[Sca-cooks] Sesame Oil in 16th Century Ottoman Turkey

Sam Wallace guillaumedep at gmail.com
Wed Aug 11 15:18:02 PDT 2010


I was doing a bit of reading in the travelogue "The observations of many 
singularities and memorable things, found in Greece, Asia, Judea, Egypt, 
Arabia, and other foreign countries." I thought the following would be 
of interest to the list:

p. 427

"Les Turcs ont l’huile de Sesame en tel vsage, que ceux de France ont 
l’huile de noix, & en Languedoc l’huile d’oliue: & d’autant qu’on la 
fait auec grand labeur, c’est communément ouurage d’esclaue. Aussi ne la 
fait on qu’en hyuer. Ils tre[m]pent la semence de Sesame vingt & quatre 
heures en eau salle: puis mettent en la place, & la battent auec des 
maillets de bois dessus vne serpillere iusques à ce qu’elle soit 
escorchee, puis la mettent tremper de rechef en de l’eau salee, qui 
soustient l’escorce à mont, laquelle ils iettent. Puis ostent le grain 
du fond, qu’ils seichent au four, & le meulent: & deslors l’huile coule 
molle comme moustarde: car il y a peu d’excremens. Puis l’ayans fait 
bouillir lentement, separent le marc. C’est vne huile moult douce & 
friande, & qui est à bon marché."

The Turks have Sesame oil in such usage, as those in France have walnut 
oil, and in Languedoc of olive oil: and as much as that one makes it 
with great labor, it is commonly slave’s work. Also it is done only in 
winter. They soak the seed of Sesame twenty and four hours in salt 
water: then put in place, and beat it with wooden mallets on top of a 
floor mat until it is hulled, then put it to soak anew in salt water, 
which supports the hull to rise, which they throw away. Then remove the 
grain from the bottom, they bake dry, and grind it: and then oil flows 
soft as mustard: since there is little excrescence. Then having made it 
boil slowly, separate the grounds. It is a very sweet and dainty oil, 
and which is inexpensive.

Note, "l'huile de noix" is translated as "walnut oil" in modern French, 
but might be rendered more simply as nut oil. This passage lets us know 
what kinds of oil are appropriate for the different regions of France 
("Languedoc" is the South West where "oc" was used for "yes"). I wonder 
if the floor mat in question was a kilim or some other rug, and if it 
had to be turned over for such use if it was. I also noticed that the 
sesame oil was boiled, which changes its flavor. Too, this gives us an 
idea of the texture of French mustard.

Other passages make reference to sorbets and sherbets...


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