ekmeği

Even in a very limited geography food names differ. For example, what the Safranbolu urban dweller calls yaprak sarması is called “Kara Dolma” in the villages and “Uzun Bakla” becomes “Çullu Bakla”. “Aş evi” used for kitchen in cities is called ”ekmek evi” in villages. The interviewee expects you to call the dish you are talking about the way she/he calls it. However, my preferred different name is “Yük Ekmeği” (Cargo Bread). Yufka ekmeği (markook) (unleavened flatbread) that the Safranbolu urban dweller calls just bread attains its etymologic value in the Turcoman vernacular. While the Safranbolu urban dweller adorns his table with the most expensive products, the Turcoman produces numerous dishes generally made with yufka that the housewife makes.  A wide range of different yufka and the kesme makarna (home made fettuchini), kadayıf, etc made of yufka. The most interesting among these is the “Çullu Börek”. This börek that is still made in our Ovacık province is made by cutting the yufka in thin pieces and cooking it on saj after combining it with different ingredients. They mix the pieces of yufka only with butter and milk and sometimes also put chicken livers and eggs. Researching the connection of this börek with the çullamas made in Crete is not within the scope of my research.

The most common dessert of the Turcomans is the “Çingen Baklavası”. This sweet dessert made solely using leftover shredded yufka bread could be the missing link of chain that the well-known food historian Charles Perry is looking for23. Çingen baklava is made by putting crushed walnuts between layers of yufka and pouring molasses and butter over it. Our interviewees said that this was eaten as is. It started to be baked later.

I think that while Turcomans had an eating pattern based solely on lamb at the beginning, later it became exceedingly poor. The most important animal nutritional source of those living in the rural areas of Paphlagonia even on special occasions was fowl. This is clearly observed in oral history studies and food compilations. Chicken is mostly fed for eggs and cattle solely for milk. They eat mostly vegetable and mainly grains. Hüseyin Lütfi Ersoy who researched the local dishes of the Eflani area (Karabük – Kastamonu) gives about 150 recipes. The only recipe containing meat among these 150 recipes is “turkey bandırma”24.

Mantı Piruhi

In addition to noodles mantı (a kind of ravioli) and piruhi (a kind of dumpling) are the most common flour based dishes. It is interesting that they are referred to by two different names even though their preparation and cooking methods are similar. Some times their filling and at times the sauces poured over differs. Although mantı is made with small differences all over Anatolia, piruhi is considered a special dish of Paphlagonia. Mantı whose origin is China – Mongolia spread towards the west over Central Asia. The main trend was brought by  Turcomans and spread all over Anatolia and all the way to the Ottoman palace cuisine. Piruhi came later - most probably in the 19th century – and was brought by the Crimean Tatars and reached Northern Anatolia as “perushky: Tatar böreği” and was instantly adopted by the local population25. At this point, I think that with the exception of the Cold War period, the Black Sea provided a rather extensive cultural communication and interaction medium. Haluşka, peruhi and manya that we find in the Paphlagonian cuisine are spectacular examples of this.

Börek and Çörek26

I will come back to the fact that the oven27 that is a local technology and at the same time an important distinguishing element. However, there is an important detail that the people of Bulak warned me to be very careful about. Börek is cooked on saj or round metal tray over fire. Çörek is cooked in an oven. I would like to specify here two points that I deem important. All dishes that Turks make using yufka and yufka itself is cooked on a saj. Therefore, börek of any sort must be cooked on both sides on saj or metal tray. Bükme, saç böreği, gözleme or etli ekmek that is offered as traditional food should definitely be cooked on saj. As the name implies, the çörek with walnuts prepared at the Bulak village nowadays is a totally different flavor made with leavened dough baked in an oven.

The fact that they use leavened dough and having ovens at home are the most important separatrices of the native culture of Anatolia. So much so that in areas where there was a large Rum population in the past neighborhood ovens are still in use. Today, still women get together and bake four different types of leavened bread in these ovens that are maintained and lit collectively.

During our oral history interviews we came across two important details. An elder Safranbolu urban dweller told me that since buying bread from the neighborhood bakery everyday would not be approved, bread from the local bakery was taken home secretly28. An elderly lady said that they were very pleased with the oven of the Rum house they bought after the exchange of population and prepared themselves a feast. However, the increasing popularity of the oven the saj börek and gözleme – two important dishes of Turkish cuisine – started to be prepared in the oven. The etli ekmek of Kastamonu that used to be cooked on saj is being cooked in the oven since the 1960s29.


22 Cahen 2000, p. 148, “Physically the Turcomans lived outside the city and were left out of the society and culture.  To be more precise, in its wider meaning, they  made up a different culture and different community.”

23 Perry (1988); Zubaida (2000) pp. 85–89.

24 Ersor (2008) except for büryan  that I was told was prepared in Eflani Pazar at one time.

25 Yerasimos, M., (2007), p. 146 shares this view.

26 Sürücüoğlu ((2008) p. 82-7, explains the traces of the antique consumption methods of grains in the kitchens during the Seljuq period.

27 Oğuz (1976): This book is a good source for cooking methods using an oven, tandır (floor oven), well, hearth, etc.

28 Büyükkavukçu (2009) p. 177.

29 Perry, C. (1988). I shared this assertion of mine for the first time at my presentation at the Safranbolu Traditional  Foods Festival.  C. Perry told me thathe specified the oven only for the Central Asian countries and that he could not generalize it for Turkey.  A. Örs (if I am not wrong), on the other hand, totally rejected it and gave the example of the tandoori used by the Turks. I continue to allege that Turks started to use the oven at home only in the 20th century, that the tandoori (floor oven) is a semitic culture and is used in regions under the influence of Arab culture. The well has in fact evolved to cook meat. There is the method of burying ambers or ash in its history. The only example of its being used to cook bread is the kül çöreği

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