Eastern Turkey and Anatolia is known for having robust and a kind of “pungent and complex” spiciness foods. Molasses, un-ripened grape juice, dried fruits, loquats, beans, and yogurt are ingredients characteristic of the region. A particular dish of this Turkish region is slowly grilled young lamb cooked in a dirt pit.
The Western, Mediterranean-bordered areas of Turkey embody a great deal of olive oil in the cooking. Many dishes include small amounts of meat cooked together with vegetables. Popular dishes of dolmalar (dolmas) and sarmalar (sarmas) are stuffed or rolled leafy vegetables with rice, black currants, and pine nuts inside.
The Aegean and Mediterranean regions yield fresh figs, grapes, an orange and spotted Kırkağaç melon, and peaches. Fruits – fresh, dried, or cooked – are enjoyed at all times of day and before, during, and after meals. Olive trees are also everywhere, producing a variety of different kinds of olives like black, green, reddish green, beige, and pink kinds.
This country’s cuisine truly is quite a (Turkish) delight! I know you’re chuckling…admit it. So punny, right? In case you were wondering, Turkish delights are candy confections, often rose or lemon flavored, and sometimes having mix-ins of dates or pistachio nuts. If there’s one exposure to Turkish delights for Westerners, it’s probably from the book/film, Chronicles of Narnia, originally written by C.S. Lewis.
The ingredients most often used in Turkish cuisine include grains such as bulgur (cracked wheat) and semolina, clarified butter, eggplant, beans and seeds like fava beans, dairy including feta cheese and yogurt, fish, grape leaves, filo dough, lamb, mint, olive oil, pine nuts and black caraway seeds, rose water, sumac (dried, crushed red berries with tangy flavor), and tahini.
And so what are typical meals like in Turkey?
Often, a typical breakfast entails fresh baked bread, tomatoes, olives, cheese, jams, Turkish tea, soft-boiled eggs, and böreks, or stuffed savory pastries. Soup is very popular at lunch or dinner time, so much so that there are myriad specialized soup shops called corbaçi.
Lunch and dinner usually begin with a soup, then follow with an entrée of grilled meat, chicken or fish served atop pilaf and salad, and end with a fruit compote, pudding, or fresh fruit for dessert.
Throughout the day, snacks consist of more böreks consumed with ayran, a tangy yogurt drink, or Turkish tea. The eating style of having numerous small plates or appetizers called meze is popular for special occasion dining.
These meze plates are often seasonal vegetables cooked with olive oil, pureed or stuffed vegetables, seafood, or böreks. Pita, sourdough, and flat breads are the popular choices of bread.
Quoting Adele’s Skyfall lyrics, this week’s focus on Turkey is certainly “where worlds collide” (this theme song of the latest James Bond film’s opening scene is in Istanbul as well - could not be more fitting!).
The modern-day state of Turkey has a long, fascinating, and rich history. Nevertheless, let’s look back in history for a bit. Originally the Turks were composed of migrants from central Asia who settled in the Asia Minor peninsula, and since many great civilizations have influenced or integrated with the region, including the Hittites, Byzantines, Greeks, Romans, Selçuks, and Ottomans.
The most recent of these, the Ottomans, were a tribe who conquered Constantinople, or what is now modern-day Istanbul, in the year 1453. The Ottoman Empire reigned over the medieval world and shaped much of the Turkish cuisine that we recognize today. For example, open-air cafés are an Ottoman tradition.
It’s no wonder that Ottoman cuisine had dissipated to and influenced many cuisines of the Middle East, the Balkans, parts of Russia and Europe, and North Africa. Turkey neighbors eight different countries: Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It also has a long coastline, touching the Mediterranean Sea in the south, the Black Sea in the north, and the Aegean Sea in the west. Geographically, Turkey is located at a junction between Europe and Asia.
Fun fact: Turkish cuisine, alongside French and Chinese cuisine, is also one of the three great world cuisines! The culture of food is important in Turkey, with an emphasis on having evening meals together as a family. Tea shops and outdoor cafés are very popular, dotting the streets with beautiful backdrops of Ottoman and classical architecture. I also appreciate the beautiful architecture (and very much so the name) of the Hagia Sophia, a 180 feet tall “great architectural beauty and an important monument both for Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires” created in 537 AD during the Byzantine Empire, later becoming a mosque, and now a museum.
The international relations-major in me also needs to express itself and inform you that Turkey is uniquely the only Muslim state that is democratic! I am so excited to learn more about this fascinating culture and cuisine. Get ready to dive into this historical and geographical melting pot that is Turkey!
Brazil is home to the wildly rambunctious and largest carnival in the world in Rio de Janeiro. The four-day long festivities begin 40 days before Easter during the hottest month of February in Brazil. It is a celebration ending in time for Ash Wednesday, saying farewell to bodily pleasures and excesses. It is representative of Brazilian culture: vivaciously full of life, dance, singing, partying, fun, and music. The typical music and dance of Rio Carnival is the samba.
