Additional ingredients — pulses, yogurt, herbs, and spices — might be taken from local suppliers, kitchen gardens or other nearby sources. These two dishes were iconic for Ottoman feasts of all kinds. Dane and zerde were on the menu at all of them. It was most regularly repeated at three-month intervals when the janissaries were admitted to the imperial palace, waiting in silence to receive their quarterly pay at an official ceremony.
After being paid, they were offered dane and zerde on copper trays laid on the ground. This spectacle acknowledged the sultan as the provider and the janissaries as his disciplined, aggressive and energetic fighting force.
They were as predictable then as are pasta and espresso in Italy, cheese in France or a pint in an English pub in our own day. We are accustomed to think of the imperial palace as the paradigm for household organization among Ottoman officials, so perhaps the same is true regarding the imarets.
Zerde was also served frequently in the palace, cooked in the usual way but with the addition of ground hazelnuts and almonds. This version of zerde may have been a richer and more prestigious version of the usual dish. From a contemporary perspective, the uniformity of meals may seem a monotonous routine for the mosque complex staff, the scholars, students and sufis who ate the same thing day after day.
Yet a relatively simple and locally unvarying menu was probably a constant of life for the vast majority of people in the pre-modern world. Marginal variations reflected the change of seasons, and richer fare marked collective festivals and private celebrations. For everyone, the uniformity reflected a measure of imperial stability and the financial health of the institution at which they were hosted.
The capacity of an imaret, any imaret, to serve its clients the minimum expected was a public declaration that things were as they should be.
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Even at festivals there were no surprises when it came to the food, since specific foods helped to define the festivals themselves. The familiar dishes of dane and zerde provided another measure that life was continuing undisturbed and that Ottoman power was intact.
Despite its empire-wide uniformity, the food at the imarets was unfamiliar to some Ottoman subjects.
The vast geographic span of the empire encompassed numerous and only partially overlapping culinary cultures. For the philanthropic endeavors of the Ottomans to be effective and acquire meaning among their subject populations, they needed to resonate. Another was quality, equally important in Istanbul as in the provinces.
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Having established a horizon of expectations among their clients, imarets that failed to deliver the usual fare might compromise far more than their own local reputations. Diversity Although the basic daily and festival menus established a uniformity among the imarets, diversity and distinction were also integral features of these kitchens, mirroring the ways in which diversities and distinctions were integral to philanthropic endeavors more generally.
Not only does philanthropy exist because of economic and social diversities, but recipients are assigned differential status, starting from complete exclusion and ranging along continuums of greater and lesser deservedness. In the imarets, these distinctions were reflected in what and how much people were served, where they were served, and the order in which they received food. The best-documented of the imarets were those that belonged to imperial foundations in major Ottoman cities. Their records describe a range of dishes served to clients whose status varied widely.
As in many places, travelers arriving at the Fatih complex in Istanbul were meant to receive honey and bread at the imaret immediately upon their arrival, to revive them after their journey. In Edirne, at the imaret of Bayezid II, the charter mandated that guests be treated according to their status,25 and be received initially with sweets and jams and pickles as part of their welcome. These two dishes were the Ottoman holiday uniform.
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Yet while they probably seemed standard to the vast majority of people who ate them, dane and zerde, too, had variants for the privileged. At the circumcision festival, the menus of the three meals that the sultan attended with different groups of officials each included several types of dane, with additions of noodles, herbs, spices or other vegetables e.
One of the most notable distinctions between the routine imaret food and the dishes served to special guests or on festivals was the change from soup. Soup is almost infinitely elastic because water can be added easily to make it serve more people, even at the expense of taste and nutritional value. The stews and pilavs, however, are less mutable in regard to the quantity one can produce from fixed inputs. They are also more 27 A. As far as we know which is actually relatively little given the large number of imarets that existed , there were also imarets in which there was little distinction among the foods consumed by people of different status.
In those places, everyone ate the same soup and bread. Yet there were other kinds of distinctions. The diversity of dining experiences in imarets could be marked not only by what people ate, but also by the size of the portions. This was particularly important among the regular clientele of the imarets where everyone received the same daily meals of soup and bread.
