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Greek V Turkish Food


Adam Balic
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I have and like the old version but I'll have a look at the updated one next time I'm at B&N. Thanks. I've also got the Wolfert and Helou books here but I'm too lazy to open them. Maybe tomorrow. Oh, the Periyali book is probably worth looking at too. This is developing into quite a pile.

(Edit that, Jason, ya bastard!)

Uh, book titles, dumbass?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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as i have absolutely no knowledge of turkish or greek cuisine, i'll refer to my newly acquired "culinary artistry":smile: , with its amazing charts - one of which lines up the typical flavours of countries and regions of the world. according to this, the "flavour profile" of turkey and greece are quite divers. (i haven't got the book here, so can't quote it, sorry)

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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It seems to me that Greek and Turkish cuisines share similarities at the level you would expect of two adjacent cultures, but to say the two are indistiguishable would simply be wrong.  Just for starters, and this was already pointed out I believe, neither are homogenous cuisines.  Comparing traditional Ottoman cuisine to the cooking of the south western coast of Turkey to the cuisine of Gazantiep in the southeast shows at least as much variety as the regional cuisines of Italy or France.

I agree with Steve that at its most refined level, Turkish food is more complex in its technique and structure than any Greek food I've ever had although I will admit my experience with Greek food is limited.

If one is looking for specific differences between the two, there are a couple I can think of off the top of my head.  Turkish food features pilafs made with rice, lentils, etc. which I've never encountered in Greek food.  I believe this reflects the influence of Turkey's neighbors to the other side, Iran.  I also think it would be hard to argue that Greek food uses spices in as pronounced a way.  In fact, I have generally found Greek food to be relatively bland.

Do Turks do mezze?

'Mezze' is a word in Turkish in fact, although I assume the same word is used in other languages in the region as well.

Someone mentioned that many Turkish restaurants bill themselves as 'Mediterranean'. This is true here in Seattle as well, and my guess is that it is because most Americans would have no idea what to expect from a 'Turkish' restaurant, but 'Mediterranean' doesn't sound very threatening.....

The issue is not that the two countries foods have differences, the issue is are they significantly different from each other to be considered seperate cuisines. If we can determine what exactly this means then we have a basis to discuss regionality in other contexts.

I do not think that discussing what types of meals that we have had in the USA, UK or Australia, is a sufficient basis for being able distinguish the two cuisines (Or if this is not the case I will have to be the expert on all things Greek as I come from the second largest Greek city in the world :smile: ).

Some types of Greek cooking do contain pilaw type recipes. One especially famous recipe replaces the rice with rice shaped pasta.

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I do not think that discussing what types of meals that we have had in the USA, UK or Australia, is a sufficient basis for being able distinguish the two cuisines (Or if this is not the case I will have to be the expert on all things Greek as I come from the second largest Greek city in the world

Well I started by saying I wish I had access to my cookbooks which I don't. Because the thing to do is to compare the recipes. Still, what you will find is something on the road I started going down because like it or not, that's what you get in the restaurants. Neither cuisine is particularly deep IMHO. Certainly nothing like the regionality you get in Italy or France. Just start with the simple premise that lamb is almost the only meat you see served. In Greece I know it to be served roasted, or in chunks for doner kebabs, or ground for gyros. But I don't know it to be chopped and formed around a skewer to make kofte kebab. True or false? If false, that's a big start as that type of technique is what we are looking for to distinguish a class of people who could afford to have that service peformed for them. Like Indian families had chefs who had their own curry recipes. Also, is there humus in Greek cuisine? It's not something available in the restaurants here. In fact the range of dips and salads from Greece is quite small (here.) Nowhere as extensive as Turkey which has a list that is almost as extensive as the list would be in a Lebanese restaurant. And when it comes down to it, isn't that going to be the difference. Greek cuisine will be a regional cuisine, and Turkish cuisine will be pan-regional because it incorporated various dishes, ingredients and techniques from other parts of the Ottoman Empire.

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Steve - my comment wasn't ment to be specifically critical of you, what I am saying is that if we are going to make statements on cuisine then we really should have a well informed statement, rather comments based the small amount of personal experience that we have (especially, when that personal expeirence is based on restaurants not in the country of origin).

