Imagine a feast featuring dozens
of delicious and varied crudités,
salads, pureés, pickles, vinaigrettes,
cheeses, fruits, fritters, böreks,
vegetables and meats.
meze (MEH-zeh), mostly served cold.
Waiters may bring a huge tray piled
high with plates and ask you
to indicate the one's you want. Everyone
at the dinner table indicates favorites.
Each little plate holds enough for
two or three people to have a portion
or four or five people to have a
A toast of beer, wine or rakı is
proposed, and the feast begins.
Turkish bread scoops up the pureés, supports
the cheeses, and counters the tang
of pickles and salads laced with fresh
lemon juice or nar ekşisi (concentrated pomegranate juice).
Next come the ara yemekleri, the "in-between course," more mezes, but served hot.
Soon the table is covered
in plates. People order more. The plates
stack up two and three deep. Hours
When you're so full you positively
can't eat anymore, your Turkish host
orders the ana yemeğı (main course)! After
that come the desserts/sweets and Turkish
coffee or tea.
It's just a typical Turkish evening.
For foreign visitors
dining as couples, many touristic restaurants now feature meze variety plates (çeşitli meze tabağı), with a sampling of a half dozen mezes. But really, meze is best when shared in a big group.
A couple or foursome can have an excellent
dinner ordering four to six plates
of meze, but the dozens typical on
big Turkish dining tables would be
If you really want to experience Turkish
meze, get a big, congenial group together
and plan to spend the entire evening
eating and drinking.
—by Tom Brosnahan