Monday, December 31, 2007
Creation Myth (c. 600 CE) Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd, is puzzled by his hyperactive goats; they are eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee is discovered. Cultivation soon spreads to Yemen.
c. 900 Arab physician Rhazes first mentions coffee in print, as a medicine.
c. 1400 In elaborate ceremony, Ethiopians roast, grind, and brew coffee beans. Coffee as we know it is born.
1475 Kiva Han, the world's first coffeehouse, is opened in Constantinople.
1511 Khair-Beg, governor of Mecca, bans coffeehouses when seditious verses are written about him there. The ban is reversed by Cairo sultan.
1538 Ottoman Turks occupy Yemen and parboil coffee beans (to render them infertile and maintain their monopoly) and export them from Mocha, hence coffee's nickname "mocha."
c. 1600 Pressured by advisors to condemn infidel coffee (imported through Venice), Pope Clement VIII instead blesses it.
1616 Dutch pirates spirit away coffee trees to a greenhouse in Holland. Around the same time Baba Budan smuggles fertile seeds to Mysore in India.
1650 A Lebanese Ottoman Jewish student named Jacobs  opens first  European coffeehouse at Oxford University, England. Over the next half century, coffee takes Europe by storm; coffeehouses are called "penny universities."
1658 The Dutch plant and cultivate coffee in Ceylon, later in Java and Sumatra, ultimately giving coffee the nickname "java."
1669 The Turkish ambassador to Paris, Soliman Aga, introduces coffee at sumptuous parties.
1674 In London, the Women's Petition Against Coffee claims that coffee renders their men impotent; men counter that coffee adds "spiritualescency to the Sperme." The following year, King Charles II fails in his attempt to ban coffeehouses.
1683 After their failed siege of Vienna, the Turks flee, leaving coffee beans behind. Franz George Kolschitzky uses the beans to open a café, where he filters coffee and adds milk.
1689 Café de Procope is opened in Paris opposite Comedie Francaise.
1710 Instead of boiling it, the French pour hot water through grounds in cloth bag for the first infusion brewing.
1723 Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu brings a coffee tree to Martinique; most of the coffee in Latin America descends from this tree.
1727 Francisco de Melho Palheta seduces the governor's wife in French Guiana; she gives him ripe coffee cherries to take back to Brazil.
1732 Johann Sebastian Bach writes the Coffee Cantata, in which a rebellious daughter demands her coffee.
1773 During the Boston Tea Party, rebellious American colonists throw British tea imports overboard; coffee drinking becomes a patriotic act.
1781 Frederick the Great forbids most Prussian coffee roasting, saying, "My people must drink beer."
1791 A slave revolt on San Domingo (Haiti) destroys coffee plantations, where half the world's coffee had been grown.
1806 Napoleon declares France self-sufficient and promotes chicory over coffee.
1850 James Folger arrives in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and makes his fortune from coffee.
1864 American Jabez Burns invents an efficient, self-dumping roaster.
1869 Coffee rust fungus, hemileia vastatrix, appears in Ceylon and soon wipes out the East Indies coffee industry.
1871 John Arbuckle opens a coffee factory in New York and makes millions from his pre-roasted, packaged, and branded Ariosa coffee.
1878 Caleb Chase and James Sanborn form Chase & Sanborn.
1881 The New York Coffee Exchange opens.
1892 Joel Cheek invents Maxwell House Coffee blend in Nashville, Tennessee.
1900 Hills Brothers introduces vacuum-packed canned coffee. Tokyo chemist Sartori Kato introduces instant coffee; it is sold the following year at the Pan American Exposition.
1901 Italian Luigi Bezzera invents first commercial espresso machine.
1906 In Bremen, Germany, Ludwig Roselius patents Kaffee Hag, the first decaffeinated coffee. In France, it is called Sanka (from sans caffeine).
1908 German housewife Melitta Bentz makes a coffee filter using her son's blotting paper.
1911 The National Coffee Roasters Association is founded; it later becomes the National Coffee Association.
1918 The U. S. Army requisitions all of G. Washington's instant coffee for troops in World War I.
1920 Prohibition of alcohol enacted in USA, making coffee and coffeehouses even more popular.
1938 Nestle introduces Nescafé, an improved instant coffee, just before World War II. Maxwell House follows with its instant brand.
