The source of the Mediterranean Cuisine, which constitutes the culinary discourse of the 21st century, concerns the three old continents of the world, which has transferred thousands of years of experience on food and nutrition to the present. Mediterranean Basin connecting Asia, Europe and Africa; It has been one of the privileged regions in terms of cultural relations, commercial exchanges and political conflicts, and has been the source and meeting point of many civilizations with different cultural characteristics. After the Aegean and Egyptian civilizations, the Phoenician sites and the Greek rule, the Mediterranean, which has been under the domination of the Islamic world since the 9th century, is seen to be concentrated on grains, wine and olive oil almost every period.
Mediterranean culture; It has reached a universal integrity with its climate, geographical structure, flora and long history. Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most important parts of this unique cultural structure. Food products grown in the Mediterranean geography have created common points that connect people and cultures. In other words, the roots of the intercultural acquaintance of the culinary traditions that developed around the Mediterranean should be sought in the common food products of this geography.
These common points lead us to the Traditional Mediterranean Nutrition System or the Optimal Mediterranean Diet. This model is based on mainly wheat, grains, olive oil, vegetables and fruits, seafood, milk derivatives, spices and wine.
When we examine how these features are reflected in Turkish cuisine one by one, we can see how diverse the structures that contain and develop the Mediterranean diet are in the Anatolian geography.
Wheat – The creation of wheat, which is the basic food of the Mediterranean Cuisine, whose existence and cultural pattern in the Anatolian geography is expressed in thousands of years, is described as follows in a mythological story I compiled from an old farmer in one of the Eastern Mediterranean villages: “God first created Adam and Eve. While in heaven, Satan made Eve eat the forbidden fruit. Eve offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. It was not possible for them to stay in paradise after both of them ate this fruit. God punished Adam and Eve, sending them both to two ends of the world. They met after years of begging God. They were hungry for the first time. God sent Gabriel to them. Gabriel had a grain of wheat in his hand. And he taught Adam to dig the ground, to throw the seed into the ground, to gather the wheat when the ears ripened, to turn it into flour. He kneaded the bread on a stone, He cooked it and gave it to Adam and Eve ”. The first food of Adam and Eve has been the most rooted and sacred food of Anatolia.
Sources in the years M.Ö.5000 of wheat farming in Turkey’s south west and north Caucasus emerges through Egypt and Mesopotamia gives the information that spread to Europe and Asia. Wheat, which has an important place in the nutrition systems of the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean as well as in the commercial relations, is primarily transformed into bread symbolized with sacred meanings. Bread; It is an indispensable product of traditional diets of Anatolia, Central and Front Asia. In Turkish cuisine, bread types prepared from wheat products and the variety of foods with flour and dough are remarkable. If we limit it to a few examples that come to mind at first, the use of wheat products such as bulgur, hammered, splitting, firik, and drupurcuk in our kitchen is widespread in all our regions, especially in the Mediterranean and Southern Anatolia. Wheat; Whether it is in the field or when it is divided into grains, it is extremely sacred, especially when it turns into flour and bread. Wheat is the basic ingredient of the ashura made in the month of Muharrem, which is an important religious period in every region of Anatolia and originates from the mythology based on Noah’s Flood. The dessert called uhut, made by boiling the liquid obtained after the wheat is germinated and crushed, without adding any sugar, continues to exist as a symbolic product of the agricultural society. Today, soups obtained by combining wheat products with various legumes and vegetables, meals and foods prepared with a mixture of vegetables and meat are consumed extensively. It is the basic material of the ashura made in the month of Muharrem, which is an important religious period in every region of Anatolia and originates from the mythology based on Noah’s Flood. The dessert called uhut, made by boiling the liquid obtained after the wheat is germinated and crushed, without adding any sugar, continues to exist as a symbolic product of the agricultural society. Nowadays, soups obtained by combining wheat products with various legumes and vegetables, meals and foods prepared with a mixture of vegetables and meat are consumed extensively. It is the basic material of the ashura made in the month of Muharrem, which is an important religious period in every region of Anatolia and originates from mythology based on Noah’s Flood. The dessert called uhut, made by boiling the liquid obtained after the wheat is germinated and crushed, without adding any sugar, continues to exist as a symbolic product of the agricultural society. Nowadays, soups obtained by combining wheat products with various legumes and vegetables, meals and foods prepared with a mixture of vegetables and meat are consumed extensively.
Olive oil – The second important aspect of the traditional Mediterranean diet, olives have a long history in the Mediterranean. The fertile olive trees growing in the relatively hard and barren lands surrounding the Mediterranean are described in one of the oldest known cookbooks, the Roman author Apicius’s book. Sources say that the geography where the olive culture was born and developed is Mesopotamia, Mediterranean and Aegean regions. In the Quran, it is stated that the olive tree comes from Mount Sinai, that oil is obtained from its fruits and that this oil is used to flavor meals.
In the most common mythologies known about olives, there is a pigeon returning to the ship with a freshly plucked olive branch in its mouth as a sign that the waters were pulled from the earth during the Noah’s Flood. Since then, the olive branch has become a symbol of peace, and the olive tree, perhaps even when it dies, becomes a symbol of immortality due to the emergence of a new tree from its roots.
olives and olive oil culture alive in Turkey’s geography is based on a 4000-year history. Olive oil, which is washed with hot water in the traditional method called “su zeyti” and continues in today’s rural settlements, is collected from the water surface by hand. It is seen that olive oil obtained in this way is used for health purposes as well as meat and vegetable dishes. Olive oil flavored with herbs such as thyme and mint for breakfast, especially on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts; Sometimes it turns into a separate breakfast product by crushing salty yoghurt or cheese types and adding spices. Olive oil is used to obtain shiny and smooth surfaces of buns and tandoori breads.
