Culinary remnants of a Greco-Turkish debate
a few moths ago a small flame war had erupted on the origins of various
dishes. As I was going through Sp. Vryonis book on "The Decline of Medieval
Hellenism in Asia Minor" I came across the following (pp 481-483):
In matters of cuisine the conquerors undoubtedly absorbed some items from
the conquered, but the problem is again obscured by the similarity in
Buzantine and Islamic cuisine which probably existed before the appearance
of the Turks. The Danishmedname gives descriptions of christian feasts but
unfortunately they are not complete. Turkmen cuisine as described by Brockquiere
was a very simple affair consisting primarily of the produce of their flocks
-meat, milk, yogurt, butter, cheese supplemented by millet or other grains,
fruit, honey, eggs, and a type of unleavened wafer (prepared on a portable
hot iron in the manner of our own pancakes) in place of breads. The
preparation of the unleavened cake was quite different from the baking of bread
and indeed the oven (furnus) of the Armenians and Greeks is suspiciously absent.
It is significant that the Anatolian Turkish terminology for bread and its
preparation has many words of Byzantine origin. 
Much of the later elaborate turkish cuisine was foreign to the Turkmen nomads
and belonged to a sedentary cuisine already common to the eastern Mediterranean
world since Roman times if not earlier. A brief perusal of the pages of
Athenaeus Deipnosophistae will confirm the assertion and therein the gastronomer
will notice not only stuffed leaves but also the various oriental sweets. There
is great similiraty between turkish sweets and those enjoyed by the Byzantines.
The basic ingredients for these deserts were usually dough, sesame, wheat, nuts,
honey, and various fruit. Thus the equivalent of the Turks borek, halva, baklava
and other delicacies are to be found in various byzantine and classical texts.
The byzantine pastilla seems to have covered a variety of sweets, usually made
with boiled wheat and honey, or crushed nuts and honey, or sesame and honey,
or similar mixtures. Another byzantine favorite was the so-called kopth
or kopton (koptoplakoys) that was the same as the Turkish baklava. The delicacy
was known to Athenaeus who gives the recipe. It was, he says, made of leaves
of dough, between which were placed crushed nuts with honey, sesame, pepper,
and poppy seed. The borek are paralled as early as the second century of
the christian era and throughout the byzantine world by the plakoyntas
entyritas which Artemidorus and the medieval lexigographers mention. Such
dishes as the cheese myzythra (mizitra in turkish), cured meat paston
(pasdirma in turkish) were known to the byzantines and the roasting of
meat on the spit, or shishkebab, was ancient in the Mediterranean area.
 Tietze, "Anat. Turkish". Loan words that deal with the baking of bread
include, zimari, kulur, meleksi, sisre, pinavut, senedi. On further
lexigographical material that has to do with bread and baking in modern
turkish, ZH Kosay, "Turkiye halkinin maddi kulturune dair arastirmalar II",
Turk etnografya dergisi, II (1957). For the unleavened bread in Seljuk times,
MZ Oral, "Selcuk devri yemekleri ve ekmekleri",Turk etnografya dergisi, I(1956).
Travelers observed specifically christian practices upon making bread in modern
Anatolia among turkish women. most striking of which was the marking of the
cross on the unbaked loaf (Hasluck, "Christianity and Islam" E.Pears "Turkey
and its peoples (London 1911)).
 Athenaeus, XIV, Koukoules, Bios, Tietze, "Einige Weitere" on pastilla,
pastillos, which passed into turkish as a loan word. Von Hammer, Geschicte des
osmanischen Reiches, noted that Philadelpheia (Alashehir) famous in his own
days for its halva has specialized in honey cakes when the Persian emperor
Xerxes passed through the city in the fifth century. Herodotus, VII,
"para Kallabhton polin en th andres dhmioergoi meli ek myrikhs te kai pyrou
poieysi", On the identification of Kallatebos with the later Philadelpheia
look article on "Kallabetos" in PW [???]. For the recipe of this type of
halva in the sixteenth century, Dernschwam-Babinger "Inder andern ist ein
solch weys confect, so man halwa nent, von mandeln, honing und ay weys".
Posted by Yannis Schoinas on soc.culture.greek, December 1993
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