What do we normally expect to see at a wedding? People wearing their best outfits, colorful decorations, flowers, fancy food and drinks, which you won’t eat on a regular day. But would you be surprised to find instead of all these pretentious foods cauldrons filled in with something grey and sticky? If the answer is yes, it means that you have never been to a traditional Turkish wedding.
Keşkek is a traditional Turkish meat and wheat dish prepared for wedding ceremonies, funerals and religious holidays, like Ramadan. Of course, nowadays weddings in Turkey are influenced by modern western trends and you won’t find Keşkek at every ceremony in a big city, but people in small villages of Central Anatolia and Aegean region of Turkey still fallow traditions.
The unique process of Keşkek preparation isn’t treasured only by members of villages, but from the year 2011 Keşkek traditional cooking ritual is recognized and protected by UNESCO as an intangible heritage. Not bad, hah?
The traditional cooking process is quite complex and almost all members of the village participate in it. One day before the ceremony women start with cleaning and preparing the wheat. The next day wheat is boiled separately from meat, so after some time the two main ingredients can be added together to make the magic happen. This is when the men play their role: they are constantly stirring the mass with wooden sticks to mash the ingredients in one homogeneous substance. The ritual is accompanied by blessings, music and traditional songs. When the dish is served, oil with red pepper and salsa is added to give the dish more flavor. A big bowl of Keşkek is put in the middle of the table and people are sharing the food with each other.
As I mentioned before, the traditional process is complicated, but what I like about Keşkek is that people are all together in the process and they can happily share the food not only with each other, but with all the people around. Oh, I would really like to experience THAT part. Keşkek represents the act of giving and sharing, that’s why it’s cooked in such big amounts.
After all this research, I really wanted to try Keşkek myself. In Istanbul you can find it in big traditional restaurants, which are mainly for tourists, but it doesn’t make them bad. The price of Keşkek is relatively low and it is very nutritious, so you won’t feel hungry. When it’s served, it doesn’t look that appetizing, but don’t trust your eyes. I can say, that the taste is simple but with a note of savor. It feels like your grandma just cooked it for you with all her love.
Saying all that, even if a local will tell you that Keşkek is “nothing special”, remember, that UNESCO protects it for YOU, so go ahead and try it.