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Epic Tastes

 

Mesopotamia is famous for its unique tastes as well as its historical and cultural values. Gastronomy values peculiar to the region, promises a very special palatal festival for visitors.

Agriculture can be described as the first revolution that was accomplished in the history of humanity. Agricultural revolution that was accomplished approximately 10 to 12 thousand years ago, increased the nutrition production and played a triggering role in transiting into sedentary settlement and in forming complicated economic and sociologic structures. This revolution occurred within the territories of our country that we describe as South-eastern Anatolia Region and that is known to be Upper Mesopotamia in the historical geography. This circumstance places the wheat, which is the symbol of transmitting to sedentary life and symbol of agriculture, to an important position of the region cuisine.

Wheat (Triticum durum) was firstly cultivated in Karacadağ region that is located on the border between Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır and spread all around the world.

It is still possible to see Einkorn wheat that is the wild ancestor of wheat, in Karacadağ region. This is also a geography that chickpea was cultivated as well as wheat. Consumption of chickpea is also high in the region; for example, the private breakfast of Birecik district of Urfa province is the "chickpea wrap" that is preparing by wrapping the chickpea baked in oven with thin flat bread by adding chili pepper, black pepper and salt.

Wood oven culture that is widely popular in Urfa, Antep, Adıyaman and Diyarbakır, is the current reflection of wheat culture that of the times 12,000 years ago. Various dishes are still cooked in wood ovens in these provinces and they are eaten in company with wheat product bread sorts such as flat bread, thick bread, cracker bread and rusk. The name of the bread is still same since Sumerians. The word "nan" in Sumerian, Hittite and Kurdish means "bread". The wheat has always been one of the most important nutrition products in the format of bulgur and coarsely ground wheat until rice production started in Siverek-Karacadağ.

Mesopotamia and Anatolia are the geographies where sheep were cultivated and domesticated similar to wheat. Anatolian mouflon that is the ancestor our domestic sheep, still lives in Konya and Bozdağ and is kept under a close protection. Contrary to what is believed, the habitats in Mesopotamia are quite rich and surrounded with large steppes. Steppes and sheep are two concepts that complete each other. Tail fat of the sheep that is widely used in the region cuisine, is a fuel tank that was improved by sheep under challenging steppe conditions in order to survive. The sheep that feed in steppes during summer, consume their fat mass of 8-10 kg they had accumulated, in winter seasons when they cannot easily find food. Having fat meat and milk, the sheep is one of the fundamental elements of the regional cuisine.

Several kebab types made in the region are prepared with sheep meat and fat. 'Plain butter' that can be defined as a more refined type of butter and made only in Urfa region, is also produced from the milk of these sheep. Ayran that is one of the mostly consumed beverages in the region, is made up of yoghurt derived from fat sheep milk. Kebab means "fried in barbeque or oven" in the Arabic language. The origin of the word comes from Assyrian that is also a Semitic language.

In this way, lahmacun is made with the combination of meat and flour that are two important elements of this cuisine. Lahmacun is composed of the words of "lahim maal acim" in Arabic, meaning "meat with dough" in English.

Although pepper, eggplant, tomato and various spices, which are the main nutrition types of the Mesopotamia region, emerged in the region too late, yet they dominated almost all the cuisine. This is because American-origin pepper, tomato and eggplant had chance to be cultivated on very alluvial soils at the coast of Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. For example, all eggplants required for preparing Antep and Urfa Kebab, is met at the cost of the Euphrates in the region that is called Mezra just near Birecik. Similarly, since all kinds of vegetables and fruits are cultivated near Tigris, the cuisine of the region transforms into a vegetable-oriented cuisine slowly as we go to Diyarbakır.

American-origin vegetables such as tomato, pepper and eggplant are thought to have reached the region in 16th century through Spain, South Africa, Red Sea and Persian Gulf. In other words, indispensable vegetables of all Anatolian cuisines entered into these soils through Mesopotamia.

Delicious foods used to be cooked in wood fire. Woods in forest used to be brought to the region, being scarce in the number of trees, by means of Eastern Anatolia and Mediterranean Region; finding a firewood even for cooking was a very difficult thing 100 years ago when we consider the ever-growing population. İsor (Capsicum annuum) that is associated with Urfa today but has actually the origin of Mexico, eliminated this problem. Since there was not the opportunity of using fridges or deepfreezes, the meat that may probably decay in Southeast heat, was cooked with Capsicum annuum and various spices, and çiğ köfte was obtained as an Urfa taste. İsot (Capsicum annuum) is a word that is composed of "ısı" (hot / heat) and "ot" (weed).

Another important taste of the region is Antep pistachio. Pistachio that is the product of arid climate and semi-desert, is widely cultivated in Gaziantep, Urfa, Mardin and Siirt.

In terms of nutrition, 100 gr. of pistachio is more valuable than 100 gr. of veal. Paste dough that is made up of wheat which is the main element of the cuisine of the region, butter made up of sheep and sherbet (that is made up of honey in ancient ages and sugar at the present time) reveal scrumptious baklava together.

An incredible gastronomic richness appeared in the region that is both similar and different from each other primarily in city centers of Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Mardin, Diyarbakır and Siirt by means of entirely wealthy natural resources This gastronomy route extends until Adana-Mersin in West, and until Van-Iğdır in East.