Where does baklava come from?

It’s a tough question, because it all depends on what you mean by baklava. I get frustrated reading a lot of food history, because so many food historians seem to want to trace everything back to antiquity. When cheesecake cookbook authors start talking about the Minoans, or deep-dish pizza recipe writers refer to the Etruscans, I start to lose my temper. I half expect to pick up an essay on pancakes one day and have it begin: The universe was once an infinitely hot and dense dot…

But I digress. The point is that if you break a recipe down into its component parts, the odds are excellent that you’ll be able to trace at least one of them back hundreds or maybe thousands of years. I prefer not to do that, instead I’d rather try to pinpoint the spot on the food history timeline where the thing we now know first appeared — more or less — in its modern incarnation. Cheesecake is about 125 years old by that measure and deep-dish pizza around 60, in case you were curious.

When does mostly-modern baklava first show up? The answer is Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, somewhere around the year 1500. That’s the place where historians claim that the filo dough we know today was first invented, and first stacked with rich mixtures of nuts, honey and spices. But wait, Joe, I thought baklava was Greek you might say. In fact most people think that, probably because we use the Greek word for filo dough, not the Turkish word, which at the moment escapes me. Alright, you got me, I never knew it. Happy?

One thought on “Where does baklava come from?”

  1. hey Joe, um, turkish for filo is yufka, I’m Bosnian and in Bosnia we use the turkish word, so that’s how I know.

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