Are you saying chopped is different to ground/minced (yes, I know that it is, but I want to be clear that you are making a distinction)?

Yes, you can get small ground/minced/chopped lamb sausages/patties on sticks/skewers in Greece. They are Turkish in origin and you find them in many Ex-Ottoman ruled lands (Cevapci/kebab "skewered"etc).

Yes, you get humus in Greece. Remember that many Greeks are from Turkey (remember that exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in the '50s (?), many of these "Greeks" couldn't even speak Greek.

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Are you saying chopped is different to ground/minced (yes, I know that it is, but I want to be clear that you are making a distinction)?

No I am saying that chopping technique is the kind of thing that could have been a way for the upper classes to draw a distinction between themselves and the lower classes. Who made the koftes with the best texture, with the seasonings balanced evenly and spread thoughout the mixture. Who could afford the best spices. In cooking, time and ingredients are money (where did I hear that before,) and the difference between roasting chunks of lamb with chunks of potatoes and possibly a tomato (Greek), and making a more delicate prepraration where thin slices of lamb are layered with thin slices of potatoes and other vegetables (Turkey,) is a function of time and money. It also has to be driven by, and this will sound familiar from various other threads we've argued, a class of people who think of themselve as more refined and see the food as a reflection of their place in life. Otherwise what would be the motivation for anyone to improve basic peasant dishes? As for humus in Greece, that isn't really my question. You want to distinguish yourself from the masses. As for hummus, you can get hummus everywhere now. It's almost like pizza. What I was commenting on was hummus and other dips that you would regularly find on Turkish menus not being on the menu at the Greek restaurants I frequent.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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Yes, I have no problem with Turkish food, in general, being more refined then Greek food, in general (Although, in Melbourne in terms of comparing restuarants the reverse is generally more true and this is a function of when the two immigrant groups came out to Australia, rather then reflecting true differences in Cuisine).

However, The original point was: Are the two cuisines sufficiently different to warrant them been classified as seperate cuisines.

One may very well be more refined then the other, but this does not imply that they are different cuisines.

From what I can see here, Greek cuisine is largely based on and is a more rustic version of Turkish cuisine.

Or is this incorrect?

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From what I can see here, Greek cuisine is largely based on and is a more rustic version of Turkish cuisine.

Or is that backwards? Is Turkish cuisine a refined version of the rustic cuisines of the Ottoman Empire?

I know we have had these conversations before but, a simple roasting of a leg of lamb served with natural jus had to come before someone figured out you can strain and thicken the jus to make gravy. To me, add enough technique and you come away with a distinct cuisine.

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One of the things I've noticed when eating in both Greece and Turkey is that they seem to have an aversion to serving food piping hot. They seem to prefer everything lukewarm and tepid.

Sine I was bought up by an "eat it while it's hot" mamma, I really struggle with this, especially with soups and wet casserole like dishes. Last time I was in Turkey I constantly sent things back asking them to heat it up please and STILL it would come back only warm. They would look at me as if I was mad..

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From what I can see here, Greek cuisine is largely based on and is a more rustic version of Turkish cuisine.

Or is that backwards? Is Turkish cuisine a refined version of the rustic cuisines of the Ottoman Empire?

I know we have had these conversations before but, a simple roasting of a leg of lamb served with natural jus had to come before someone figured out you can strain and thicken the jus to make gravy. To me, add enough technique and you come away with a distinct cuisine.

Well what you say could be and almost certainly is in part, however I know that the Ottomans were very into there food and that certain types of Chefs came from particular famed villages or were trained extensively in 'schools'. I don't think this is true any longer, so I would think that modern Turkish cooking is less refined then the cusine of the Ottoman empire.

Basically, you had many different levels of cuisine in the empire, from very refined court food, down to the more rustic level that you mention. Prehaps, much of the food that we see now is desended from the more rustic cuisine and this has been refined.