Thus, in the Jerusalem imaret of Haseki Sultan, the staff had two loaves of bread and one ladle of soup per meal, with a piece of meat each on Fridays. The guests residing in the rooms had only one loaf of bread and a ladle of soup at each meal, with a piece of meat on Fridays. Some foundation deeds, probably drawing on the experiences of foundation managers, provided for wardens or doorkeepers to keep order, admonished to treat people as dictated by their status. Round the dish were rolls of bread and sometimes a piece of honeycomb Typically for ranking guests, he was seated at a table or sofra , apart from the mass of clients — staff, students, teachers, and poor people.
However, a further distinction exists in the shape and location of the spaces where meals were served. The indoor seating clearly implied by the rooms and refectories mentioned above can be compared with the few known miniatures depicting imarets, in which the scene suggests that some people ate outside, within the perimeter of the imaret courtyard or perhaps in the garden of the complex.
The illustrations of feasts and banquets such as those in the Surnames emphasize another distinction in the way people were served, and reflect the social expectations regarding the eating habits of different classes. In virtually every imaret for which a description exists, the service of meals, whether soup or dane, is measured by portion into bowls for individuals or to be shared by two people. However, cooked foods for high-ranking people, like the meal served to Busbecq, arrived at the sofra in a single dish.
The diners in these images are shown, each with his own spoon, eating from that one plate. In the act of consuming food, it was assumed that these people would behave with the decorum and self-control required to enable a group of adults to share out of a common dish. No such assumption existed for the larger groups of employees and students. The scene for them, although not illustrated as far as I have seen, perhaps resembled something closer to the dramatizations of Oliver Twist, with long refectory tables and individual bowls, or people seated on the ground in a wide yard.
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This practice was explicitly set down for the imperial palace in the kanunname of Mehmed II. The law code provided that the members of the divan eat in three distinct groups, and that for each group, there was a corresponding rank of lower officials, who would replace their superiors at the dish. Thus the document itself describes a dozen different feasts, each served separately to a specifically defined group. Images of similar feasts from the Surname-i Humayun of and the Surname-i Vehbi of give a good sense of the way people of different rank might experience such a meal with the notables sitting comfortably in elegant surroundings, attended by servants.
Excluded from the public banquets, women might be included in separate feasts organized for them at a different location. After these high officials finished eating, lower-ranking officials replaced them at the same tables and finished what was left over. As a final distinction among the diners at imarets, one should mention the order in which people ate. This was also specified in some places, spelling out a hierarchy of status and rights to a meal. In more than one imaret, the indigents were listed last, and they were sometimes meant to be served only if food was left over.
The basic meals served in imarets may have exceeded the daily consumption levels of some urban residents who did not have the right to eat in them. The fact that access to imarets was restricted and controlled suggests that there were those who made do with even less. The social range of people who were judged to merit only soup and bread twice a day was not insignificant: there was no great difference between what was meant to be served to mosque employees, students, teachers, sufis and the deserving, privileged poor.
The distinction probably lay more in the size of their portions and in how able they were to supplement from other sources the basic diet provided by the imaret. Conclusions The Ottoman imarets offer a rich venue for exploring not only the food itself, but the total dining experience in them, which worked to define and reinforce status distinctions among people in the Ottoman Empire.
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At the same time, imaret ideals and realities do not illustrate either the very bottom or the very top of Ottoman culinary hierarchy. The poor probably fared much worse while the wealthy ate far better: more regularly, and if not in larger quantities, then food of more exceptional quality, in greater comfort, with finer utensils and more elegant surroundings. Imarets, too, were not uniform in their 41 Singer, Constructing Ottoman Beneficence, The uniformity offered in imarets meant people could largely predict what they would get to eat, when it would be served, and with whom they were likely to eat.
Diversity meant that the status of individual diners could be signaled in various ways, including distinctions of food, portions and service. Local spices and seasonal foods distinguished one place from another, as did the arrangements for eating and service. Minarets announced the mosques as places of worship, refuge and study. The Tower of Justice Adalet Kulesi rose over the imperial divan, a reminder that the sultan was the paramount source of justice in his realms. As Hedda Reindl-Kiel has pointed out, the palace chimneys stood juxtaposed to the Adalet Kulesi as the most prominent vertical monuments in the palace.
Like the aesthetic canon, the culinary canon was linked to Ottoman ideals of justice and the well-being of the Muslim community. Suraiya Faroqhi and Christoph K. Sevda Kilicalp. These three religions taught that poverty could not be eliminated; giving to the needy was a pious act. All faith-based communities shared basic assumptions and questions during the medieval and early modern periods.
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