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Paphlagonian Culinary Culture

Beşparmak Islama Bandırma

The dish called “beşparmak” by the Kazakhs and Turcomans is prepared with lamb meat cooked with onions shredded over thick cut pieces of pasta dough and cooked one more time. Beşparmak is the Anatolian ancestor of dishes such as papara and tirit that are prepared with yufka bread and is found in different cuisines. This kind of dishes is most   widely seen in the Paphlagonia region in Anatolia. Other similar dishes made with leavened bread are tirit and mamalika. I have nothing that shows which one was the first. In one of his conferences Vedat Başaran said that Turkish dishes changed as leavened bread became more widespread30. At this point I maintain that regardless of whether it is broken by hand and dipped into the sauce or laid under the food – as in Iskender kebab – the Anatolian cuisine does not do without bread at the table. The dish called ıslama or bandırma can be made with different kinds of meat. There has been a transition from red meat to fowl in the region. It is also said that quail is used extensively in the region.

Obviously, the local population was putting leavened bread to use as tirit or mamalika. In this region, tirit and the ıslama and bandırma of the Turkomans have come to be a group of dishes prepared in the same way but with different ingredients. In addition to bandırma mostly prepared with fowl nowadays the most interesting dish of this group must be the “simit tiriti” of Kastamonu.

Culinary Culture of the Native


Simply speaking keşkek can be explained as wheat pounded and hulled31 mixed with water and meat broth cooked in an oven for long hours. One instantly understands the importance of the oven during the preparation of keşkek. In the words of cooks, “the oven is not lit for keşkek”. The oven is lit for bread or çörek and then used to cook keşkek. I will come back to the issue of ovens, however, looking at the word keşkek in the dictionary leads to confusion. The best study regarding keşkek I have come across until now is the paper entitled “El-Kişk: Geçmişiyle Bugünüyle Karmaşık Yemek” (El-Kisk: History of Complex Food”) by Françoise Aubaile-Sallenave presented at the Culinary Cultures of the Middle East Conference32 . The paper specifies that keşkek is a Farsi word and the name of a kind of barley soup and is served with a sauce of sour milk.  As obvious from the title of the paper, the issue is complex. I just want to point out an important detail here. During my oral history study I found out that just like cracked barley cracked wheat was also left to ferment in the past. It is also observed that places where keşkek is made coincides with those where the Rums (local community) lived in the past. As I have already mentioned above keşkek locks with another important property: it is baked in an oven. In my interviews conducted with Rums33 that left as a result of the population exchange, I realized thatthe preparation and cooking process ofthe dish referred to as κεσκ?κ, κεσκ?κι and κισκ?κ was exactly the same as what is done today with the exception that they used pork meat.

Köle Aşı Arabaşı Malak Haluşka Kedi Batmaz

This dish generally made with wheat flour slowly added to boiling water and stirred rapidly until it is cooked has different names in various parts of Anatolia. Etymological research takes the researcher to unseemly points. The most reliable legend is that since it has a high calorie value, is cheap and easy to make it was given to the slaves34,especially if the slave was African, the name “Arabaşı” is a good fit.34 Bober states that the five cereals before wheat could only be consumed in gruel form (puls, alica)35. This food is a good example of the consumption of cereals which can not be baked due to no gluten content, so they used to be consumed after being crushed and fermented or in later times cooked to gruel. What is really confusing is that the dish is called haluşka (Halusky) in Slavic in Safranbolu37. Depending to preference, haluşka is sometimes eaten with melted butter, sometimes with molasses and at times with both. This must have been due to corn flour being preferred after corn reached the old continent. When doing research on culinary culture in İnebolu an elderly woman told me that they prepared the dish with corn flour and called it “pıt”. She said that while cooking the dish, the vapor from the pan made a “pıt” sound. The dish is still made in the west Black Sea region with the addition of cheese and is called mıhlama. However, what is really striking is the fact that corn that is called “grano Turca” by the Italians has entered their kitchen and is called polenta.

Soğan Salması

During my cuisine research they offered us “soğan salması” (onion stew) in the Eskipazar township of Karabük. The dish prepared with very limited ingredients and a simple process was unexpectedly tasty. I found the dish I had not come across anywhere in the region in a book about Byzantine food. According to the reference in the book, the dish was called “kutsal çorba” (sacred soup)38. The dish was one of the religious fasting dishes of Christians that still lived in the area. The dish that has undergone very few changes is a document and has very special flavors despite its simplicity. According to the original cooking method onions that were boiling in water were sprinkled with thyme and consumed. In Eskipazar – without going against the fasting rules - milk is added to the dish.


30 Gastroİstanbul 2013.
31 Aylin Öney Tan, points out that this dish remains from the time before grains were ground .
32 Zubaida (2009), p. 102–138. Following my presentation at the Safranbolu Traditional Foods Festival  where I defined keşkek and herise,  after taking T. Kut’s opinion A. Örs claimed that keşkek and herise were the same thing. I believe and advocate that they meet Zubaida & Tapper’s keşkek definition they are cooked the same way as the Arpa Göcesi I compiled in Eflani although I accept that they are the same dishes that get their etymology from the influence area of two different cultures that developed in Mesopotamia.
33 Aboriginals of Anatolia who later became Greek Orthodox and forced to migrate to Greece in 1920s. They used to be called Rum (Roman).
34 As it was when the pyramids were built.
35 Ottomans used to call African slaves “Arap” since they used to be kidnapped from Saudi Arabia by hajis as a proof that they really went to Mecca.
36 Bober (2003) p. 199. Baysal (2005) p. 8. 
37 The same name is used in the Slavic countries for a kind of pasta that is similar to ovmaç.
38 Dalby (2004) p. 83.

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