A twisted crescent-shaped story


This week is the feast of religious sacrifice in Turkey. As the name suggests, the lambs will be sacrificed and family celebrations will focus on meat. Although the festive dishes consist of meat and offal, there will always be a place for dessert.

No party is ever complete without baklava in Turkey. Baklava is a candy that many countries, especially those in the former Ottoman lands, claim a national identity. The reality is that all of the former Ottoman territories have baklava. Whatever its origin, it was refined and brought up at the Ottoman court and spread throughout the empire, even making its way to the kitchens of rural homes where it was only prepared for special days and occasions. festive.

The origin of baklava is often a dispute between nations, but it has been claimed by both Greeks and Turks. Food historian Charles Perry has an answer to this question: “One piece of evidence for the Greek claim is the mention of a second-century layered treat called gastris in The Deipnosophists of Athenaeus of Naucratis, but the examination of the text shows that gastris was no pastry at all. The Turkish claim, on the other hand, may produce some very suggestive evidence that nomadic Turks were making layered dough products as early as the 11th century. It is argued that baklava was the first oven-baked puff pastry, but the practice of making the layers of dough thin like paper was probably an innovation of the royal kitchens of Topkapı Saray in the century or so after the Turkish conquest. of Constantinople. . ”

Perry has written several articles on the subject, needless to say, very well received by Turkish baklava makers, who know his name by heart. Some self-proclaimed authorities go further and attempt to create stories suggesting that baklava influenced strudel and even had an influence in the creation of croissants. While there is no evidence to prove it both historically and technically, they suddenly jump into this siege of Vienna story, without any logical connection. The Viennese connection to the croissant is an oft-repeated fakelore, a made-up story that was debunked and explained in detail by bread historian Jim Chevalier who wrote a book on the subject, titled “August Zang and the French Croissant”.

According to the history of Vienna, while working late at night, or very early in the morning, in the city besieged by the Turks, a baker heard strange noises coming from the basement in the silence of the night. It turns out that the Turks were digging an underground tunnel to conquer the city. The baker, suspicious of these voices, immediately informed the authorities. The tunnel was destroyed and the Turks were defeated. They wanted to reward the baker. He was granted the exclusive right to make the sweet moon-shaped buns referencing the Ottoman flag croissants, which he made to celebrate the defeat of the Turks. This story was originally believed to have taken place in Budapest (1686), and in the later version it would have taken place in Vienna (1683).

At this point, the story collapses. My interpretation is that this story, which has neither trace nor proof, is not possible in terms of history and geography. Budapest was already under Ottoman rule after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and Ottoman rule continued until 1718. The geography of the city does not suit such a history, which has two sides like Budin and Pest. In Vienna, there is a considerable distance between the point where the Ottoman armies were encamped and the outskirts of Vienna.

I had traveled this region with our former ambassador, Yalım Eralp. The distance between the most advanced place where the Turks have established their camp and Vienna is not a distance to dig a tunnel; it may well be longer than the current Eurasia Marmaray, which connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. But of course, this story is alluring in terms of storytelling, which is why it is repeated frequently. The fact that the same author refers to two different original towns in two later publications, first saying Budapest and then correcting it as Vienna, reinforces the argument that history is a fabrication. The reason for this second preference must be the fashion for Viennese flavors in Paris. By the way, the claim that the croissant was a legacy left in Vienna by the Ottomans was first advanced by Alfred Gottschalk – without providing any evidence and embarrassingly printed in the first edition of Larousse Gastronomique published in 1938.

The story is old. Whenever there is a victory over the Muslims, a crescent appears, much like the Maiden Tower stories. Wherever there is a tower in the middle of the sea, there is a story of unhappy lovers, a cruel father and the tragic death of a daughter, and of course the lover too. One of the earliest stories of the Victorious Crescent comes from France. It is said that crescent-shaped sweetbreads were made in honor of the defeat of the Umayyad armies at the Battle of Tours in 732. Gottschalk may have been inspired by this story.

But its history has variations. He first wrote the story relating it to Budapest and then as if it were the siege of Vienna. Besides, there are also Egyptian sources which say that the crescent originated from them. Of course, they don’t have a history of Budapest or Vienna, but link it to the Mamluk period and claim that Europeans came up with the idea of ​​the Mamluks.

It is true that there is a group of folded pastry products in the French bakery called Viennoiserie. They are made by folding butter into a yeast dough, especially a croissant, similar to mille-feuille dough, puff pastry. The technique became very fashionable in Paris in the 19th century. The reason for this is a very popular bakery / pastry shop named “Boulangerie Viennoise” at 92 rue de Richelieu, opened in 1839 by an Austrian named August Zang.

It is because of this bakery that the term was born. The term “Viennese pastries” was first used by French writer Alphonse Daudet in the book Le Nabab in 1877. However, the technique is not of Viennese origin. It’s a technique developed in France but takes its name from the chic bakery with marble counters and brass fittings, decorated roughly in the Viennese style and owned by an Austrian. Obviously there was a Viennese touch to the name, but it wasn’t the dough technique, but more the fashion that was sweeping through Paris.

Marie-Antoinette, originally from Vienna, left her mark in the 18th century; there was a Viennese influence in Paris which probably contributed to the formation of this history. On the other hand, the first reference to the croissant was given in the book “Des Substances Alimentaires”, published in 1853. In view of the facts, Antoinette did not have the opportunity to eat a single croissant which was developed much later. than her tragic death in 1793, but she might well have enjoyed her ‘Kipferl’, another crescent or horn-shaped roll that has been a part of Austrian cuisine since the 13th century.

Eid al-Adha, Aylin Öney Tan,


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