The Bedrock of Meze Culture – “Mezeci” As A Profession

“Mezeci” can be interpreted as an appetizer cook if we simply put it. But believe me it is more than that. The concept of this profession we aggregate associate with “Meze” has so much background in history and tradition from Western Asia, the Balkans and North Africa. “Meze” comes from the Persian word “Maza”, which means to taste or relish. Meze is a food group in the Eastern Mediterranean regions and especially in Turkish cuisine. Meze is frequently offered as part of multi-course dinners in largely Muslim regions where alcohol is less prevalent, whereas in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, they are more commonly provided as snacks while drinking or socializing.

Mezeler (or appetizers) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as cheese, salami, and yoghurt, or it can be made from a variety of vegetables such as Borlotti beans, purslane, eggplant, pepper, or seafood such as squid, shrimp, and so on. Rather than filling the stomach, these appetizers are served to complement alcoholic beverages and provide entertainment across the table dialogue. As a result, they can be found in little servings  in a wide variety of flavours. And one more thing to add, most cases the alcohols served with meze are rakı and wine.

When we turn our focus on Turkey, meze often consist of beyaz peynir ( “white cheese”), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yogurt with herbs), patlıcan salatası (cold eggplant salad), beyin salatası (brain salad), kalamar tava (fried calamari or squid), midye dolma and midye tava (stuffed or fried mussels), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), Arnavut ciğeri (a liver dish, served cold), octopus salad, and çiğ köfte (raw meatballs with bulgur). These are the most common ones that I want to introduce to you, but the list goes on and on.

So the Mezeci’s job is to make these dishes with the respect to origins and traditions that accompany them, because so many cultures are involved as we discussed before. And because of the traditional aspect of it, you can call this job as inherited by their ancestors like blacksmiths.

In conclusion, if you want to taste this culture, I strongly suggest you to go to a “Meyhane” (we can interpret it as a Turkish Pub) to have the full experience of the Meze and and its cultural connotations.

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