On 11 Jan 2013, the Anthropology Department organized a “Turkish night” with the support of a Turkish cultural association called "Anatolia Cultural and Dialog Centre" (or ACDC), which is like a British Council office for Turkey. They demonstrated a number of food specialties, as well as Turkish tea and the well-known Turkish coffee. The event was hosted by the CUHK school of hotel management in their wonderful teaching kitchen, where our students, exchange students from New York University in the US and volunteers from ACDC all had a wonderful and informative night.
Dr. Bosco in our department made some interesting anthropological observations about “Turkish cuisine,” which we share with you below. To read the full blog post, Cooking Meat Without Heat, please visit his blog Anthropological Fragments.
|Mr. Mehmet Soylemez from ACDC |
introduces Turkish Cuisine
|Exchange students from NYU|
|The "male" dish çiğ köfte|
The second observation came as I discussed one of the dishes we saw prepared. This was çiğ köfte, a dish made with raw beef or lamb and eaten wrapped in a salad leaf. We had a vegetarian version, made with potato instead of the usual beef. As part of the preparation, they had explained that it needs to be mixed, kneaded really, and we had a strong young man demonstrating the heavy work that is required. We were also told that this tends to be a "male" dish, something menmake when they get together, as opposed to sarma, which is more commonly made by women. So far so good; we know about gendered foods (in fact, when I tell Chinese that I like "sesame oil chicken", they usually laugh, because that is a food prepared for women in the month after childbirth, so not something men usually eat, or like).
|"Cooking" çiğ köfte|
In talking to some Turkish friends afterwards, they mentioned that it is supposed to be much spicier than the version we got, and that one recipe even calls for a proportion of 2 kg of meat (and they said the meat had to be special, high quality and lean, with no fat or tendons), 1 kg of bulgur wheat, and 300 to 400 gr of peppers. Then they said you need to knead the meat to cook it. I said, "Cook it? But there is no heat." "Yes." Start over. Why do you knead it? Another friend tries to help explain this, and he says you need to "kill the meat." What? The meat may be fresh, but once it is ground up, it is surely quite dead! After some further exploration, they explained that in Turkish, the word is literally to "cook" the meat, even though it does not involve heat. What changes in the meat, however, is that it no longer tastes like meat. I wondered if Turks thought beef tastes bad, as some Italians do (which is why they prefer veal, and why they often fry it or put lemon on it, I suppose). But they confirmed that Turks like the taste of meat, and that it is not to mask an unpleasant taste. In this case, however, it is raw (though very fresh), and so perhaps there is something in the taste of raw beef that needs to be hidden. I'm not entirely sure why raw beef that has been mixed with bulgur wheat and peppers is considered "cooked." But I found it fascinating that, in speaking in English, they borrowed words like "kill" and "cook" which made no sense to me, but that capture the idea of making the beef edible. And that was exactly how they explained the term: they said they needed a term to describe making it edible, and so chose those terms. Levis-Strauss (author of The Raw and The Cooked) must be smiling. He long ago described how the term "cooked" was used to describe making something edible, and here we have another example.
|Mr. Mujdat Yelbay, Director of ACDC presents gifts to Prof. Sidney Cheung, |
the chairperson of Dept. Anthropology.
|Students learn how to make sarma.|