Nutrition and Traditions of the Dining Table
Dining culture of Yalvaç, is a tradition that has remained as an important value until today. The food and table traditions have been protected and are still practiced today. Division of labour among ladies is very important when it comes to making labourious and time consuming dishes. Once these beautifully made dishes are placed on the dining table, the praise that these ladies hear from their families is the biggest award.
Almost all the families that live in Yalvaç, feels very strongly about family ties, therefore eating together as a family is a preference. For years, every week, on a set day all the family members get together and eat breakfast consisting of traditional local dishes.
The meal starts with prayers and the elder in the family start eating first followed by the rest of the family members. The meals are eaten in a certain order starting with soup first.
The food is eaten out of a large copper tray called “sini.” Sini is placed on a metal or wooden stool that is placed over a large cloth laid on the floor. Food is placed on large bowls and eaten from the middle with wooden spoons. This is a custom that is still going on since old times. Before and after dinner, it is customary to wash the hands and also say a prayer after the meal is over. After the regular dinner prayers, another short prayer is made, followed by three more spoonsfuls of food and then the diners pay their respects and get up from the dining table. This tradition still continues today in Yalvaç villages and towns.
Meal Times, Foods and Drinks
Yalvaç dining table is varied based on the diverse ingredients grown throughout the four seasons. There are 3 meal times, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some families would also eat a midnight meal on the long winter days. In addition to this, meal times would be adjusted to the guests and they would be served in special platters reserved for special occasions.
Breakfast has its special place in Yalvaç cuisine just like it does in traditional Turkish cuisine. There are certain dishes that are an indispensible part of a typical Yalvaç breakfast. These are; “keşkek” (pounded wheat with lamb) that is baked in stone casserole dishes in neighbourhood bakery’s brick oven. Certain types of local soups, clotted cream made from buffalo milk, eggs, butter, fresh cheese varieties, poppy seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, “sucuk” (spicy beef sausage), peppers and freshly baked bread to accompany all of these.
It is important to also mention the delicious jams. The most commonly consumed jams of the region are quince, apricot, sour cherry, strawberry, pumpkin, plums, peach, and the signature product of Isparta, rose. Also known as the king of the breakfast table honey is also a part of this wonderful feast. The most important factor that completes this breakfast table is tea. Next to tea, linden tea, oregano tea and milk are also drank.
Lunch is a lighter meal that consists of hot dishes made with seasonal vegetables,rice pilaf dishes, yoghurt drink, watermelon and melon. On Yalvaç tables, the meals are usually accompanied by various side dishes depending on the season. During the spring and summer months these side dishes are usually made out of seasonal greens and herbs grown in the gardens. In the winter months various types of pickles made from fruits and vegetables grown in the region.
Dinners consist of meals that require more time and effort since the whole family gets together. Meat based dishes, soups, desserts, “börek” (savoury pastries) and salads are usually consumed during dinner.
The meals that are adjusted based on the arrival of the guests have been mostly replaced by teatimes, however there are still some families who have guests for lunch or dinner.
Equipment used in the Kitchen
The kitchen equipment used is differentiated based on their uses. Although these equipments have changed over the years, there are some houses in the villages and towns that use the old style kitchen equipments.
Cooking in the late Yalvaç kitchens took place in clay and copper pots of various sizes, on stoves heated with firewood. In some cases the use of “tandır” ovens and heating stoves was used as well. The food was eaten with wooden spoons. Nowadays the use of gas cylinders, gas stoves and electrical stoves are used as well as staineless steel pots to cook with and metal silverware. It is a fact acknowledged by most people that the food cooked over wood burning stoves tastes superior, therefore in some villages some foods and dairy based dishes are cooked over wood stoves and tandır ovens. To make bread in the tandır oven, the traditional equipment is still used at homes and neighbourhood bakeries.
In the kitchen, some of the traditional equipment such as, wood or brass mortar and pestle, chopper, various sized kitchen knives, bread pots, grinding stones are still used.
It is still an ongoing custom of Yalvaç region to used large copper or wooden trays to hold the food, and baskets to carry fruits and vegetables.