I’ve gotten a little, what’s popular business lingo now…”push back” on yesterday’s post attributing baklava to the Turks. Pastries layered with nuts hail from Azerbaijan! Dough stretching techniques were first invented by the Greeks! Spices are a clear contribution of the Arabs! Some of these claims hold more water than others, however it’s beyond dispute that baklava didn’t just spring up out of nowhere one evening at Topkapi Palace. Cultures all around the Central Asian/Middle Eastern region brought something to the party. However what’s clear is that they all came together in Constantinpole.
Why should it be so? Well in those days Constantinpole was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, and imperial seats, being what they are (rich and politically and militarily powerful), create their own centers of gravity. They draw to themselves the best of everything within their reach, becoming hotbeds of innovation. That principle applies to technology, commerce and of course pastry. It’s interesting to consider that the next major baking and pastry hotspot after Constantinpole was Vienna, the seat of the Habsburg Empire, after that Paris which of course gave us the Napoleonic Empire. The interesting exception to this progression is the next major empire on the timeline: Britain. They established the mightiest empire the world had seen up until that point, but for some reason they fell flat on the food front. I wonder why? Must have spent all their money on swagger sticks and brass uniform buttons. Hmm..