1946 U.S. per capita coffee consumption reaches 19.8 pounds.
1960 The Colombian Coffee Federation debuts the character of Juan Valdez, the humble coffee grower, with his mule.
1965 Boyd Coffee introduces the Flav-R-Flo brewing system, pionerring the filter and cone home brewer.
1966 Dutch immigrant Alfred Peet opens Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, California, at what is considered the beginning of the specialty coffee revolution.
1970 Italian Luigi Goglio invents a one-way valve to let coffee de-gas without contact with oxygen.
1971 Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker open Starbucks in Seattle.
1975 The Black Frost in Brazil decimates the coffee harvest, leading to high prices over the next two years.
1982 The national charter for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is created; specialty coffee companies are invited to join as "charter members."
1987 Howard Schultz buys Starbucks and begins to turn it into a worldwide specialty coffee chain.
1988 In the Netherlands, the Max Havelaar seal certifies Fair Trade coffee. Transfair USA follows suit in 1999.
2006 Specialty coffee accounts for 40% of the U. S. retail coffee market.
2007 The 25th anniversary of the founding of the Specialty Coffee Association of America is celebrated. Coffee is the world's second most valuable legal traded commodity, after oil.
 Not to be confused with Johann Jacobs who opened a coffee and tea shop in Bremen, Germany, in 1895.
 The first person recorded in history to brew coffee in England was an international student named Nathaniel Conopios from Crete, who was studying at Balliol College, Oxford. This simple act, which happened in May 1637, was recorded by both scholar John Evelyn and historian Anthony Wood. Although shortly afterwards Conopios was expelled from college, his influence had a lasting effect on Oxford, as it was in Oxford that the first English coffeehouse was opened in 1650 by Jacob, a Lebanese Jew. Even though Jacob moved to London a few years later to repeat his success, he had begun a trend that saw many more coffeehouses open in Oxford during that decade.
John Evelyn, who was at the college at this time, recorded the strange occurance in a diary entry in May 1637: "There came in my time to the College one Nathaniel Conopios, out of Greece, sent into England, from Cyril, the patriarch of Constantinople… He was the first I ever saw drink Caffe, not heard of then in England, nor till many years after made a common entertainment all over the nation."
Around the same time as Conopios, Robert Burton, an Oxford don, made a reference to coffee in his massive, genius Anatomy of Melancholy: "The Turks have a drink called coffa (for they use no wine), so named of a berry black as soot, and as bitter (like that black drink which was in use among the Lacedaemonians, and perhaps the same), which they sip still of, and sup as warm as they can suffer; they spend much time in those coffa-houses, which are somewhat like our alehouses or taverns, and there they sit chatting and drinking to drive away the time..."
If you happen to find yourself in Serbia, Croatia, or virtually any other Balkan country and there's a flaming grill nearby, chances are someone is cooking CEVAPCICI. These super smoky, skinless sausages (pronounced che-VAHP-chi-chi)—usually a combination of minced beef, lamb, or pork seasoned with garlic and pepper—have a vibrant flavor and a juicy texture that make them one of the world's great meat dishes. Known by a variety of names, depending on the country you're in, and typically served with flatbread and condiments like roasted-pepper and eggplant sauce (usually called ajvar) and fermented cream, cevapcici likely owe their culinary origins to the Turks (the food is a cousin of the kebab, from which it derives its name). Whatever their provenance, the sooner they catch on here in the States, the better.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
As nomads, the Turks were limited by what the land offered and by what could be prepared over a crude open fire, so it's not a stretch to understand how kebaps and köfte became the centerpieces of Turkish cooking. Turkish food today concentrates on simple combinations, few ingredients, and fresh produce.
