Food Protocol for the Culturally Correct


Eating is taken very seriously in Turkey. It is inconceivable for household members to eat alone, raid the refrigerator, or eat on the "go", while others are at home. It is customary to have three "sit-down meals" a day. Breakfast or "kahvalti" (literally, 'Linder the 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 neighbors may join in on 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 former 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 main meat and vegetable 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 tea and Turkish coffee.


Women get together for afternoon tea at regular intervals (referred to as the "7-17 days") with then school-friends and neighbors. These are very elaborate occasions with at least a dozen types of cakes, pastries, finger foods and böreks prepared by the hostess. The main social purpose of these gatherings is to gossip and share experiences about all aspects of life, pubIic 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 foreigh to the Turks. The responsibility of supplying all the food squarely rests on 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 neighbors collaborate in making large quantities of food for the winter such as "tarhana" - dried yoghurt and tomato soup, or noodles. Another is when families let together to go on a day's excursion into the countryside. Arrangements are made a head of time is 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 also 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 numerous songs tell us. Other memorable locations include the Meram vineyards in Konya, Lake Hazar in Elazig, and Bozcaada off the shores of Canakkale. Commemorating two Saints: Hizir and Ilyas (representing immortality and abundance), the May 5 Spring Festival (Hidireliez) would mark the beginning of the pleasure-season (safa), with lots of poetry, songs and, naturally, good food.



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