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x0x The cuisine of Tokat

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  • TRH
    x0x The cuisine of Tokat By VEDAT BASARAN Host to countless civilizations over the ages, every corner of Anatolia contains some cultural treasure. And thanks
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2007
      x0x The cuisine of Tokat


      Host to countless civilizations over the ages,
      every corner of Anatolia contains some cultural
      treasure. And thanks to archaeological
      excavations, we are now learning about the
      centuries-old past of this land. What all has
      emerged already from the depths of mother earth.

      Recall, for example, what you've seen in museum
      showcases: statues, coins, mosaics, pottery,
      ceramics, decorative items of every kind. In the
      light of these findings, we are learning about the
      way of life, culture, economies and societies of
      past civilizations. And what about their cuisines?
      What did people eat and drink thousands of years
      ago? How did they prepare their food? Is there
      any connection between their food and drink and
      ours today? Archaeologists are now finding
      definite answers to these questions thanks to the
      rapidly developing science of paleobotany. And
      their research is documenting the existence of an
      extremely rich cuisine in Anatolia even in the
      most ancient times.

      According to humanities professor Phyllis Pray
      Bober, the millstones and bread ovens brought to
      light in Anatolia point to the existence of an
      extensive culinary culture.

      The traditional production techniques that
      developed centuries ago live on today in the towns
      of Anatolia. Tokat is one such Anatolian town
      which possesses a unique cuisine with roots going
      back to ancient times. Come, let us make a
      `delectable' journey through this deeply rooted
      culture, which we are trying desperately to hold
      onto despite the hectic pace of modernization.


      It is no secret that Tokat owes its rich cuisine
      to its fertile soil.

      The people of Tokat are well aware of their
      treasure, an awareness that becomes quite obvious
      when they give you a recipe for the region's most
      succulent dish, Tokat kebab. When preparing this
      dish of gastronomic genius, which combines
      tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and lamb in a
      magnificent mélange, a Tokat native will voice the
      following stricture: "Only tomatoes, peppers,
      eggplants and lamb from Niksar (a township in the
      province) are to be used."

      Anything else is simply unthinkable. Another town,
      neighboring Sivas, also claims this dish. Try
      getting a recipe for Tokat kebab from a Sivas
      dweller. When he has enumerated the ingredients
      one by one, he will stop for a minute and confess
      in all honesty that everything must `absolutely'
      be gotten from Tokat.


      But of course it would be wrong to imply that the
      taste of the kebab lies entirely in the
      ingredients used. The secret of this
      finger-licking-good taste also depends in no small
      part on the cooking technique. The oven that is
      used, for example, is very important.

      And the ovens of Tokat have always been said to be
      the most advanced among those used by the various
      Anatolian civilizations. So what is so special
      about the oven that gives food cooked in it this
      special flavor? First of all, its unique
      construction which does not expose the food to
      direct heat.

      In other words, the meat and vegetables are both
      grilled and baked, in a method described in
      Turkish as `making them sweat'. Thanks to this
      cooking method, the aromas are sealed into the
      kebab where they become thoroughly blended.


      The cuisine of Tokat is of course not limited to
      kebab. Stuffed vine leaves, stuffed broad beans,
      and walnut `bat' head the list of local
      gastronomic delights prepared with grape leaves.
      Alongside Tokat `pastIrma', a sort of Turkish
      pastrami, and `dressed sausage', dishes made with
      dough also occupy a special place in the town's
      cuisine--breads made with curd cheese, `katmer',
      `cizlak', poppy seed or walnuts, `yugurtmac', and
      bulghur pilaff with lentils to name just a
      few--while indigenous herbs like `evelik',
      `madimak' and `nivik' are used regularly in
      pilaffs, breads and sautés. Another culinary
      treasure that literally bursts from the soil of
      Tokat is its more than forty varieties of grapes.

      And the Zile molasses made from them has a flavor
      worthy of the finest palate. The regional wine
      meanwhile provides a complement to all these
      dishes. There is also a `mahlep' (Prunus mahaleb)
      wine, or cherry cordial, produced only in Tokat
      that we definitely recommend trying.

      So how are you going to sample all these
      delectables? You won't find most of the products
      mentioned here on the supermarket shelves or in
      the open air markets of the big cities, because
      the people of Tokat consume all the blessings of
      their soil right on the spot. If you ask us, the
      cuisine of Tokat should be spread far and wide as
      soon as possible so that everybody can taste it.
      Or is it that the Tokat natives want to keep their
      culinary secrets to themselves?

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