Cooking is a fully legitimate topic for historians, and studies of the evolution of eating fill entire bookcases. Maria Pia Pedani's new book lets readers get to know what and how people ate in the times of the Ottoman Empire. Firstly, the author addresses how Ottoman cuisine emerged and changed over time, describes its typical ingredients and dishes, explains how it straddles the Middle Ages and the modern era and exemplifies the "revolutionary" transition from salty to sweet flavours. Secondly, the author illustrates the social meaning of Ottoman food, including table manners and its relationship with religion. Finally, the author also focuses on social differences, the cuisine of the rich and the poor: what was cooked in the kitchens of the Topkapi, that is, the sultan's residence; how people ate at imperial and religious feasts; how poor people made do. Full of vivid descriptions of banquets and recipes, this book offers the reader an unusual journey into Ottoman culture.
Maria Pia Pedani teaches History of the Ottoman Empire at the Ca' Foscari University in Venice.