Ottoman Cuisine Part II, The Family Table – The Guest Table – Coffee Ceremony – Poor Cuisine – The Bread – Table Habits
The family table
The Ottoman family ate twice a day. Once in the late morning and in the evening. The center of the table society was always the father. The grandparents sat to the right and left of the father, the mother and the children together to help them with their food. A cloth was spread on the floor on which a wooden plate was aligned on a low rack. Here the big dining-bowl found its place around which the spoons were placed.
This important recommendation comes from Islamic prophets: “Take your meals together with the family, for these meals have God’s blessing.” As a rule, this principle was followed. Pillows were placed slightly obliquely around the table top and the water jug was placed on the tablecloth on the ground.
The first course usually consisted of a soup, which was applied in a large bowl. The father began to eat after a short prayer. Talking about food was not common. Even loud laughter was avoided. If someone did not taste the meal, he did not express it. Schmatzen did not belong and the bread chunks were not bitten off, but broken off.
Whoever drew a long face was admonished in a moderate tone. If someone wanted to drink water at the table, his glass was filled by one of the children. While he drank, everyone else stopped eating and waited for the one to put down his glass. In this way, everyone was allowed to share the same amount of food proportionately.
The food was eaten with the spoon from the common pot on the center of the table. Knife and fork were not used. After the political reforms of 1839, “Tanzimat”, however, this habit changed and from then on everyone had their own plate in front of them and they used a knife and fork in addition to the spoon.
After the soup, there was usually one of the numerous meat dishes with a rice side dish. Third course was a cold meal or a pate. At the end, a dessert or a fruit bowl was served.
After the father had given the prayer of thanks, everyone took a pinch of salt from the salt container, sprinkled it in his mouth, and thanked him with a fixed saying, “Your hands were blessed” or “It tasted very good” in the person, mostly the mother who cooked the food. After that, the eldest daughter went to the kitchen to cook Turkish coffee for all the guests. While the grandparents were allowed to sit, all the others stood up and carried the dinnerware in the kitchen one after the other. In no case were breadcrumbs allowed to remain on the ground.
The guest board
With invitations from relatives, friends and neighbors, the table manners deviated a bit from the everyday. In these festive meals, the table for women and men was usually separated, but covered in the same room. Another option was a women’s board, which took place during the day when the men were at work. A meal for men only could be organized in the evening after the return of the men. The invitation to such a banquet was also pronounced with a fixed saying: “In the evening we want to eat with us, what has given us God.” The invited brought the hosts a gift or the children of the house with a trifle. In men’s evenings, however, this custom did not exist. One of the invited women presented the gift to the lady of the house saying, “Actually, you are worthy of a better present,” modestly emphasizing the unimportance and insignificance of her gift. The housewife answered and also thanked him with a phrase: “How much trouble you gave yourself, that was not necessary.”
For a long time, it was custom to offer guests a spoonful of honey or jam before settling down to dinner. This offer was accompanied by the words “Eat and speak sweetly”, which expressed the wish for a successful dispute-free conversation that evening. Guests who appeared at mealtime without prior notice were deemed to have been sent by God and received the question, “Have you eaten?” Or “Are you hungry?” Even if the visit was very inconvenient, the housewife did not let it show and urged the guest to the table with the words: “The guest does not eat what he hopes, but what he gets served.” During the meal was the Guest several times, out of concern that he would not be full, offered by the side dishes such as salad or cheese. When he repeatedly refused politeness with the words “I am full, I do not want to”, he was strongly advised to take the following steps:
“Guests are the darlings of the housewife. Do not make me sad, come on. ”
Thereupon the guests had no choice but to serve themselves from the food pushed in front of them. Regardless of whether the guests were loaded or uncharged, one of them drank a glass of water at the table, thanked the pouring man with a smile, saying, “May you be precious and expensive like the water.” When one of the children had his glass filled, he said, “Bless my son,” or “Be blessed my girl.”
The meal sequence also began with meals with guests with a soup that joined a certain meat dish depending on the wealth and region of the hosts. Pilaf, cold dishes and pies were offered in the next course. Various sweets were available after the meal.
The oldest member of the table society thanked him now with a small prayer and then picked up the blackboard with the following traditional words:
“Spend your honor on your table,
against misfortune and bad luck this house defies itself
and the hosts are happy and satisfied. ”
Frequently used phrases concerning hospitality at that time were also:
“Guests are a sign of the prosperity of the house.”
“Stay healthy while you live.”
