İzmir Cuisine

One of the richest cuisines of the world: İzmir Cuisine... You may see at a glance that these words are assertive for İzmir Cuisine, but spread of the civilization from these soils to the world can be shown as a crucial evidence.
İzmir Cuisine...

One of the richest cuisines of the world: İzmir Cuisine... You may see at a glance that these words are assertive for İzmir Cuisine, but spread of the civilization from these soils to the world can be shown as a crucial evidence. According to a saying of Fisherman of Halicarnassus, İzmir is one of the stars of the Mediterranean, the "Sixth Continent". Mediterranean is the birth place of the greatest three heaven religions believed in the world today, Mediterranean is the source of the fundamental sciences, Mediterranean is the place from which technology, tourism, culture and civilization spread the world. Since the unique climate and geography of Mediterranean eased the life, it also enriched the human’s culture. That’s why the existence of Homeros, Thales, Herodotus, Pausanias, Strabon and Aristides is not a coincidence. Aydınoğlu Umurbey got the leaflet which can be accepted as the first cook book written in Turkey. This cannot be explained as a coincidence as well. We may explain the proofs of our assertion that İzmir is the richest cuisine, on the basis of the unique climate of our region, being a cradle of the civilizations and reflecting all on the life style. The scientists put emphasis on two parameters for the ethnical-traditional richness of a society: Music and cuisine… Rich musical past and rich cuisine are making İzmir unique. The richness of our cuisine is a part of the richness of our culture. Considering more than 30 civilizations which lived in İzmir until now, we assert a new evidence for this richness once more. Moreover, the richness of the natural resources in our region, its fruitful soils in which various kinds of grasses, fruits and vegetables grow, our clean sea where all types of fishes and marine animals live and the greatest gift of the nature to human being, the olive oil are the other reasons of our rich cuisine culture… While a regression was observed in food-drink culture of the West as seen in every field upon the division of the Roman Empire, the magnificent palace culture which has been named in the 19th century continued in Byzantium in the East… We are aware of the production of pastries, wine and beer in monasteries which played key roles in generalizing the Christianity. The best foods were presented to the sultans and his relatives in the Ottoman Palace in the most splendent way. On the other hand, precautions were taken through "law books" to ensure the healthy nutrition of the public. Ottoman Palace considered İzmir as important as the other places. Bringing the food culture which was developed in the superior region of Turkey with regard to natural resources, to the Palace did not take a too long time. We know that Turks learnt fish recipes in İzmir, their intersection point with the sea. From the notebook of Halvahouse, we learn fish dishes were consumed considerably in the palace. We shall mention the other fish dishes which were developed in İzmir and the surrounding islands, on the next pages. Another reason of the emphasis placed on Aegean is that the palace liked olive oil very much. Particularly olive oil ranks first among the food-drink culture of İzmir which has the accumulation of many civilizations. The Ottoman kitchen which generally preferred animal oils until then, used olive oil significantly after knowing about it. We see that olive oil and fish-based dishes which are qualified as originated from "Sea of Islands" in the recipes given on the next pages, are consumed frequently in İzmir. While the candidates of kitchen boy were generally gathered from Bolu and Eğin, the Rum children in/around İzmir who were believed to be skilled were brought to the palace. We know that numerous Rum and Armenian cooks were employed in the palace and they were given permission and support to keep their local tastes alive. İzmir desserts renowned in the world and "Grass nights" Another subject to be underlined without doubt is that the cooks from İzmir constituted the dessert masters of the palace. The reputation of the dessert men was so well-known that German cook of the Greek King, Frederich Unger had preferred to come to İzmir, instead of İstanbul in order to understand the special place of dessert in Turkish cuisine and tried to learn the process from its source. In the novel of Unger named "Making Dessert in the East" published in 1838, he mentions İzmir desserts frequently as a result of his observations. We know that the pastes of rose, galangale and rockling were boiled in the night called "grass night" by the palace officers of "Halva Cooker" who lived in İzmir and know various types of grass very well. Sufficient amount of pastes were sent to sultan and the remaining amount was distributed to the officers in and out of the palace. The discovery of the rich agricultural products in Aegean by Europe caused everything to change. The first railways were laid between İzmir and Aydın after the Industrial Revolution skipped by the Ottoman State, and the first passenger and wagon trains departed from İzmir. We can give the richness of Aegean as the cause of both events. In this section of our book, we shall try to evaluate İzmir cuisine within the centuries from the downturn of Ottoman to Republic. While an ordinary life was set in İzmir again after it suffered from the earthquake in 1680 significantly and almost 18,000 people died, the city became the center of levantines. İzmir which gained the identity of an Ottoman city in the period Sultan Murat II became a Turkish city again after the occupation between 1919 and 1922. However, İzmir never became an Ottoman city like Bursa, Edirne, Manisa and Kütahya as mentioned by many scientific researches although it was dominated by the Ottoman State for 500 years. İzmir has been called "Giaour" since the Ottomans because of many reasons. But we personally believe that İzmir was called "Giaour", because İzmir was the center of foreign trade, levantines lived there densely and İzmir became the hub of the imperialists who wanted to exploit the Ottomans. Multi-lingual, multi-food İzmir... An excellent level of "multilingualism" prevails the local people of İzmir as seen in every port city of İzmir, but the correspondences were made in Ottoman language, namely the mixture of Turkish, Arabic and Farsi. As found in all of the big Ottoman cities, we have a proof named "The Code on the Works of Artisans and Craftsman" published in 1630. We learnt from it that the primary dishes sold by the cooks are stew, meatball cooked in the water which shall be called "İzmir Meatball" later, grilled lamb on skewers, chicken cooked in underground pit oven, fried lamb and tandoor kebab. In 1914 of İzmir where approximately 200,000 people lived together, every community had its special dishes and food cultures. However, we see mainly the Rum Ginmills in the place named "Ginmill Pass" in which numerous ginmills existed. Considering that eating and drinking became an art since Romans, the superiority of the Rums in İzmir in this field was inevitable. According to census in 1911, the number of the people with Orthodox belief in İzmir corresponded to 75,000 which was a high figure compared to the other groups. 55,000 and 20,000 people had the origins of Ottoman and Greek, respectively. It is known that Armenian population of İzmir worked in ginmills as well as the Rums. But Armenians opened "Footed" ginmills where poor population usually went whereas Rums generally opened "Veteran" ginmills in order to give service to traditional customers. In addition to the Christian population, the Muslim customers came to ginmills of Rums for escapade. The ginmills managed by Rums were called "veteran" before, but after they developed, they were called "Sultans", because they were developed significantly after the permission of sultan Abdülaziz. No needless to say, there were "seat" ginmills. They included the ginmills managed illegally and the groceries and greengrocers of the alleys which sold alcoholic drinks secretly. Some of them were called "courteous seat" and the officers who were embarrassed of taking alcoholic drinks to houses went there. Veteran ginmills became famous with the cleanliness of their kitchens and delicious fish and meat dishes. It was believed that the cooks in the mansions could not cook "cutlet" grill and summer lamb stew with vegetables (a kind of casserole) of the veteran ginmills. In veteran ginmills, high ceilings were supported by posts. There was a barrel of salty fish (sardine) at the bottom of the middle post. The sardines were brought from Mytilene. The customers of veteran ginmills started with the appetizers such as white bean and onions salad, cabbage pickle and roasted chickpea. When the customer came to the ginmill, his table was covered with the appetizers. The customer did not pay money for the appetizers which were out on the table before. He only paid for the raki or wine and the meat or fish dished that he ordered.


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