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

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 12 12:46:06 PDT 2010

Guillaume wrote:
>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
>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.

Ooh, thank you!

First, a question: Where was the author observing this taking place?

Sesame oil appears in SCA period Arabic language cookbooks, but not 
in the one from mid 15th c. Ottoman Kostantiniyye (aka Constaninople, 
not Istanbul :) by Mahmud of Shirvan nor in the descriptions of 
palace food or lists of ingredients for dishes for feasts, 
circumcision festivals, or served in the imarets (soup kitchens 
attached to mosques and funded by bequests from sultans, their 
mothers or wives or daughters, and viziers). I realize that the 
masses of people do not eat like the Sultan, maybe, instead of the 
butter (often clarified) so greatly used in the palace kitchens...

>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 have been thinking about SCA period cooking oils for some months 
and one thing has lodged in my mind: that is the possibility that 
various regions had local, and maybe seasonal, oils that didn't get 
exported. For example, the possibility of grape seed oil in grape 
growing regions of what are now Spain, France, and Italy.

>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.

I wonder if the floor mat might have been perhaps of some bast fiber, 
and not of wool. Just wondering, no evidence. Wool was cheap, but it 
would soak up oil, while a bast fiber would not, or not as much.

On some other hand, given that the writer says flows soft as mustard, 
i wonder if he is describing tahini.

>Other passages make reference to sorbets and sherbets...

Gotta check it out!

At the moment i am working on translating some 16th c. Persian 
recipes from German into English (since i do not yet read 16th c. 
Persian). The article was a pdf (mentioned here by Emilio) and i 
copied it into a text program; it lost or confused various letters 
(esp. those with umlauts and macrons), so i have had to compare the 
two texts side by side and correct and amend and that takes a while.
Urtatim [that's err-tah-TEEM]
the persona formerly known as Anahita
It would take 500 million pounds of peanut butter
to cover the floor of the Grand Canyon,
which is how much Americans consume each year.

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list