Turkish Cuisine in 11th Century
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Turkish Cuisine in 11th Century

Yusuf Has Hacib has this to say about the basic manners that should be observed at an 11th century feast:

Do not begin eating until those older than you have begun. Begin eating with a besmele (the blessing “In the name of Allah the merciful and compassionate”), and eat with the right hand. Do not touch the morsels in front of others, only eat what is in front of you. Do not take out a knife at the meal and scrape bones. Do not be gluttonous and do not recline too much. But however full you may be, extend your hand and eat the food offered with relish, so that the woman of the house who prepared the food will be please. Thus do not make those who have gone to the trouble to prepare a feast and invite you feel they have done so in vain. Bite off only what your mouth can hold and chew subtly. Do not blow on hot food. Do not wipe your hands on the sofra when eating, and do not make those around you uncomfortable. Eat with moderation, because people should always eat and drink little 5.

In addition to this general sofra etiquette, Yusuf Has Hacib also provides some advice concerning health from the standpoint of food and drink. I believe it is useful to include this from the standpoint of 11th century ideas and understanding concerning nutrition. On the subject, he has the following to say:

If one has too much heat due to the excessive consumption of hot foods, then one must immediately drink something cold; if too much coldness, this should be remedied with heat. During youth and the spring of life, eat cold things, because your blood will warm them. Past the age forty, in the autumn of life, remedy your nature with hot things. At sixty, the winter of life, eat hot things, do not be friendly with cold things. If you have eaten too much of dry and cold foods (in order not to be harmed) have hot and moist things ready at hand. If the warmth and moisture is excessive and you are harmed by it, remedy it with hot and dry things. If you have a cold nature, strengthen it with heat. If your nature is hot, then eat and drink cold things. If your nature is absolutely neutral, then eat hot and cold things alternately. If you want to remain healthy always and never take ill, take the medicine called “little” (in other words, eat little) and live that way; if you want to live long and in peace, eat the meat called tongue (swallow your tongue) and live thus, be clean-hearted person 6.

c) Basic Foods of 11th Century Turkish Cuisine: As far afs is understood, tutmaç, which heads the Anatolian Selçuk and Ottoman kitchens registers, was the Turks’ most famous dish in the 11th century. Known in the other countries to which the Turks had spread in the Near and Middle East, tutmaç is still made today in various parts of Anatolia. For this reason, some of our writers characterize this as the Turkish national dish, which I believe is correct. As much has already been written on the preparation and main ingredients of this dish, we will not write about that here. However it should at least be said that the making of tutmaç was a long and involved process, and the ingredients therein were very rich and nutritious, even curative. To the same extent, it was difficult to digest, in other words, it was a very sustaining dish. Tutmaç was not eaten with a spoon but rather with a type of fork called a şiş. After the noodles or mantı in tutmaç were eaten, the broth was drunk.

At the top of the list of other foods was certainly meat and meat dishes. In the 11th century, Turks at mostly mutton. Still, though the slaughtering of horses was decreasing steadily under the influence of Islam, according to Kaşgarlı, one of the Turks’ most loved meats was a fatty meat called kazı 7 from near the horse’s stomach. On the other hand, fresh fatted lamb was also held in great esteem. We know that the Oğuz called lamb and kid suitable for the making of kebab söğüş 8, so that even if its composition has changes somewhat, söğüş has at least a thousand-year history in our language. In the same way, the Turks of the 11th century called animals fed and prepared for slagher etlik 9 (“suitable/used for meat”), and the fact that its modern usage means a male goat with suitable meat is a fine example of the continuity of Turkish eating traditions. If we add to the above that just as in the 11th century, so today in some parts of Anatolia the butcher is known as an etçi (standard Turkish, kasap), we find ourselves a bit more enlightened on the situation.

During the century at hand, it is certain that chicken and other fowl, fish, and game animals such as deer and rabbit were less desired.