“All you have to do is greet a Turk, so you do not have to worry about your food anymore.”
“Cheese and bread are already a meal.”
“Do not think about what you want to eat yourself, but what you can give.”
Table habits at communal dinner
The form of communal eating is found in many areas of life, such as in the military, in the large and small Dervish monasteries, schools, caravanserais and hostels. The expenses for these communal meals were usually covered by foundations.
At dinnertime, a representative went to the courtyard of the building to shout “Huuuuu, come to the table” with loud voices. At the request, everyone in the building immediately left his job, washed his hands and hurried to keep anyone waiting in the dining room. Each knew his place in the table arrangement and accordingly settled down, covering his knees with the long communal, handwoven cloth, which served as a napkin, and waited for the Elder, who would say the table-prayer. At that point, almost all of them dipped their spoons into the common soup bowl and the table was opened.
Here, too, the same rules of propriety as in a family table were: Speaking, laughing, marshes over the food, biting off bread instead of breaking it and using someone else’s food was frowned upon.
After dinner, the elder or a representative selected by him spoke the prayer of thanks, whereupon all those present poured some salt into their mouths.
These communal meals were only held among men and women were not allowed to attend.
The poor kitchens
Another place for communal meals were the so-called poor kitchens, which had been set up by the Ottomans for the feeding of the needy. The idea of these poor kitchens arose from the Islamic regulations for the delivery of the annual stipulated alms and the donation due in the last days of Ramadan. The food in the kitchens was in vain and the costs were borne by foundations that various rich citizens had brought to life. In Istanbul alone, 4-5 thousand people were fed in this way. On holidays and holidays it was even more. Those who had started such a poor kitchen were obliged to give all their property to this institution. In this way, a continuity of the people’s kitchens had been guaranteed. The special bran bread that was issued here also had a special name and was called “Fodla”.
The ceremony of drinking coffee
No matter what food you ate before, the Turkish coffee was always the end of the menu. He also had his place in daily life. Especially at the time there were numerous bon mots, phrases and ceremonies around the coffee. There were coffee addicts, a special cooking facility for coffee, future coffee grounds, coffee cups and not to forget the saying that a cup of coffee can trigger well-being for up to forty years.
Turkish coffee could be enjoyed in four different ways: as a simple unsweetened, very sweet, sweet and slightly sweetened coffee.
The Turkish coffee was taken at different times of the day, which then gave him the name. For example, you drank the morning coffee either directly after getting up or just before lunch. This kind of morning coffee could also be consumed with milk. Also, there was the gourmet coffee that was drunk when you were tired, the gossip and gossip coffee you like with someone familiar took the fortune coffee you just drank to read from the spilled coffee grounds of the upturned cup the future, the coffee break and the digestive coffee after the meal.
It was customary to invite a guest with the following words: “Come to us, you can at least have a bitter coffee with us.” If smokers and coffee drinkers got together, one used to say:
“Tobacco is the perfect complement to coffee.”
Of course, there were tea hunters who preferred a glass of tea after dinner to coffee. They put it another way: “A wise man invented the tea, drinking one in the evening and two in the morning.
The bread and other
The bread was once made by the housewives personally in their own ovens. Mostly, on certain days, all the neighbors’ wives came together to help each other make bread.
In the Turkish kitchen a set table was missing on the bread; simply unthinkable.
Wheat, rye, cornmeal and bran were used to make the bread, and the shapes of the finished bread could be loaves, flat bread, small round slices and wafer-thin rolled and baked dough pieces. In the Black Sea region, a cornbread was made that was called “türkce”, especially in Istanbul, the loaves were long and thin. Of course, the shape and taste of the bread had changed over time and some types of bread you could not get at any time. For example, the production of flat bread, the so-called “Pide Ekmek” is reserved for the month of Ramadan.
After the Ottoman Empire changed some things under the influence of the West, they also started to move their own bread production to the city, to general bakeries. This ready-bought bread was long shunned by the housewives. It was even considered a blemish for a family, if one ate this finished bread from the city. Sometimes they even made fun of them. The proud housewives rhymed contemptuously:
“The haystack became a palace,
Even the housewife has no burden ”
“The bread went to town,
Everyone was hungry, which they resented. ”
But in fact, of course, no one took offense at the bread and was certainly not offended. Because the bread was an indispensable part of the Turkish dining table and it has remained with its palatability to this day.
And so we put the sliced bread on the table even today.
Source: Ministry of Culture Turkey