Steve - I see your point, but I think that we have different perspectives on the definition of "Cuisine". I see what you are getting at in terms of refinement/levels of cuisine, but I was think more along the lines of 'food from a similar historical origin, that is not significantly different, except in details of refinement etc, is are both part of the same cuisine. Turkish is more haute though. :rolleyes:

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But you have two different definitions of cuisine going on here. There is the use of the word to describe the food identified with a nationality. Then there is the use of the word to describe a technique identified with a specific cooking technique. For example, The French Laundry and Gordon Ramsey are French restaurants because of the technique they employ. But not every dish they serve is something that would have to originate in France. Still they are considered French.

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How long do cultural influences last? We need Balic on this, but I suspect that contemporary Greek and Turkish cooking looks little like Greek cooking in 500BC, whereas contemporary Turkish cuisine will be similar to that found at the end of the Ottoman empire, less that 100 years ago.

Ha! Finally a topic on which I have some expertise! OK, short answer is that ancient Greek cooking was pretty different. Lots of ingredients (e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, rice) weren't available then, so that's an important difference. Also, it looks like an average Greek diet was pretty monotonous. Mostly based on grain (either bread or porridge), with stuff on it: olive oil, fish (fresh, or pickled as a fish sauce called opson-- probably a lot like SE Asian fish sauce), some vegetables. Like today, fish was a central protein source; unlike today, most people only rarely ate (non-fish) meat, and when they did it was usually in the context of a religious sacrifice.

Basic ancient Greek cooking was probably more like the modern stuff (one of the earliest surviving Greek recipes is for a whole fish broiled with olive oil and cheese) than ancient haute cuisine, which featured lots of sour and spicy flavors. And fish sauce; lots of fish sauce.

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Exactly. So why can't Turkish and Greek food be grouped under the same cuisine label then?

Hmmm, because there is too much to distinguish them. Yes they are similar, but they are no more the same than Turkish and Lebanese cuisines being the same. Do they use paprika in Greek cuisine? I know they use cinammon in their tomato sauce. But is that something they picked up from the Turkish?

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Exactly. So why can't Turkish and Greek food be grouped under the same cuisine label then?

Although there clear simlarities it's important to remember that Turkey is a (largely) Muslim country and Greece a Christian one. So, no pork in Turkey (lots of booze though, admittedly), but also different types of emphasis, different foods on feast days, different food rituals, different slaughter methods etc. which taken together probably creates enough differences for them to warrant separate consideration.

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Exactly. So why can't Turkish and Greek food be grouped under the same cuisine label then?

Although there clear simlarities it's important to remember that Turkey is a (largely) Muslim country and Greece a Christian one. So, no pork in Turkey (lots of booze though, admittedly), but also different types of emphasis, different foods on feast days, different food rituals, different slaughter methods etc. which taken together probably creates enough differences for them to warrant separate consideration.

I was wondering when somebody would bring this up. Greek food and the Church are intimately associated.

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But I am not understanding what your point is then? Why are you picking on Greece then. Why not Uzbekistan? Their cuisine is almost identical to Turkish. I guess what differentiates Greece in that while it is similar to Turkish cuisine, it also shares certain traits with Italian Adriatic cuisine. It has a Mediterranean aspect to it that is missing from Turkish cuisine.

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I'm not picking on Greece. In this instance we are discussing the merits of what makes a cuisine, a cuisine, using the straight forward example Turkish and Greek foods. I'm not sure that we have demonstrated that these definitions can be made. If this is the case then, it changes the merits of conclusions drawn in many discussions on cuisine, regionality etc.

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Is it sensible to regard Greek and Turkish (and Uzbeck) food as regional and/or class variations of the same fundamental Ottoman cuisine?

Back to Jason's point: if we follow the thesis that refined food follows wealth, what has the Onassis family been eating all these years?

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Is it sensible to regard Greek and Turkish (and Uzbeck) food as regional and/or class variations of the same fundamental Ottoman cuisine?

Back to Jason's point: if we follow the thesis that refined food follows wealth, what has the Onassis family been eating all these years?

French food obviously. :biggrin:

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Is it sensible to regard Greek and Turkish (and Uzbeck) food as regional and/or class variations of the same fundamental Ottoman cuisine?

Back to Jason's point: if we follow the thesis that refined food follows wealth, what has the Onassis family been eating all these years?

French food obviously. :biggrin:

Was that a Jackie O. joke?

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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