Turkish drinking habits according to the Oeconomia

Exotic enemies, perpetually fascinating (Coler was never anywhere near the Ottoman Empire as far as we know).

The Turks are not allowed to drink any wine, for malmsey (Malvasier) and other wines that make you very drunk are forbidden to them in their Alcoran. Otherwise they have three kinds of drink that they prepare diligently: The first is boiled from sugar and water and is called Secher. But if they take honey instead of sugar, this drink is called Tserleth. The other beverage is made of preserved grapes (raisins? eingemachten Weintrauben) and they call it Vrumtursi, they boil them in honey and water and add a little rosewater to it which they call Hosaph. The third beverage, which they give to their servants, is called Pechmetz and boiled from honey.

They are also not content with lowly foods, especially when they are in the field, both lords and servants. There they need their twice-baked bread (zweygebacken Brodt), smoked or dried meat, and clotted milk into which they pour water or add cheese. Jovius writes that in extreme need, they open a vein of their horses, mix the emerging blood with a little flour, and thus eat it.

p 295 (444 in the pdf)

I don’t know anywhere near enough about the drinking habits of the Ottoman elite to say how credible this description is, though I am fascinated by the description of what sounds a lot like ayran as a campaigning drink. What it clearly shows is how much the Ottoman Empire (“the Turk”) occupied the minds of contemporary Germans. A suburban pastor in Mecklenburg on the Baltic shore found it expedient to include this passage in a book on household management. Judging from the recipes for beverages that Coler records, the idea of sweet, non-alcoholic drinks must have seemed utterly outlandsish to him, like the suggestion of drinking some lovely chicken stock with your hamburger and fries would to modern Americans.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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