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The Food Protocol For The Culturally Correct
1.       janissary
0 posts
 04 Mar 2006 Sat 12:43 pm

The Food Protocol For The Culturally Correct

Eating is taken very seriously in Turkey. It is inconceivable for the household members to eat alone, raid the refrigerator, or eat on the "go", while others are at home. It is custom to have three "sit-down meals" a day. Breakfast or "kahvaltì" (literally, "foundation for coffee"), typically consists of bread, feta cheese, black olives and tea. Many work places have lunch served as a contractual fringe benefit. Dinner starts when all the family members get together and share the events of the day at the table. The menu consists of three or more types of dishes that are eaten sequentially, accompanied by salad. In summer, dinner is served at about eight. Close relatives, best friends or neighbours may join meals on a "walk-in" basis. Others are invited ahead of time as elaborate preparations are expected. The menu depends on whether alcoholic drinks will be served or not. In the latter case, the guests will find the meze spread ready on the table, frequently set up either in the garden or on the balcony. The main course is served several hours later. Otherwise, the dinner starts with a soup, followed by the meat and vegetable main course, accompanied by the salad. Then the olive-oil dishes such as the dolmas are served, followed by dessert and fruit. While the table is cleared, the guests retire to the living room to have a tea and turkish coffee.

Women get together for afternoon tea at regular intervals (referred to as the "7-17 days") with their school-friends and neighbours. These are very elaborate occasions with at least a dozen types of cakes, pastries, finger foods and böreks prepared by the host. The main social purpose of these gatherings is to share information and experience about all aspects of life, public and private. Naturally, one very important function is the propagation of recipes. Diligent exchanges occur while women consult each other on their innovations and solutions to culinary challenges.

By now it should be clear that the concept of having a "pot-luck" at someone's house is entirely foreign to the Turks. The responsibility of supplying all the food squarely belongs to the host, who expects to be treated in the same way in return. There are two occasions where the notion of "host" does not apply. One such situation is when neighbours collaborate in making large quantities of food for the winter such as "tarhana" - dried yogurt/tomato soup or noodles. Another is when families get together to go on a day's excursion to the country-side. Arrangements are made ahead of time as to who will make the köfte, dolma, salads, pilafs and who will supply the meat, the beverages and the fruits. The "mangal" - the copper charcoal burner, kilims, hammocks, pillows, musical instruments such as saz, ud, or violin, and samovars are loaded up for a day trip.

A "picnic" would be a pale comparison to these occasions, often referred to as "stealing a day from fate". Kücüksu, Kalamis, and Heybeli in old Istanbul used to be typical locations for such outings, as many songs tell us. Other memorable locations include the Meram vineyards in Konya, Hazer Lake in Elazig, and Bozcaada off the shores of Canakkale. Commemorating two Saints : Hizir and Ilyas (representing immortality and abundance), the May 5 Spring Festival (Hidirellez) would mark the beginning of the pleasure-season (safa), with romantic affairs, lots of poetry, songs and, naturally, good food.

A similar "safa" used to be the weekly trip to the Turkish Bath. Food prepared the day before, would be packed on horse drawn carriages along with fresh clothing and scented soaps. After spending the morning at the marble wash-basins and the steam hall, people would retire to the wooden settees to rest, eat and dry off before returning home.

These days, such leisurely affairs are all but gone, spoiled by modern life. Yet, families still attempt to steal at least one day from fate every year, even though fate often triumphs. Packing food for trips is so traditional that even now, it is common for mothers to pack some köfte, dolma and börek to go on an airplane, especially on long trips much to the bemusement of other passengers and the irritation of flight attendants. But seriously, given the quality of airline food, who can blame them?

Weddings, circumcision ceremonies, holidays are celebrated with feasts. At a wedding feast in Konya, a seven course meal is served to the guests. The "sitdown meal" starts with a soup, followed by pilaf and roast meat, meat dolma, and saffron rice-a traditional wedding dessert. Börek is served before the second dessert, which is typically the semolina helva. The meal ends with okra cooked with tomatoes, onions, and butter with lots of lemon juice. This wedding feast is typical of Anatolia, with slight regional variations. The morning after the wedding, the groom's family sends trays of baklava to the bride's family.

