How to enjoy Turkish hospitality and be God’s Guest in a Turkish home
Hospitality is the cornerstone of Turkish culture, and Turkish people are so proud of their heritage that if you visit Turkey or are invited into the home of a Turkish person, you will be treated as God’s Guest. This tradition is still upheld today and does not seem to have diminished by the infiltration of other cultures of the modern world.
What comes to mind when you think of Turkish hospitality is being ushered into a beautiful clean home, being given a cup of freshly brewed tea or Turkish coffee and nibbles that include olives, cheeses or nuts. And, once you have enjoyed the hospitality offered by your Turkish host, you can guarantee that you will not leave empty handed. It is the tradition in Turkey that the host gives a present to the guest when they leave as a thank you for sharing their time and conversation with the host.
Yuksel Pain, who runs Turkishwares, has wonderful memories of her early years and young adulthood filled with the charming Turkish culture of dazzling Anatolian motifs, handmade needle crafts, laces, beautiful Iznik tableware and Turkish music. Yuksel said: “I loved experiencing traditions as part of my upbringing – such as choosing special ceramic gifts for weddings, serving delicious food with our best tableware and welcoming any guest who knocks at our door.”
The Iznik tableware is usually used to impress guests – it is a way of indicating one’s wealth and also a means of showing guests that they in turn are valued. Even poor people put out their best tableware for hosting. A Turkish host would never ever serve food in tableware that is chipped or cracked.
Iznik ware, named after the town of Iznik in western Anatolia, is a decorated ceramic that was produced between the 15th and 17th centuries. Towards the end of the 15th century, craftsmen began to decorate their work with cobalt blue just like the pretty flower garden bowl in cobalt blue in the Turkishwares’ range.
During the 16th century, the decoration changed and additional colours were introduced. Turquoise was combined with the dark shade of cobalt blue and then pastel shades of sage green and pale purple were added just like Turkishwares’ pretty oriental tulip design bowl.
As a child, Yuksel did not understand why her mother got so upset when she and her brother broke an Iznik vase during some vigorous game play. She didn’t understand then why a set of Iznik plates was so precious. She understands now the meaning behind the traditional Turkish tableware and continues to value those traditions. Like her mother before her, Yuksel now upholds this custom and, on special occasions, also serves dinner on Iznik plates.
It’s not just the value of the tableware or the quality of their manufacture, but there is an inherent sentimental value. Yuksel’s mother was upset about the broken vase because she had received that vase as a wedding gift – just as many brides before her and many brides after her have done and she was deeply saddened when it was broken.
Smaller Iznik bowls are used to serve sweet-meats and puddings such as Turkish delight, baklava, halva, cold mezes, nuts and spices. According to Turkish tradition, when a family wants their son to get married, they first visit the potential wife and her family at their home. In this courtship scenario, it is the custom for the potential bride-to-be to make Turkish coffee and serve it together with bowls of sweet-meats to her future in-laws with all the best tableware on display. Once the wedding has been arranged, small bowls or vases are also given as wedding gifts. And, even today’s modern generation continue to uphold the same values and traditions that have survived for hundreds of years in Turkey retaining the valuable tableware especially for the use of their valued guests.
There is absolutely no doubt that you will be completely overwhelmed if you visit a Turkish home by a kind of hospitality that you will probably never ever have experienced before! Even if it’s not a dinner party, it’s almost impossible to sit in a Turkish home without eating and drinking. Most Turks love to entertain and will invite people into their homes to share a cup of coffee, lunch, dinner or even breakfast – especially breakfast!
The beautiful, colourful Turkish tableware is most often used for serving a traditional breakfast of olives, feta cheese, butter, jams, honey, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber and spicy Turkish sausages. The versatility of ceramic as a material means that the techniques evolved and designs flourished to create pieces and products of functionality and ornamental beauty.
As Turkish people value their guests so much, they do pay special attention to household items such as their dinner sets. Most tableware sets are used daily by their owners as they love seeing the vibrant colours of their Turkish heritage, which makes them happy, but there is usually one particular set that is set aside and kept for special days, anniversaries and celebrations or for when there are guests in the house. Turkish people love sharing the best of what they have with their guest and so any guest visiting the home of a Turkish host is treated as the most important person in the house – treated as God’s Guest.
An evening dinner at a Turkish home will most likely include appetizers, soup and a main dish followed by dessert with coffee or tea. Later you may be offered dried fruits and nuts whilst relaxing in the sitting room. There is also most likely to be a big grand bowl for a big party serving or a grand display as a centrepiece in the living room or dining room. It stands out and is the centre of attention.
As well as the china and ceramics of Turkish tableware, the table linen also has its place in Turkish culture. Traditionally a whole set of beautifully crafted table linen is given to a bride as part of her trousseau. Many women in Turkey today still produce handmade sets of lace for the living room and bedroom either for themselves or for their daughters.
Yuksel’s mother completed a whole set of handmade lace covers before Yuksel graduated. She said: “Your wedding gift is ready.” Just like, traditionally, her mother and mothers before her had said with the same loving words, and had also prepared handmade wedding gifts for their daughters. That is how traditional Turkish gifts are made and passed to family members, to relatives and to their neighbours.
The traditions don’t stop with Turkish tableware, linen and lace. Jewellery is loved by most Turkish women and is a symbol of love. That is why the custom is for gold jewellery to be given to Turkish women as a wedding gift and after childbirth. Gold coins are given as gifts to babies and the new-born family. Family means everything to the Turkish people. Parents support their children financially until they get married, but then the newly married couple are expected to earn enough to manage their own finances. The younger generation have tremendous respect for the older generation and support them when they get very old or sick, both financially and mentally. It is a see-saw culture – the older generation support the children when they are growing up and then the children support the senior citizens when they are old.
Turkishwares has an amazing and varied jewellery range reflecting the vibrant design and creativity of Turkish jewellery artisans in Turkey. They are all handmade and chosen from different cities in Turkey. Nowadays, the jewellery can be more modern looking, but traditional styles flourish in the big cities of Turkey in the jewellery shops and traditional silversmiths. The jewellery featured by Turkishwares has both traditional and modern designs. Another more modern fashion is the wearing of a scarf around the neck. In bygone days, a scarf was worn to cover a woman’s head in rural Turkey. There are numerous designs and fabrics in Turkishwares’ accessory range.
One of Turkey’s most popular souvenirs are these blue eyes made of glass that are actually meant to ward off the negative energy from the eyes of someone, who may feel envious of you. The evil eye is blue because, according to superstition, blue eyes give off the most negative energy, and the glass eye is supposed to cancel it out. Traditionally, evil eyes are pinned on to newborn babies’ clothes as well as hung above doors in houses and businesses for protection against bad luck.
Turkish people are honest and sincerely care about you. So that may be why the beautiful Turkishwares’ products that you order online are then posted out in quality robust boxes and tied with decorative twine with a blue eye on the end – presumably to ward off evil from the recipient and valued customer. Turkish people always want to give something back and care not just for their family, but also their friends, customers and even total strangers.