The Carnival itself practically stops the entire country, as most or all people join in celebrations and festivities. Parades of gaudy, colorful, and extravagant floats and costumed participants walk the streets, and the large majority of the country’s beer consumption and tourist visitors peak during this celebration.
The least-known and most difficult for foreign reproduction of food in Brazil comes from the Amazon region, where the food is closest to its indigenous roots. This region includes the states of Pará, Roraima, Amapá, Acre, Rondônia, and Amazonas. The cuisine utilizes local leaves and herbs, corn and cassava, and fresh local fish, especially the pirarucú, or “bacalhau of the Amazon” (and bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod fish!). Local fruits include star fruit, mangoes, and cashew fruit, and these are prepared in desserts such as sorbets and compotes. Brazil nuts are ground up and added to sauces, sprinkled atop dishes, or roasted to eat alone as an appetizer, called castanha-do-Pará.
The Northeast of Brazil was the first area settled by the Portuguese and home of the country’s first capital, Salvador da Bahia do Todos os Santos. This region is also where Brazilian culture was born, with the first mix of African influence with the Portuguese culture and native people. The cuisine is also most typical of what most of the world sees as Brazil: sugar, coconut, chile, dendê oil, a West African red-hued palm oil, and cachaça, a fermented sugar cane juice.
Rio and São Paulo
As the most cosmopolitan cities of all of Brazil, these cities have embodied imported foods like pizza, stroganoff, and sushi, but also feature more of Brazil’s traditional foods.
The attitude, culture, and attire of Rio are casual, where a shirt and tie is the standard for serious business or even attending a funeral. Represented in the food is the Saturday feijoada national meal, a beef, pork, and black bean stew.
In contrast, Sao Paulo has a more formal sophistication and is the fastest growing and most prosperous city to the south. The city also features the widest variety of restaurants.
The central region of Brazil, including the states of Goiás and Minas Gerais, and Espirito Santo, are best characterized by beans. It is also not uncommon for people eat as many as five meals a day. The country is considered the heart of Brazil, as it is home to many of its famed and historical monuments.
This sparsely populated, last frontier sort of region of Brazil is one of the fastest growing in Brazil. The two states in this area are Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, or Big Country and Southern Big Country. This area is also adventuresome with a meat-based diet and hunting local game.
Being in this region almost feels as though one is actually in Europe, as many of the people find their roots in Germany and Italy, with very limited native Brazilian and African influence on the region’s architecture, festivals, and foods. The region is best characterized by its German and Italian immigrant heritage, as well as the cattle-raising, “cowboy”-like gauchos.
Here in Santa Catarina is the largest Oktoberfest in South America, while Rio Grande do Sul produces an astounding 90% of the entire country’s wine. Another state in the region, Paraná, is full of coffee plantations. These states of European heritage are the breadbasket of Brazil.
Tudo bem? After a semester-long hiatus, World Yums is coming back with va va voom in the form of some Brasil love! Brazil – images of tropical rain forests a long coast of endless beaches, brilliant and vivid colors, and a mix of peoples and foods come to mind. Just say the word Rio and it exudes pure exotic vivacity and adventure.
The largest country in Latin America, Brazil is sizable to the United States in terms of population and geographic size. It is also unique in Latin America in that its official language is Portuguese, spoken by 99% of the population, whereas its neighbors are all Spanish-speaking countries. It is a melting pot stretching back in its history to embody the native Indians in Brazil, Portuguese colonizers, African slaves, Italian and Spanish waves of immigrants, then Poles and Lebanese, and most recently, the Japanese. São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, hosts the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan.
The diversity of Brazil is apparent in its climate, geography, culture, and as a result, its food as well. In the southern part of the country, steak is most often eaten grilled over charcoal fires, called churrascaria. In the northern areas, beef is salted and dried in the sun, called carne de sol or carne seco. The north is also home to a cornucopia of fresh Amazon fish, wild forest game, and many tropical fruits and vegetables. A “big bang” of the eclectic mix of indigenous Indian, Portuguese, and West African food cultures resulted in Cozinha Baiana, or Bahaian cuisine. This cuisine is based heavily on seafood and shellfish seasoned with strong flavors like coconut milk, lime, cilantro, and hot chilies.
A staple in all of Brazil’s diet are beans, of which it is the world’s largest producer and consumer. Beans and rice are essential accompaniments to meals. Sweet dishes are also popular, using ingredients like egg yolks, coconut flakes, or tapioca flour from the popular cassava meal. Street food is also extremely popular and features a mix of sweet and savory fried snacks.
Going to be punny for a moment, please excuse the cheesiness…but this will be an Amazon ride of a culinary journey!
P.S. It is with utmost pleasure that I let you all know that I will be traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for Spring Break with some of my good friends from college! We’ll see if my cooking efforts hold up to the real deal then :)