Tastes vary greatly between the various people and nations, as is natural because of differences in climate, geographical setting, agriculture, economy, cultural level and methods of production.
Although kinds of meals, ways of cooking and serving them, feasts, and the ingredients used in the kitchen differ from nation to nation, they can also be similar. However the richness or poorness of the environment plays a great role in determining the extent to which the meals and cooking methods of a given community are capable of being 'improved'.
Moreover, the names of foods, methods of cooking and kitchen utensils may vary not only between countries but also even between districts within the same country. And since there is a tendency for some dishes to evolve from each other, so to speak, it is difficult and may sometimes be impossible to work out what were the real origins of the dishes served at a particular meal.
Migrating societies did not forsake their own culinary traditions as soon as they had settled down in their new environment, but continued practising them along with those of the native inhabitants of the place. In time the two societies living together would converge in this respect and prepare 'new' foods together. For example, the native people of Anatolia and the Turkomans, who came from Asia centuries before, jointly discovered about potatoes in the 19th century.
These factors deserve to be remembered when the cookbooks of any society or nation are being studied.
Before coming to the subject of printed Turkish cookbooks, I would like to mention some of the manuscripts which were sources of the printed books.
Old Islamic Cuisine and Manucsripts
In Islamic culture a great deal of research has been carried out on foods, beverages, table manners, religious prohibitions and their application in practice. The Arabs improved their art of cooking during the reign of the Abbasids. Ibn Nedim gives information on the works written on this subject. The oldest book in Arabic script is Kitabü't-Tabih (manuscript located in the Suleymaniye Library, Ayasofya section, n° 3710), written by Hasan el-Baghdadi in 633 AH/1226 AD. Cahiz (775-869 AH), who lived during the Abbasid reign, gives valuable information on dishes and feasts of the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. Moreover, in his work he included anecdotes about the gluttonous Caliph and his official.
In Persian, some names of dishes occur even in poetry. Sheik Cemaleddin Ebu İshak (Bushak) Hallâc-i Shîrazî (d. 830 AH/1427 AD), believing that the other poets had left no other subjects for him to sing about, composed quite a number of poems describing foods and stimulating the appetites of people; these he collected in his Divan-ı Et'ime. He adapted Nizâmî's, Sadî's and Hâfiz's poems, substituting foods for the subjects which they had treated, and using a sarcastic and cheerful language. The vocabulary he used for describing foods and cooking utensils and materials is very important not only from the point of view of cultural history but also for that of Turkish cuisine. (These poems, by the way, are also known as Kenzü'l-İştiha, a title which can be found in various other manuscripts, but this is just an alternative title and does not denote a separate work. In fact, the title of the preface of a complete copy of Divan-ı Et'ime is 'Dîbâce-i Sofra-i Kenzü'l-İştiha'.)
It is necessary to keep in mind a vast territory when exploring the old Turkish cuisine. Professor Bahaeddin Ögel has published a work on the period, starting with the Gokturks, carrying on to the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, and dwelling extensively on the nutritional system of the Seljuk Turks.
Turkish Cookery Manuscripts
Unfortunately, there are only a few Turkish manuscripts in the libraries which are devoted solely to cookery. True, one can find a great deal on foods, beverages and spices in various manuscripts on medical science and nutrition; but this information is mostly about the effects of foods on the human body. The most important known manuscripts are as follows:
Tabh-ı Et'ime, translated from Kitabü't-Tabih in Arabic by Muhammed b. Mahmud Shirvanî in the 15th century (Millet Library, Ali Emirî Collection, Mtf. 143).
Ağdiye Risâlesi (Treatise on Nutrition), believed to be written in the 18th century by the son of Sheikh ul-Islam Paşmakçizade Abdullah Efendi's (d. 1145 AH/1732 AD) son-in-law, whose name is unknown.
This manuscript, which used to belong to the late Raif Yelkenci, was studied by Professor Süheyl Ünver who had some of the recipes published; these show great resemblance to the ones in Mehmed Kâmil's Melceü't-Tabbâhîn. However, the present location of the manuscript is unknown.
Et-Terkibât fî Tabhi'l-Hulviyyât, a treatise on desserts and halvas prepared in Yenişehirfener (now Larissa, in Greece) and dated 15 Safer 1244 AH/27 August 1828, was copied by Osman Kerim Efendi on Ali Emirî's order (Millet Library, Ali Emirî Collection, Mtf. 144).15
There is a treatise on food, Yemek Risâlesi (n° 1251/1), about two centuries old and consisting of seven parts, in the Library of the Grand National Assembly of the Turkish Republic. Although I have not been able to see this work, it is known that there are some recipes for stews and kebabs prepared by Teşrifatî Na'im Efendi at the end of the book (41a). In a report it is mentioned that the dates 1173 AH/1762 AD and 1227 AH/1811 AD appear in the work, which might or might not be the actual dates of the manuscript; and that the recipes therein are very similar to the ones in the Ağdiye Risâlesi mentioned as B above. Moreover, to stress the similarity, recipes for a certain gelatin dessert, pelteşin, have been cited as examples from each work. In this connection, I would like to point out that recipes for this gelatin dessert in all the printed copies of Melceü't-Tabbâhîn (for example, 1260 AH/1844 AD edition, p 131) are exactly the same as in the above mentioned manuscripts.
While this bibliography was being prepared in 1985, the text of this item was published by the MIFAD, Department of Research on National Folklore. Thus a new source book was added to what is available. Assistant Professor M. Nejat Sefercioglu, who prepared it for publication, translated and transcribed the work into modern Turkish and gave equivalents for the old measures. Measures, materials, tools and utensils used in the kitchen, names of persons, titles, and place names were listed, and a glossary and index were added (pp 81-101). Moreover, pages lb, 2a, 40b and 41b of the original manuscript were reproduced.
There are 127 recipes in this work, for soups, pastries (börek), desserts, halvas, kebabs, grilled meat, stews, salads, pickles, and compotes. Although in the Türkiye Yazmaları Toplu Kataloğu (The Union Catalogue of Manuscripts in Turkey) the library entry number of the manuscript is 1251/1, it is given as 748 A 1948 in the published work (p iv).
Tercüme-i Kenzü'l-İştiha. Two copies of this manuscript (numbered H 1186 and EH 1543) are at the Topkapı Palace Museum Library. It is believed that this work is a translation by Ahmed Câvid (d 1218 AH/1803 AD) from Sheikh Ahmed Cemâleddin Ebû İshak (or Bushak) Hallâc-i Şirâzî's Divan-i Et'ime (or Kenzü'l-İştiha) mentioned above.
Although the work is known as Tercume-i Kenzü'l-İştiha, it is actually a glossary on food in the Turkish language. Foods, beverages and other relevant material found inDivan-i Et'ime (or Kenzü'l I-İştiha), written in Persian, were examined; and the preparation of the glossary, in respect of equivalent measure and translations, was especially based on a Persian-Turkish dictionary entitled Burhân-ı Katı. Professor A. Süheyl Ünver has published some of the recipes under their Turkish names.