The durable fruits of olives can be eaten for two years. Olive pulp left over from the olive oil, olive charcoal, dry leaves, firewood or animal feed. Durable olive branches are used as the flooring of warehouses prepared to store grain under the ground. Olive oil has always existed in both medically approved practices of folk medicine and in rituals.
There is a separate category of “people with olive oil” in Turkish Cuisine. A vegetable dish made with fine olive oil and eaten at room temperature or cold is the primary choice to complement the main meal.
Vegetables and Fruits – Vegetables and fruits are another important aspect of the Mediterranean diet. In addition to the citrus fruits originating from Arabia, which are well developed in the Mediterranean’s mild winters, hot summers and generally less rainy climate, many vegetables and fruits that entered the Mediterranean cuisine culture from the Middle East and the Atlantic Ocean channel have been adapted to our cuisine and our taste.
As today, in the Old Mediterranean basin, the trio of onions, leeks and garlic are seen as vegetables reflecting the Mediterranean diet. White and red beets, chard, okra, which are stated to be the Mediterranean; Eggplant, which is defined as Indian origin and has dozens of dishes, is a few of the vegetables consumed in the Mediterranean.
Today, these vegetables are combined with some meat and grains to form the most important but the least known aspect of Turkish cuisine, namely pot dishes. It is beneficial to look at the original names in order to embody the vegetables and vegetable-based dishes that are enriched with regional and cultural differences in our kitchen. Dishes with names such as Stew, Basti, Kalye, Borane, Fried, Dolma, Sarma, Silkme, Yogurtmaking have been the types that symbolize our eating and drinking tradition from the past to the present.
It is seen that all kinds of edible herbs, roots, mushrooms and fruits are used in our country, where wild herbs are also used in different ways, and this use is continued in other regions as well as in our Aegean and Mediterranean regions, as well as in our other regions.
The fruit is prepared for dessert in various ways, but if it will be the main course, it is especially combined with meat. Fruits such as apple, plum, loquat, apricot, grape, and quince are the main ingredients of fruit dishes with a delicate flavor.
Aquaculture – Another characteristic aspect of the Mediterranean diet is water, mostly seafood. The Mediterranean is a sea with low productivity in terms of seafood, outside of certain regions, especially the straits. Fishing areas decrease gradually towards the east.
The fishing patterns described in the Orkhon Monuments and the fishing motifs encountered in our tales show that freshwater fishing was known by the Turks before Anatolia. When considered as a peninsula cuisine, it is seen that our traditional cuisine follows a low rate in terms of seafood consumption. This rate naturally increases in our coastal regions. In this respect, our culinary tradition shows a course towards the Black Sea, more precisely to anchovy. The consumption of seafood has been adapted to the characteristics of the local cuisine. For example, while delicious fish soups are prepared in Marmarada and Black Sea; On the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean, the meat of large fish is beaten and kneaded with bulgur, spice is added to make meatballs, and bulgur pilaf is prepared with mullet. Sour-spicy fish dishes are made with fish, onion, sumac sour, olive oil and pepper.
Milk Derivatives – Since the warm climate of the Mediterranean brings more cheese and yoghurt production to the agenda than consuming milk in its pure form, it is seen that these products are used with or with meals, and red meat has a limited place in the Mediterranean cuisine structure as production-consumption due to geographical conditions.
In Turkish Cuisine, cheese types and yoghurt are the priority in consumption of milk and dairy products. It is seen that especially the samples obtained by cooking yoghurt have a very interesting taste and technique.
Spices – Spices and aromatic herbs, which constitute another feature of the Mediterranean diet, were brought to the Mediterranean basin from the Near and Middle East regions, via Syria, in the past. Although the number of spice varieties in the general structure of our cuisine is small, we see that the variety and usage rate has increased in the Eastern Mediterranean and Southern regions with the interaction of Arab and Iranian cuisines. While cinnamon, rose water, mezeki gum, geranium flower, bay leaf and sometimes even black pepper are used in our desserts; Meat and other foods are flavored with black pepper, cumin, pine nut, mint or mint, depending on local differences.
Wine – It is stated that grape, which constitutes another important aspect of the Mediterranean nutrition system, is a product of the Mediterranean as old as its history. Grape culture encompasses a very wide cultural area in Anatolia and the Mediterranean geography, reaching the Hittites, the Dionysus ceremonies of the Greeks.
When the subject of grape and wine is examined within the scope of traditional Turkish cuisine, it is seen that the wine has a lower consumption rate compared to other products obtained from grapes, although its production continues; However, it is seen that our traditional drink, raki, has a density to close this gap. In our traditional cuisine, consumption of many grape-based products such as molasses, must, sour, fruit pulp, amulet, mulberry, soudjouk, syrup, sherbet, inexhaustible is common.
Eating pleasure at tables where crowded families come together; a heap of fresh vegetables and wild herbs, mainly tomatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic; the inseparable liquid of rituals from ancient times to the present: olive oil; the geography we live on one of the most valuable food products, sometimes molasses sometimes into wine some types of figs grow in any geography outside of Turkey especially in grapes, mulberries, like countless fruit; Although its use on our tables varies periodically or regionally, spice and most importantly wheat , which is one of the most important vital resources for the continuation of the human race throughout history ; Additionally The social life at every moment created by the renewed collective sharing common meals are the main characteristics of Mediterranean culinary traditions living in Turkey.
In our age where the strong connection between health and nutrition is concretized with scientific data and concepts such as quality life and healthy aging are evident, scientific research points to the Mediterranean Nutrition Model. For Turkish cuisine, besides kebab, dessert and cereal cultures, it is also necessary to mention the Mediterranean style nutrition tradition – an unknown aspect of our cuisine.