Bad Bread and the “Outrageous Drunkenness of the Turks”: Food and Identity in the Accounts of Early Modern European Travelers to the Ottoman Empire
- Journal of World History
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 25, Numbers 2-3, June/September 2014
- pp. 203-228
- View Citation
- Additional Information
During the early modern era foodways were an important signifier of identity. This is evident in the extensive body of literature produced by the growing number of Europeans who ventured into the Mediterranean, especially the lands of the Ottoman Empire. These travelers commented at length on the foods they encountered, their preparation, and how they were consumed. They drew on widely known classical models, as well as their own familiar foodways, to produce culinary geographies that delineated stark boundaries between East and West, Islam and Christianity, and that inscribed alterity and barbarity onto Ottoman culture. Ottomans ate undercooked bread, adulterated with seeds and spices, and meat prepared in an unrefined fashion that was barely removed from its natural state. They consumed this food while seated on the ground and without the benefit of civilized utensils, and hypocritically washed it all down with large quantities of wine. In the early modern Mediterranean world who you were was defined, at least partly, by what you ate and how you ate it.