With access to vast cupboards stocked with ingredients from the four corners of the empire, the palace chefs developed a more complex cuisine. The majority of these recipes, recorded in Arabic script, were regrettably lost in the language reforms. Some Ottoman favorites have made it to us nevertheless, like the hünkar begendi (the sultan was pleased), imam bayaldihanim göbegi (lady's navel), a syrupy dessert with a thumbprint in the middle. These have become staples in many run-of-the-mill restaurants, but true Ottoman cuisine is difficult to come by. Several restaurants in Istanbul have researched the palace archives to restore some of those lost delicacies to the modern table, providing a rare opportunity to sample the artistry and intricate combinations of exotic flavors in the world's first fusion food. The Turkish kitchen is always stocked with only the freshest vegetables, the most succulent fruits, the creamiest of cheeses and yogurt and the best cuts of meat. But, unless you're a pro like the chefs to the Sultans, whose lives depended on pleasing the palate of their leader, it takes a lot of creativity to turn such seemingly simple ingredients into dishes fit for a king. (the priest fainted; Barbara Cartland might have likened it to a woman's "flower"), and
A typical Turkish meal begins with a selection of mezes, or appetizers. These often become a meal in themselves, accompanied by an ample serving of raki, that when taken together, form a recipe for friendship, laughter, and song. The menu of mezes often includes several types of eggplant, called patlican; ezme, a fiery hot salad of red peppers; sigara böregi, fried cheese "cigars"; and dolmalar, anything from peppers or vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, cumin, and fresh mint.
The dilemma is whether or not to fill up on these delectables or save room for the kebaps, a national dish whose stature rivals that of pasta in Italy. While izgara means "grilled," the catchall phrase kebap simply put, means "roasted," and denotes an entire class of meats cooked using various methods. Typical kebaps include lamb "shish"; spicy Adana kebap, a spicy narrow sausage made of ground lamb; döner kebap, slices of lamb cooked on a vertical revolving spit; patlican kebap, slices of eggplant and lamb grilled on a skewer; and the artery-clogging Iskender kebap, layers of pide, tomatoes, yogurt, and thinly sliced lamb drenched in melted butter. Turks are equally nationalistic over their köfte, Turkey's answer to the hamburger: flat or round little meatballs served with slices of tomato and whole green chili peppers. But even though signs for kebap houses may mar the view, Turkish citizens are anything but carnivores, preferring instead to fill up on grains and vegetables. Saç kavurmamanti, a meat-filled ravioli, dumpling, or kreplach,Pide is yet another interpretation of pizza made up of fluffy oven-baked bread topped with a variety of ingredients and sliced in strips. Lahmacun is another version of the pizza, only this time the bread is as thin as a crepe and lightly covered with chopped onions, lamb, and tomatoes. Picking up some "street food" can be a great diversion, especially in the shelter of some roadside shack where the corn and gözleme -- a freshly made cheese or potato (or whatever) crepe that is the providence of expert rolling pin-wielding village matrons -- are hot off the grill. represents a class of casseroles sautéed or roasted in an earthenware dish that, with the help of an ample amount of velvety Turkish olive oil, brings to life the flavors of ingredients like potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and beef chunks. No self-respecting gourmand should leave Turkey without having had a plate of adapted to the local palate by adding a garlic-and-yogurt sauce.
Desserts fall into two categories: baklava and milk-based. Baklava, a type of dessert made of thin layers of pastry dough soaked in syrup, is a sugary sweet bomb best enjoyed around teatime, although several varieties are made so light and fluffy that you'll be tempted to top off dinner with a sampling. The milk-based desserts have no eggs or butter and are a guilt-free pick-me-up in the late afternoon hours, although there's no bad time to treat yourself to some creamy sütlaç (rice pudding). The sprinkling of pistachio bits is a liberal addition to these and many a Turkish dessert, while comfort food includes the irmik helva, a delicious yet simple family tradition of modestly sweet semolina, pine nuts, milk, and butter (okay, I lied about the guilt-free part).
So what's the deal with Turkish delight? Otherwise known as lokum, this sweet candy is made of cornstarch, nuts, syrup, and an endless variety of flavorings to form a skwooshy tidbit whose appeal seems to be more in the gift giving than on its own merit.
A Punishment Worse Than the Crime? -- In Turkey, tripe soup, called Iskembe Çorbasi or Korkoreç, is a widely accepted remedy for a hangover.
