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A FLAVOUR FROM PAST MILLENNIA:BULGUR
2001 /FEBRUARY

Here is a recipe which is at least four thousand years old. Boil three cups of water in a saucepan and add one cup of bulgur (cracked wheat), a knob of butter and salt. Cook until the water is absorbed. This simple dish is extremely nourishing.

Bulgur is widely used not only in Turkish cuisine but in all the cuisines of the Middle East. Bulgur is made by boiling whole wheat grains, then drying and grinding them into fine, medium or coarse pieces. This simple ingredient is the basis of many diverse and delicious dishes passed down and refined over the centuries. As well as ordinary daily meals, dishes made with bulgur feature at feasts for special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine the Turkish cuisine without bulgur.Low in calories and high in minerals and fibre, bulgur makes a valuable contribution to the diet. At the same time it keeps well, not easily going mouldy or being spoilt by pests.

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A FLAVOUR FROM PAST MILLENNIA:BULGUR
2001 /FEBRUARY
No chemicals are used in its preparation, hence its growing popularity as a health food and in the vegetarian diet. Bulgur contains high levels of vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, and manganese. The benefits of bulgur were appreciated thousands of years before these scientific facts were known, however.Wheat itself was designated one of the five sacred crops by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2800 BC, along with rice, millet, barley and soybeans.

Bulgur is one of the first processed foods known to man, and was a favourite dish of the armies of the Mongol emperor Genghiz Khan (1162-1227). From the Bible we learn that the ancient Babylonians, Hittites and Hebrews were using some kind of bulgur four thousand years ago, and in 1000 BC the Egyptians and other peoples of the eastern Mediterranean region were still cooking and drying wheat.
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A FLAVOUR FROM PAST MILLENNIA:BULGUR
2001 /FEBRUARY
The Romans knew bulgur as cerealis, the Israelites as dagan and other Middle Eastern peoples as arisah, which is the term used in the Bible, where it is translated as 'the first of the coarse meal'.

According to Biblical archaeologists, this early form of bulgur was parboiled and sun-dried wheat. The word bulgur has many variations, such as burghul, burghoul, balgour, and boulgur, and is word of very ancient origin. In the west today, bulgur is most often known by this Turkish form of the word.
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A FLAVOUR FROM PAST MILLENNIA:BULGUR
2001 /FEBRUARY
But aside from the ancient history of this processed form of wheat, itself first cultivated in this region, the recipes themselves show how deep-rooted and varied its use has been. This traditional food of Anatolia deserves to remain a popular feature of our tables, not only for health reasons, but for its flavour.


 

 

* Behzat Sahin is a journalist.

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