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250 × 190 × 25 mm
280 pages
115 illustrations, 81 in colour
14 May 2018

Bountiful Empire A History of Ottoman Cuisine Priscilla Mary Işin

The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest-lasting empires in history. In this powerful and complex empire, the production and consumption of food reflected the lives of people from sultans to soldiers. Food bound people of different classes and backgrounds together, defining identity and serving symbolic functions in the social, religious, political and military spheres. Bountiful Empire: A History of Ottoman Cuisine examines the food of the Ottoman Empire as it changed and evolved over more than five centuries.

Starting with an overview of the earlier culinary traditions in which Ottoman cuisine was rooted, such as those of the Central Asian Turks, Abbasids, Seljuks and Byzantines, the book focuses on diverse aspects of this rich culinary culture, including etiquette, cooks, restaurants, military food, food laws and food trade. This meticulously researched account draws on more than six hundred primary and secondary sources, ranging from archive documents to poetry, and includes over one hundred illustrations. It is a fresh and lively insight into an empire that until recent decades has been sidelined or viewed through orientalist spectacles.

‘Priscilla Mary Işin’s account is comprehensively illustrated to make a visual as well as a textual record of Turkish social culture, conveyed through study of some 600 years of food and drink, and exemplifying the dilemma which Turkey has always faced in choosing between – or combining – Eastern and Western traditions . . . There is a fascinating section on the wines sold in Istanbul, where the taverns were run by Christians or Jews and imbibers could enjoy vintages from Greece, Spain, Sicily and further Anatolia . . . There are some modernized recipes in Işin’s volume, too, but the main pleasure of the book lies in the background history and lively anecdotes of storytellers and puppet-shows entertaining in coffee houses, or the astonishment of a British visitor at the quantities of salt fish, nuts, olives and pickles served merely as appetizers.’ — TLS

‘Etiquette, celebrations, food laws and trade, water and sherbet, coffee houses and taverns are but some of the topics explored. Işın’s meticulous study shines here; she has researched more than six hundred primary and secondary sources, ranging from archive documents to endowment deeds and poetry. Over one hundred illustrations, including beautiful miniatures make this book a pleasure to look at as well. Işın says her aim has been to hold up a mirror to life in this large and complex empire through its food culture. She certainly has accomplished it.’ — The Middle East in London magazine

‘[A] most entertaining book. Scholarly – yes, but neither dry nor boring; quite the opposite in fact. Her account of Ottoman eating just romps along. It is always refreshing to examine life through the lens of the food historian. It both focuses on and magnifies significant historical moments in a particular way and allows for other interpretations of particular events. A food historian studies the minutiae of everyday life from a very different perspective to the normal chronicler, turning up detail which may have escaped the eye or understanding of the more conventional scholar who may have little interest in how (or possibly why) food and its preparation, its meaning, and the eating habits of earlier eras might relate to the bigger historical picture involving diplomacy, politics, wars, religion and hierarchy.’ — Petits Propos Culinaires

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Priscilla Mary Işın is a food historian based in Istanbul, Turkey. Her publications include A King's Confectioner in the Orient (2003) and Sherbet and Spice (2013), which traces the history of Turkish confectionery and desserts.