You'll Never Count Sheep Again -- Bus drivers in Turkey abide by an unwritten rule never to eat cacik -- a salad of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic, often served as a soup -- while on duty. The dish is believed to be a surefire, and natural, cure for insomnia.
Rather than the question, "Would you like something to drink?" Turkish hospitality leaps immediately to the "What?" Tea, called çay (chai) in Turkish, is not so much a national drink as it is a ritual. Boil the water incorrectly and you're in for trouble. Let the tea steep without prior rinsing and you've committed an unforgivable transgression. What's amazing is that so many tea drinkers manage to maintain white teeth, and as you'll see, some don't. Tea is served extremely hot and strong in tiny tulip-shaped glasses, accompanied by exactly two sugar cubes. The size of the glass ensures that the tea gets consumed while hot, and before you slurp your final sip, a new glass will arrive. If you find the tea a bit strong, especially on an empty stomach, request that it be "açik" or "opened," so that the ratio of water to steeped tea is increased.
The coffee culture is a little less prevalent but no less steeped in tradition. Early clerics believed it to be an intoxicant and consequently had it banned. But the kahvehane (coffeehouse) refused to go away, and now the sharing of a cup of coffee is an excuse to prolong a discussion, plan, negotiate, or just plain relax. Turkish coffee is ground to a fine dust, boiled directly in the correct quantity of water, and served as is. Whether you wait for the grinds to settle or down the cup in one shot is entirely an individual choice, although if you leave the muddy residue at the bottom of the cup, you may be able to coax somebody to read your fortune.
There are two national drinks: raki and ayran. Raki is an alcoholic drink distilled from raisins and then redistilled with aniseed. Even when diluted with water, this "lion's milk" still packs a punch, so drink responsibly! Raki is enjoyed everywhere, but is particularly complementary to a meal of mezes.
Ayran is a refreshing beverage made by diluting yogurt with water. Westerners more accustomed to a sweet-tasting yogurt drink may at first be put off by the saltiness of ayran, but when mentally prepared, it's impossible to dismiss the advantages of this concoction, especially after a dehydrating afternoon trudging through shadeless, dusty ruins.
And Not a Starbucks in Sight! -- As a result of the Ottoman's second unsuccessful siege on Vienna, many of the army supplies were left behind in the retreat, including sacks and sacks of coffee beans. Believing them to be sacks of animal waste, the Viennese began to burn the sacks, until a more worldly citizen, aware of the market value of the bean, got a whiff and promptly saved the lot. He later opened up the first coffeehouse in Vienna.
A Restaurant Primer
The idiosyncrasies of a foreign culture can create some frustrating experiences, especially when they get in the way of eating. In Turkey, dining out in often boisterous groups has traditionally been the province of men, and a smoke-filled room that reeks of macho may not be the most relaxing prospect for a meal. A woman dining alone will often be whisked away to an upstairs "family salon," called the aile salonu, where -- what else -- families, and particularly single women, can enjoy a night out in peace and quiet. Take advantage of it, and don't feel discriminated against; it's there for your comfort.
Restaurants are everywhere, and although the name restoran was a European import used for the best establishments, nowadays practically every type of place goes by that name. Cheap, simple, and often charming meals can be had at a family-run place called a lokanta, where the food is often prepared in advance (hazir yemek) and presented in a steam table. A meyhane is a tavern full of those smokin' Turks I mentioned earlier, whereas a birahane is basically a potentially unruly beer hall. Both are said to be inappropriate for ladies; however, recently, some meyhanes have morphed into civilized places for a fun and sophisticated night out.
Now that you've picked the place, it's time to sit down and read the menu, right? Wrong. Not all restaurants automatically provide menus, instead offering whatever's seasonal or the specialty of the house. If you'd feel more comfortable with a menu, don't be shy about asking, and politely say, "Menü var mi?" Mezes (appetizers) are often brought over on a platter, and the protocol is to simply point at the ones you want. Don't feel pressured into accepting every plate the waiter offers (none of it is free) or into ordering a main dish; Turks often make a meal out of an array of mezes. When ordering fish, it's perfectly acceptable to have your selection weighed for cost; if the price is higher than you planned to pay, either choose a less expensive fish or barter for price per weight. Some restaurants do have fixed costs per weight, however.