Turkish cuisine now famous for meat fetishism
You must have heard of Nusret, "Salt Bae," the famous high-society butcher who shares videos every day on social media sharpening his knives, slapping, or caressing animal bodies. He shares photographs with raw meat decorated with roses, causing meat-eaters to suffer pangs of conscience.
The other day, showman Okan Bayülgen snapped at Nusret. “I find such performances perverted and immoral. Whoever invests in Nusret, whoever eats his meat, the ad agency who makes his commercials, the reporters who make stories about him, are all partners in this ugliness,” Bayülgen wrote.
I could not agree more. As for others, some like and laugh at Nusret’s posts, while others find these “meat performances” repellent.
How sad that in a country that has been trying to make an international brand out of its cuisine for years, the only one of our brands that could make it to Hollywood so far is this butcher who has gained renown through the strange coarseness he demonstrates toward pieces of dead animal bodies.
If somebody looking from the outside sees only Nusret, they might easily think our country is full of meat fetishists and we have a sadomasochistic relationship with meat products.
In fact, Nusret became famous in Turkey in recent years before reaching international fame. It was actually his eye-watering prices that first attracted people’s attention, (we know that sometimes high prices lead to fame in this country). The mentality of “if it is expensive, then it is good” filled Nusret’s restaurant for a long time before he achieved global fame.
Meanwhile, “steakhouses” have opened even in the most modest neighborhoods in Istanbul. You can now even find a “steakhouse” in Kağıthane.
If this trend continues, I’m afraid we will become little more than a vulgar meat-eating country. At the moment we are actually a society that consumes meat only at modest scales, and we avoid showing off about it.
Food culture researcher Aylin Öney Tan explained that meat has always been consumed at consistent and sustainable amounts in Anatolia. “In our homes, six people can be fed by a fistful of meat,” she said. “We would mince or chop the meat, sear it, we would infuse the taste of the meat into the dish, or we would make gravy. Then we would add dried beans, chick peas or seasonal vegetables, and make sure that fistful of meat can feed the whole family.”
In truth, we struggle to even properly make barbecued meat. Most often we overcook it until all its juice is gone. Meat is at most consumed as meatballs in our homes.
In Anatolia, it is only during religious holidays that meat is consumed in abundance. “Even in the famous Gaziantep cuisine, only 500 grams of meat is used for a large dinner table,” Tan said.
I think the good customs of society should be preserved. Since we are generally an abstinent society in terms of meat, we should prevent ourselves from being seduced by a new generation of coarseness.
Traditionally, meat is used very democratically in Turkish cuisine. While Nusret indulges only in the “better part of the meat,” Turkish cuisine democratizes it. In home-cooked meals or in kebabs, there is nothing like the good side of meat. Think of shish kebabs. Meat or minced meat is put on skewers and all parts of the meat are used for this.
Whenever we look at meat consumption in the Turkish cuisine, including at home during holidays and on the street, we can see that it used in moderation, sustainably and democratically.
In our cuisine, meat is not idolized, fetishized or bulldozed. So, Mr. Butcher, please show some good manners and mercy to the dead animal!