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OTTOMAN COOKBOOKS

Ottoman cookbooks with titles like ‘A Treatise on Food’, ‘The Cooks’ Refuge’ and ‘The Woman of the House’ offer recipes both healthful and tasty. To study the Turkish cookery, Turkish cookbooks are the first sources. The books of Ekrem Muhittin Yegen and of our famous chef, Necip Ertürk Usta, were the ones most people used. These books, which contained a great number of recipes, are unfortunately not helpful for research into Ottoman cuisine. Older books were written in the Ottoman script with limited illustrations. When we translate these books into modern Turkish, we can see how different they are from today’s cookbooks in terms both of style and of cooking techniques. Undoubtedly one of the most important reasons for this is the socio-economic transformation experienced between Ottoman times and our day. Unfortunately, although the number of cookbooks written in past centuries is not many. They do offer, whether printed or in manuscript form, a welter of information. The book believed to be the first manuscript work about cookery is the ‘Agdiye Risalesi’ or ‘Agdiye Treatise’. Although some of the recipes in this 18th century work have been included in various cookbooks, nothing is known about the origin of the book. The Agdiye Risalesi was transcribed by Nejat Sefercioglu and printed under the title ‘Yemek Risalesi’ (A Treatise on Food). This seven-chapter cookbook, which is housed in the Library of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, is a treasure in the full sense of the word with a wealth of contents ranging from numerous varieties of soup and a thousand and one examples of pastry to stews, kebabs, pickles, salads and sweets. A lamb steak recipe called ‘Tesrifati Naim Efendi’s Külbasti’ in particular is such as to be a favorite even with today’s modern world cuisines.

The first printed book of Ottoman cuisine is the Melce’üt Tabbâh’in (The Cooks’ Refuge). Compiled by one of the teachers at the School of Forensic Medicine, this book was first published in 1844, in other words, five years following the declaration of the ‘Tanzimat’ or Reforms, and is the first book of recipes printed as a result of social development initiatives. It is also significant that the book was written by a medical man. When people are sick, they turn to doctors and medications for remedies. But correct and healthful eating can also ensure a healthy life. Methods of preparing broth and non-greasy foods for the sick are given in this book. ‘The Cooks’ Refuge’, prepared for publication by Türebi Efendi, was published in the United Kingdom in 1864 under the title ‘Turkish Cookery’ without citing the source. With contributions by the well-known cookbook scholar Turgut Kut together with Cüneyt Kut, it was translated into Turkish and published in Turkey in 1997. The second printed cookbook was written by a woman, Ayse Fahriye. Published in 1881, this book, ‘The Woman of the House,’ offers a wealth of information about Turkish cuisine. Containing recipes for the more traditional Turkish dishes, it also includes 887 informative entries on subjects ranging from table settings and kitchen utensils to canning and drying fruits and vegetables to smoking fish and roasting meat on a spit. ‘The Woman of the House’ is known to have been the source of most of the printed cookbooks that followed it.

Reference: Vedat BASARAN, Onder DURMAZ/Skylife

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