Phases of Turkish Cuisine - Seljuk Cuisine
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Phases of Turkish Cuisine - Seljuk Cuisine

Türsok Drinks

The Mathnawi, which was written during Selçuk times, mentions wine on several different occasions. There is much information in the Selçukname about drinking parties held in the palaces of the Selçuk rulers and viziers. “Altın üsküflü simin sak sakiler şarab-ı erguvanı bezm-i hüsrevani içinde içirdiler. Ve kerratla dostikanlar içildi.” (“Servants wearing tasseled caps with gold thread embroidery and silver leggings served brilliant rose pink wine. Several times they raised their cups to the love of their friends” 25.

I don’t believe it necessary to write about how the wine was made.

Once some men asked the sheikh of a Bektashi lodge which owned large vineyards:

-What do you do with these grapes?
-We eat them.
-You would never finish them all by eating them…
-If there are too many, we squeeze their juice and put it in jars.
-What happens after that?
-We don’t mess with what happens afterwards. Whatever God wills, happens!

Once during the grape harvest, a Bektashi baba was a guest in a village. When he saw the villagers boiling the grapes to make pekmez, he said:

-Yaa…why are you trying to destroye the essence of this blessing by boiling it? Take the juice, and put it into vessels, into jars, and whatever God does to it, be happy with that…

Kimiz: The oldest Turkish drink, it is made by fermenting mare’s or camel’s milk. As it was made haram after the advent of Islam, we can gather that it had an intoxicating quality.

Ayran: It is mentioned in books of the Selçuk period. In the Mathnawi we read:  Ayran içinde yağ âdem gibidir. Ayran varlıkta bayrak kaldırmıştır. 26 Ayran is the name for the white liquid that remains when yogurt is mixed with water and it is churned in a yayık (an animal skin suspended on a frame) or with an implement called a bişek in a tall earthenware jar called nehre, and the butter is removed. I believe that this is the ayran of Selçuk times. There is also the ayran made by mixing yogurt with water, called çalkama (from çalkamak, to shake), and yoğurt ezmesi (lit. “yogurt crush”) in the villages of Boyabat. We can determine that yogurt was made during the Selçuk period by this account of a case which illustrates the fairness of the Selçuk ruler Süleyman Shah II (1196-1203):

Süleyman Shah had a favorite wife by the name of Ayaz. He loved her very much, and trained her in the palace. His love for her was expressed in this verse:

The religion despised by that son of an infidel is my religion. She is my mirror, showing me both my religion and the world. Nobody has become a slave to their slave as I have, to become slave to his slave is only my own custom, it is my worship.

One day, Ayaz went hunting, was struck by the heat and was very thirsty. At this point, she saw an old woman taking a clay vessel of yogurt to sell at the market; and she took it and drank it. The woman followed Ayaz, running, up to the door of the castle. She cried, “I was taking it to feed my orphans.” The ruler ordered for this to be investigated. At that point, the woman saw Ayaz and recognized her, and said “My complaint is about this one.” In fear, Ayaz denied it, and the woman insisted all the more. The ruler spoke to the woman:

-I’ll have this young woman’s stomach sliced open and examined.” The woman was satisfied with this. The surgeon was called, who opened Ayaz’s stomach. When the yogurt poured from within it, Ayaz was sent immediately to the gallows. Süleyman Shah was sorely grieved at the loss of his beloved Ayaz. But saying that the reparations for the yogurt are our reponsiblity, he ordered that the woman be given a thousand gold pieces 27.

Gülap or Cülap: From the Person Gülab, it became “cülab” in Arabic. Literally meaning “rose water,” it refers to the sherbet made with rose water, sugar and water.

The Shah had such a wedding held for his son that after the people had eaten and drunk, he even set out rose water and sugar for the dogs 29.

Sherbets: Sherbets scented with musk and attar are mentioned in the Selçukname, thus we can conclude that various perfumes were added to sherbets made from fruit and from milk.

Table Service and Food Vessels

The names of food vessels used during the Selçuk rulers’ feasts are also mentioned:

Tabak: Plates. Gold and silver plates are mentioned, either plain or ornamented. They were mainly made from copper or porcelain (and of fine china, gold and silver for the palace). As copper was cheap and easy to use and store, mostly copper plates were made, their edges carefully ornamented. There were both flat plates and long, deep plates.

Sahan: The “china and gold sahans” (platters) mentioned in the Selçuknames were flat and deep. There edges could be either plain or ornamented. The edges were generally raised and angled outward. Although they existed, silver and gold sahans were uncommon. Most were of copper or brass. There were also deep copper pans used for the frying of böreks and sweets. Square trays with handles especially for the serving of coffee, sherbet and nuts were made both of metal and of wood 31.

Sini: The very large copper trays were called sini. There are books that claim that this name comes from the word “sin” or “çin” (china). Sinis are trays in which food is brought, and around which the diners sit. To make it easier to reach the food, the sini is placed on a low wide stool called a sini altı or sini ayağı (“under the sini” or “sini foot”). The largest, around which many people can sit, are known as divan sinisi. The wooden sinis used in the guest rooms of Anatolian homes are known as tabla.

Maşrapa: Referred to as “badiye memzuç meşrebeleri” in the Selçukname, these are large vessels from which water, ayran, kumiss or other beverages are drunk. There are various types, with handles, a hemispherical base, and conical toward the mouth.

Kâse: Bowls. The kasat mentioned in M. Th. Hautsma’s edition of the Selçukname, from which I took the text, is a derivation of the world kavsa, meaning empty vessel 32. They could be made of china, porcelain and glass; those made of copper had high sides and a lip. Some have a half conical bottom; in the villages of Boyabat this type is called tas, with further names according to their intended purpose.

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