In addition to fresh consumption for everyday use, meat was also frozen in ice 11 and especially dried in the sun to be eaten later. Turks called dried meat kak et, and this manner of drying and preserving meat is still practiced in Turkey today. Meat was also preserved aspastırma. Salted, pressed and dried with certain spices, meat made into pastırma was known as yazok et 12. In addition, a type of sausage called soktu (mod. Turkish sucuk) was made by mixing liver with meat and spices and stuffing it into intestines 13.

On the subject of meat consumed daily, the most-prepared dish was kebab, known by different names. The most common of these was şiş kebabı, or meat cooked on a skewer. In addition, just as today, lambs were roasted whole over a fire lit on the ground 14. Lamb was also steamed in a closed pot 15. A dish similar to today’s kâğıt kebabı (kebab in paper) was present in the 11th century, in which fatty chicken or red meat was wrapped in a thin layer of dough to prevent the leaking out of the fat during cooking 16. As far as we know, every part of a slaughtered animal was used, just as it is today. As they singed the head 17, a food called simsamrak was made from head meat. According to Kaşgarlı, this dish was made as follows:

After the head is cooked, its meat is diced finely and put into a casserole. Into this, spices are mixed, and sour yogurt is added on top of it. It is left to stand for a time, and then eaten. 18

From information about the preparation of various dishes provided in the Divanü Lügati’t-Türk, we know that “ekşili” (soured) dishes, made with the addition of things like sour yogurt and vinegar, were very popular with the 11th century Turks. Thus soured dishes have ha special place in Turkish culinary culture, because they have remained a feature of Turkish cooking since the 11th century. In the same vein, while the animal’s liver was cooking, mustard and vinegar were poured over it to make it swell and cook well. 19. The brain of animals was also held in high esteem in the 11th century, and when the Turks slaughtered a sheep for an honored guest, the brain was served to him 20. Soup was also made of the feet, but we do not have any information on how this was prepared. The Turks also knew a type of stuffed intestine, made with meat and spices. In addition, they had a dish they calledyörgemeç, which is described as follows: The tripe and intestines are diced finely, then fried or baked and eaten 21.

Though we know the dishes of the 11th century Turks included a dish similar to today’skadınbudu köftesi, we know nothing of how it was prepared 22.

It is certain that the Turks also used the milk of the animals they used for food. In addition to drinking the milk fresh, we see that they also made butter, yogurt, ayran, cheese and kaymak (clotted cream). On the other hand, just as today, they liked the milk given for a newly-born animal (colostrum), which they called aguz (mod. Turkish ağız23. Just as today, the Turks called clarified butter (Standard Turkish sade yağ) sağ yağ 24. However they called their caul fat yakrı (mod. Turkish iç yağı), and used sesame oil, which they called krüç yağı. We also learn that some of them called oil/fat öz (essence), and a food that was rich because of its fat content, özlü aş (food with essence) 25, and the term özlü yemek still carried the same meaning today in various parts of Anatolia.

Yogurt, made by fermenting warm milk with a starter, which they called kor, was a much consumed food. In addition to being eaten plain, it was also added to tutmaç and a host of similar foods. In addition to being watered down and drunk as ayran, it was also dried; 11th century Turks called dry (mod. Turkish kuru) yogurt kırut 26. On the other hand, they sometimes added vinegar to yogurt to obtain another curdled milk product, and also mixed milk into yogurt to make another food called iküik. As for ayran, it was made and drunk as is done today, and a type of cheese called süzme (lit. “strained”) was made from it 27. In addition, an old type of ayran called buldunı was made by adding either fresh grapes or raisins to ayran 28.

Just as they do today, the Turks were making various types of cheeses out of both whole and skim milk. Another foodstuff they produced was kaymak (clotted cream, obtained by heating whole milk in a broad pan), which was eaten alone as well as used in the preparation of other dishes.

Honey, which some Turks called arı yağı (lit. “bee oil”) 29 was another important foodstuff. Eaten alone, it was also used in the preparation of a dish called bıhsı. Kaşgarlı Mahmud describes its preparation: Wheat is boiled, and almond kernels are added. To this, honey, milk and cooked bulamaç is added. After it ferments, it is eaten, and its milk is drunk 30. In addition, honey was mixed with an herb called kumlak and made into wine.

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