During the holidays, people are expected to pay short visits to each and every friend within the city, visits which are immediately reciprocated. Three or four days are spent going from house to house, so enough food needs to be prepared and put aside to last the duration of the visits. During the holidays, kitchens and pantries burst at the seams with böreks, rice dolmas, puddings and desserts that can be put on the table without much preparation.

Deaths are also occasions for cooking and sharing food. In this case, neighbours prepare and send dishes to the bereaved household for three days after the deaths. The only dish prepared by the household of the deceased is the helva which is sent to the neighbours, who will remember and pray for the departed. In some areas, it is a custom for a good friend of the deceased to begin preparing the helva, while recounting fond memories and events. Then the spoon would be passed to the next person who would take up stirring of the helva and continiue reminiscing. Usually the helva will be done by the time everyone in the room has had a chance to speak and stir the helva. This wonderful simple ceremony, by making people left behind talk about happier times, lightens up their grief momentarily and strengthens the bond between them.

Source Document: The Ministry Of Tourism Republic Of Turkey

2.       Boop
785 posts
 04 Mar 2006 Sat 02:02 pm

I found this really very interesting - thank you Janissary

3.       MaryEldar
0 posts
 04 Mar 2006 Sat 05:54 pm

Hello Janissary:

This article is really very interesting!!

Turkiye have a lot of very wonderful customs.
But is horrible that the globalization destroy the customs of each country.

Tesekkur ederim!!



4.       libralady
5152 posts
 07 Mar 2006 Tue 06:20 pm

Very interesting - I am deparately trying to find similarities in the UK. But I am afraid the likes of McDonalds have detroyed much of this type of socialising for families and divorce is another contributor.

It is quite usual for friends to dine at other friends houses at a weekend, and you would normally take some flowers and some wine.

At holiday times, such as Easter but more at Christmas, you have family round for dinner which is normally a big Turkey with vegetables, roast potatoes, and christmas pudding with custard or cream.

We see picknicks more for families with small children and a limited budget or for a romatic day in the woods or at the beach for a couple - not so traditional these days.

5.       miss_ceyda
2627 posts
 07 Mar 2006 Tue 07:27 pm

what i find more interesting is how a lot of turkish people can still remain so thin!!

6.       Aenigma
0 posts
 07 Mar 2006 Tue 07:32 pm

That was sooo interesting - and really not SO different from family life in UK surely, Libralady?

My family always have meals together as often as possible and even though we all live away from home now, will always return home for festivals and holidays to eat together. Summers are also a great time for eating outside in the UK and we prepare picnics and also dine in our gardens in a similar way. Also, I would never expect anyone to bring food to my house for "pot luck" dinners - I think this is an Americanism. I like the sound of the breakfasts in Turkey mmmmm

7.       libralady
5152 posts
 08 Mar 2006 Wed 03:41 pm

Quoting Aenigma:

That was sooo interesting - and really not SO different from family life in UK surely, Libralady?

What I meant was, we dont put so much emphasis on this type of family socialising the way the Turks do. Maybe it is just me, we dont have a very large famliy and there has been some fall outs too (which dont help!)

I eat with my immediate family everyday - for dinner and never in front of the TV!!

8.       erdinc
2151 posts
 08 Mar 2006 Wed 04:25 pm

Another detail about meals is that, in a typical Turkish family, a guest who will stay overnight is never asked whether she or he is hungry. If it is dinner time the dinner will be served. If the dinner time has already passed still the dinner will be served without asking if the host thinks the guest must be hungry.

Assuming it is 7.30pm and the family already had dinner. Again lets assume a guest arrives at this time who will stay overnight. In this situation the host is supposed to prepare dinner without asking. You don't talk about the very small things. You just do them.

If the host is not a typical Turk and prefers to ask the guest whether he or she is hungry then this time the guest is not supposed to say "yes" or anything that would lead to the same result because it is not considered to be polite.

9.       Aenigma
0 posts
 08 Mar 2006 Wed 10:17 pm

How lovely! I do love good manners These posts on Turkish life are fascinating - thank you

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