Ottoman Food Map explores the geography of Middle Eastern / Mediterranean foods. Lebanese and later Greek immigrants brought a number of unique dishes to America, where they gradually cohered into a unified cusine. As our maps show, these foods do indeed span a wide region, crossing religious, national and linguistic boundaries. Yet they also define unique culinary, cultural and geographic regions. The practice of drinking strong coffee in small cups with grounds, for example, reaches from the Balkans all the way to North Africa. Hummus, though, is relatively rare in Greece and Turkey. Like falafel, its northern limit is strangely co-terminus with that of the Arabic language. Distilled liquor flavored with anise is drunk under a variety of names - Ouzo, Raki, Arak - accross the region. In the Balkans, however, Raki refers to a different, more popular drink that more closely resembles Grappa or paint thinner. Yogurt is not even featured, being almost inescapable in the region (as if to illustrate this whole phenomenon, it has come to our attention that the founder of America's most popular Greek yogurt brand, Chobani, is of Turkish origin) The availability of octopus, not surprisingly, is limited by the unique geology of the Aegean sea. This page allows readers to explore for themselves the geography of these foods, with a minimal degree of commentary and illustration. We have not dared to offer any speculation on national origins, nor have we tried to map the spread of cultural tendencies, like the mustache, that are universal.
Finally, Ottoman Food Map is a cooperative project. We welcome observations, corrections, anecdotes, traditions and recipes from all of our readers at:
Ottoman Food Map has recently been featured on Poorly Drawn Maps, which is odd considering how flawlessly drawn it is.