This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
"Silence and expedition are the chief characteristics of a Turkish meal. The table preparations are few, but the dishes are many; olives, caviare, cheese, etc., are dotted about, and perhaps as many as ten dishes are handed round on covered brazen dishes consisting of rice or barley, meat or boiled fish, cakes seasoned with vegetables, roast lamb, beans, a species of rissole wrapped up in vine leaves, the inevitable pilaf and fruits, and, as wine is forbidden, an intoxicating substitute is found in liquors and brandy. BoCh person has his glass of sherbet by him, and his piece of unleavened bread, for the Turks love half-baked dough. It will comfort the European to see every one wash his hands before his meal, for forks are unknown, and each is expected to dip his fingers into the savory morsel as it is handed to him. During the whole of the feeding process scarcely four or five words will be uttered,and at the most your repast will last 20 minutes; but then afterward, with the coffee and the hubble-bubble, conversation will flow freely.
To the Turk eating is a serious gastro nomic exercise, which will not admit of any con versation being entered into during the process".
"A Turkish breakfast comprises about thirty dishes. Soon after the first dish comes lamb, roasted on the spit, which must never be wanting at any Turkish banquet. Then follow dishes of solid and liquid, sour and sweet, in the order of which a certain kind of recurring change is observed to keep the appetite alive. The pilau of boiled rice is always the concluding dish. The externals to such a feast as this are these: A great round plate of metal with a plain edge, of three feet in diameter, is placed on a low frame, and serves as a table, at which five or six people can repose on rugs. The legs are hidden in the extensive folds which encircle the body. The left hand must remain invisible; it would be improper to expose it in any way while eating. The right hand is permitted alone to be active. There are no plates, or knives, or forks. The table is decked with dishes, deep and shallow, covered and uncovered. These are continually being changed, so that little can be eaten from each. Some remain longer, as roast meat, cold milk, and gherkins, and are often recurred to. Before and after dinner they wash their hands. An attendant or slave kneels, with a metal basin in hand and a piece of soap on a little saucer in the other.
Water is poured by him over the hands of the washer from a metal jug; over his arm hangs an elegantly embroidered napkin for drying the hands upon".
The Turk of to-day usually declines pork, but will not scruple to use veal. He eats beef very rarely; he indulges in ducks, lean fowls, and sheep and lamb, the flesh of which is cut in small pieces. These piece's are strung upon long spits, which are held and turned for some minutes over hot coals, where they are slowly roasted, retaining all their juices. This is what is termed kebab, a healthful and nutritious food which all Europeans and Americans find delicious. The lists of Turkish dishes show no less than sixteen ordinary kebabs. (See Kabob).