Culinary Culture: A Delicious Guide To Turkish Food, From Past To Present

Turkey, described as the cradle where eastern and western civilizations connect, is located almost at the mid-point of where the European, Asian and African continents meet. Unsurprisingly therefore, Turkish cuisine is fusion food at its most extreme, with influences ranging from Middle-Eastern to Mediterranean to Balkan and even Central Asian.

Traditional Cuisine

It is easy to dismiss this traditional dish as merely fast food but in Turkey, a ‘kebab’ means any kind of grilled meat with vegetables, and the variety is astounding and creative. Poultry, lamb and beef are all used and mixed with ingredients such as chopped pistachios, quince, loquats or cloves. For those not so inclined towards the kebab, it should be known that kebabs aren’t the sum of Turkey’s parts; with most traditional meals starting with soup, and typical dishes being stews, pastries and a huge variety of fish meals, traditional Turkish cuisine offers a smorgasbord of options.

Street Food

Some of the best eating experiences can be found on the streets of Istanbul. Visitors can sample delicious and interesting dishes, such as simit; a molasses-dipped, sesame crusted, baked good (the Turkish equivalent to a breakfast muffin) or the popular lunch-time treat: Balik-ekmek fish sandwiches. For the adventurous, try the local favorite of spiced and skewered sheep’s intestines, typically served with bread. And for those needing snacks, there are mussels on a half shell mixed with spicy rice.


Though the landscape has changed somewhat in Turkey, the country’s reputation for being foodies has not. With a basis in the original Mediterranean diet, Turkish cuisine has always been experimental, fusing elements of Persian cuisine such as stews with the spicier flavors of Arab cultures. Recent experimentation, especially in Istanbul, has restaurants giving traditional meals a modern twist, introducing more Western flavors into the melting pot.


A culinary trip to Turkey would not be complete without Turkish coffee. It is a strong, dark concoction, and very sweet. It is traditionally served with Turkish delight, and a glass of cold water to cleanse your palette of previous flavors. This everyday beverage has become a staple of Turkish culture. Ordering a cup of coffee completes any meal, and is a wonderful way to lap up the vibrant Turkish cuisine and culture.

Bursa & Pergamon Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in Turkey

Bursa and Cumalikizik as ‘The Birthplace of the Ottoman Empire’, and Izmir’s Pergamon and its ‘multi-layered cultural landscape’ have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List at the recent 38th World Heritage Committee meeting held at Qatar’s National Congress Centre in Doha.

With the addition of Bursa and Pergamon, Turkey now has 13 cultural and mixed locations listed as World Heritage sites under UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which has been ratified by 191 countries. The other 11 sites listed are the Historic Areas of Istanbul, the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi, Hattusha, Mount Nemrut, Xanthos-Letoon, Troy, Goreme National Park and Cappadocia, Hierapolis-Pamukkale, the City of Safranbolu, the Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex and the Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk.

Bursa is the Ottoman Empire’s first capital and contains many historical remains from the Empire’s founding years, as well as many industrial and natural attractions. The 700-year-old village of Cumalikizik is significant in that it has many Ottoman-period buildings that are in a good state of preservation. Bursa and Cumalikizik are good examples of commercial culture and Ottoman lifestyle whereby rural living continues close to the city. The ‘Bursa and Cumalikizik: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire’ World Heritage Site includes six areas: the Orhan Ghazi Kulliye and its surroundings including the Quarter of Hans, the Hudavendigar (Murad I) Kulliye, Yildirim (Beyazit I) Kulliye, Green (Mehmet I) Kulliye, Muradiye (Murad II) Kulliye and the Cumalikizik village itself.

Izmir’s Bergama (Pergamon) is the second new location to be added as a World Heritage Site. Bergama, a gateway to history with its cultural heritage and richness, was known as Pergamon in ancient times and is considered one of the most important centres for culture and arts of the Hellenistic period. Pergamon was a major centre of learning in the ancient world and home to one of the biggest libraries of the Hellenistic period; thus it has been listed in the category of ‘cultural landscape’. The city contains layers and remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, East Roman and Ottoman period, while ancient Pergamon consists of nine sites including the acropolis, seven tumuli or burial mounds and the rock-cut Kybele Holy Site.

Watch This Guy Speak 9 Languages Like A Native

Matthew Youlden speaks nine languages fluently and understands more than a dozen more. He’s what is known as a polyglot, a member of the multilingual elite who speaks six or more languages fluently. He’s also a sociolinguist who studies the revitalization of minority languages. But to see him in action on a daily basis – deftly and comfortably talking to native-speakers in their own languages – suggests that he’s more than a polyglot. Matthew, who is originally from Manchester, England, is a language chameleon: Germans think he’s German, Spaniards think he’s Spanish, Brazilians think he’s Portuguese (he proudly speaks the good-old European variety).

By his own account, Matthew has mastered a staggering number of languages by utilizing abilities that we all possess: persistence, enthusiasm and open-mindedness. If your classic polyglot is an über-nerd who studies languages full-time, then Matthew is something different. His version of multilingualism doesn’t isolate him in an ivory tower; it connects him to people all over the world. According to Matthew, the more languages you speak, the more points of view you have:

“I think each language has a certain way of seeing the world. If you speak one language then you have a different way of analyzing and interpreting the world than the speaker of another language does. Even if they’re really closely-related languages such as Spanish and Portuguese, which are to a certain extent mutually intelligible, they are at the same time two different worlds – two different mindsets.

“Therefore, having learned other languages and been surrounded by other languages, I couldn’t possibly choose only one language because it would mean really renouncing the possibility to be able to see the world in a different way. Not in one way, but in many different ways. So the monolingual lifestyle, for me, is the saddest, the loneliest, the most boring way of seeing the world. There are so many advantages of learning a language; I really can’t think of any reason not to.”

Watch the video above to see him flex his skills in Irish, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew and German.