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Ottoman Palace Feast - Step by Step "Divan Sofrası"

Whenever i read something about the cuisines of empires, most of the valuable sources are created by travelers. But we are commenting, it always must be considered the situation of the traveler; if he is travelling in good conditions, if he welcomed nicely by empire or not, if he likes locals or not :) Due to this, we can consider most of the stuff of Ottoman kitchen and customs are written by ambassadors or travelers again. And if we imagine the cooks are not able to read or write, we should rely on what we have now. So here i want you to imagine yourself as an ambassador visiting delightful Topkapi Palace in middle ages. Lest follow orders during feast step by step, it's a great chance for observation. 1- Red Carpet Must be laid.

2- Separation of Vezir (Viziers) and Katip (Secretaries) There is a very important thin line between"vezir" and "katip". When viziers are happen to be welcomed with 6 different steps of courses, secretaries were receiving 2! This was an unique way to reveal who has higher rank. Also the ones with higher rank were greeted with "sherbet"(syrup) and the other supposed to get a good quality source water. Some sources are telling secretaries used to share some of their food such as desserts with soldiers which was shown the equality of their statuses. 3- Receiving the First Course As a should, must, have to, a good, fine and slowly cooked chicken soup and rice are the first welcome dishes in Ottoman Palace Cuisine, no matter who you are. Get ready for next because according to the Commune Book of Seyyid Hasan Efendi of 17th century, host generally serves a huge amount of food between 6 to 24 varieties! 4- Heavenly Feast Table

As we are speaking of "Divan Sofrası"(Imparial Council Hall's Tables), next courses must be coming in a raw but all together one after the other! This was the way of Sultan to show himself to the visitor that he is a piece of heaven! According to the sources we know the courses are mentioned in a raw just like that: a- Rice b- Chicken Soup (c and d is never mentioned in a specific order but generally); c- Börek with chicken or with clotted cream d- Meat soup or stuffed green pepper e- Dessert (generally a delightful light one is prefered) f- Offal based dishes such as tribe soup, intestines etc... (Ps. There wasn't a sharpen switch between courses as some main courses contained fruits already before dessert. But why offals? Helps digesting and B12 vitamin and good for gastral... so why not? :) ) 5- Poultry Food During the feast, if any of poultry is to be served, you could understand the palace was trying to show off. Especially palace kitchens were picking red partridge as a luxury dish. 6- Çanak Yağması! (Loot ceremony of Janissaries)

The loot ceremony is actually based on "potlac" a Middle Asian Turkic tradition as Ziya Gokalps says. According to Ismail Hakki Uzuncarsili, there 600 copper vessels used to be placed in the middle of courtyard with wheat soup or rice soup in them and 3 loaves of bread next to each vessel. As soon as the sign given, janissaries run towards to the food, snatch them and turn back where they started. But sometimes palace used to organize that loot ceremony open for public during important events, such as the circumcision ceremony of "son". But the ingredients have to be changed! Vessels should be filled with hundreds of boiled and roasted sheep, rice and zerde(saffron and rice based dessert). The most impressive moment for public was watching the break loose of pigeons hidden inside the sheeps. Out of that, even the loot ceremony supposed to be peaceful, if gypsies blend in, it was causing chaos, such as one of the ceremonies held in Edirne city ended up with not only cleaning up the food but also the copper vessels were gone! 7- Table Reforms after 19th Century As Mahmut the II is called as reformist sultan of 19th century, one the changes he has done was related to table customs. Porcelains of Dresden and Sevres arrived to the palace culture and either the chairs! As once he changed the uniforms to European style, it supposed to be quite difficult to cross legs while sitting on "Divan". Chairs would make life easier when they are in new clothes. 8- Ta'tir and Tavid At the end of the feast of palace or of the wealthy families, cologne was to be presented to thee visitors. Which was called Ta'tir and Tavid. It's never enough to read, never right to say "thats all folks". Why don't you add more? Mail us, comment below, say hi :) Cheers Sanem Yücesoy

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