Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period
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Table of contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. The Organization of the Kitchen and the Structure of Personnel
- 3. Food Supply for the Palace
- 4. Food Culture of the Palace
- 4.1. General Features
- 4.2. Bread
- 4.3. Dishes
- 4.4. Sweets and Pickles
- 4.5. Drinks
- 5. Conclusion
- 6. Further reading
- 6.1. Articles on food, agriculture, cuisine and cookery published on www.MuslimHeritage.com
- 6.2. Publications and online resources on the Islamic cuisine
Note of the editor
This article was first published in Turk Mutfagi (Turkish Cuisine), edited by Arif Bilgin-Ozge Samanci, Ankara: Kultur ve Turizm Bakanligi Yayinlari, 2008 (read our review of the book: Turkish Cuisine: A Book Review). We are grateful to Dr. Arif Bilgin, author of the article and to the publishers of the book, the Turkish Ministry of Culture, for allowing publication. The version we publish was edited anew, and it was augmented with the final section containing further resources on Ottoman, Turkish and Islamic cuisines.***
Palace cuisine is the culmination of Ottoman cuisine in terms of organization, refinement of palate and food culture. The term 'Ottoman cuisine' must refer to kitchen combinations from a substantially broad regional range. In other words, the culinary culture of each of the Ottoman domains must be included within this concept. Considerable portions of the Arabic world, North Africa, the Balkans, Northern Black Sea, Anatolia, Aegean Isles, the Caucasus and the Persian zone must be included in this frame. Ottoman cuisine reflects a format derived from aspects of the cultures belonging to this vast geography, yet shaped according by the Turkish subjects' cultural richness and habits.
We can cite three main factors contributing to the creation of Ottoman cuisine in general and palace cuisine in particular.
1. Habits inherited from Central Asia.: The continuation of meat and milk based eating habits of Turks (generated by their Central Asian lifestyles and caused by the peculiarity of the geography) during the Ottoman period clearly indicates its longevity.
Figure 1: Sherbet Makers (Şerbetçiler), from Surnâme-i Hümayun, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 1344, folio 238a.
2. The influence of Arabic and Persian cultures during the migrations: During the period of migration to Anatolia, Turks benefited from the eating habits and foods of the countries where they stayed. Adopted elements of Persian and Arabian cultures during this process remained in the Ottoman culinary culture up to the 19th Century. The most significant evidence indicating this interaction are Arabic or Persian dishes and food product names. Nonetheless, it is known that the food picked up from these two cultural basins was changed in content and adapted to the Turkish palate.
3. Acquaintance with Anatolian staples or the influence of the Byzantine cuisine: In the 15th century, the Ottomans preferred fruit, vegetables and greens in their diet more than ever. Neither in Central Asia nor during the period of the Great Seljuk's had they consumed such abundant fresh produce. Thus, it would not be wrong to assume that the Turks immediately started consuming new produce that had recently become available to them.
However, the primary concern here is, did Turks learn to utilize these products by themselves or did they receive help in this from Byzantine Greeks? Although, we encounter elements in the Turkish kitchen showing us the Byzantine effect , unfortunately we are concrete information is not available to show us the areas and the dimensions of this mutual effect.
In this study, we are mainly going to explore three significant subjects in the Ottoman palace kitchen: organization, provisioning and food culture .
2. The Organization of the Kitchen and the Structure of Personnel
Since we do not have sufficient information about the organization of the kitchens in the palaces of Bursa and Edirne, we are going to discuss only the kitchen organization of Topkapi Palace, with the following exception: until the reign of Murad II the çaşnigirs (tasters) provided a food service to the Ottoman Sultans. During this next period, this service was transferred to a newly established foundation of head butlership (kilercibaşilik) and the range of services provided by çaşnigirs was limited to external services (such as food presentation for the members of the Court) . In the early period, the palace catering groups who provided a food service were not limited to servants and butlers as a considerable number of cooking groups also existed. Sources of the era yield almost no information regarding the said class and kitchen organization.
It has become obvious that the palace kitchen organization known as Matbah-i Âmire Emâneti (The Office of Imperial Kitchen Superintendent) was established for the first time during Mehmed II's period in the Topkapi Palace. Then as we understand from its name, Matbah-i Âmire was an administrative unit run by an emîn (superintendent). These superintendents had the rank of Imperial Court Masters (Hâcegân-i Divan-i Hümayun) and they worked under a chief known, as iç kilercibaşi (inner butler) who had authority to give submissions to the sultans. The inner butler was a chief of the Kiler Odasi (Office of Pantry) in the Enderun (Inner Apartments) and at the same time, he oversaw the entire kitchen personnel. He authorised employing new personnel, increasing salaries and he would decide on the promotion of personnel, which became necessary when other staff were promoted or left. However, responsibility for the disciplining of personnel and implementation of penal sanctions was left to the superintendents and their assistants.
The duties of the kitchen superintendent were not too limited. He was obliged to regularly provide the palace kitchens' foodstuffs and to organize distribution of the provisions. The superintendent, in this role, with the support of his assistants, used to determine the quantity of consumables and to issue necessary orders accordingly. Additio
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