Eating Habits of the Turks
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Eating Habits of the Turks and Their Associated Behaviors

2. Wild Game

Muslims have always eaten little wild game. This phenomenon is not due to a dislike for wild game, but rather from the fact that meats not hunted in the proper way are haram, forbidden by the Koran. A foreign writer stated: “...In addition, many of them are too gentle to animals. For this reason, whether chieftain, great statesmen or ordinary citizen, one does not find much interest in hunting among them” (D’Ohsson, p. 27).

Some animals are not eaten for religious reasons. For example, all birds of prey, carnivorous mammals and all reptiles are haram. Believers never eat the meat of snakes, frogs, mice, scorpions, crows or magpies.

Donkeys and mules are also haram, while horsemeat is considered mekruh — not forbidden but considered abominable. The milk of both horses and donkeys is haram. Other animals considered haram are pigs, turtles and elephants. The eating of carrion (animals which died rather than being slaughtered) is forbidden as well.

With the exception of fish, all animals living in the water (such as mussels, lobster, shrimp, oysters, snails, crab, seahorses etc.) are considered evil, and eating them is not permissible. However with the exception of some seaside regions, fish is not extremely popular. We can again attribute this to nomadic culture. Although camels are not haram, Turks do not consider it acceptable to eat. However the Arabs enjoy camel meat, and the Tatars eat horsemeat.

In some regions, certain birds are very popular. For example in villages in the Kayseri region, pigeon coops are very common, and their tender meat is eaten; fresh pigeon meat is served to guests.

3. Sweets

Though they vary according to region, many sweets are common throughout Anatolia. For example, pekmez is a sweet molasses made in the villages mostly for the winter months and eaten at breakfast. In areas where grapes are abundant, the boiling of pekmez is traditionally women’s work.

Lokum, or Turkish Delight, is familiar the world over.

Baklava and kadayif are among the major Turkish sweets.

Kabak tatlısı (winter squash dessert) and helva (halvah, made from semolina or flour) and various other sweets are common throughout Anatolia. Zerde, a pudding made with rice, water and saffron, is an old favorite among the Turks.

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