Serving up charity: The Ottoman public kitchen

TitleServing up charity: The Ottoman public kitchen
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsSinger A
JournalJournal of Interdisciplinary History
KeywordsBayezid, charity, Edirne, imaret, kitchen
AbstractOttoman public kitchens, known as ‘imaret, aqhane, darü’l-itam,ordarü’z-ziyafe,handed out food, free of charge, to specific groups and to fortunate individuals. These public kitchens were constructed throughout the territories of the Ottoman Empire, from the fourteenth century into the nineteenth. Prior to the Ottoman era, there is no indication that purpose-built public kitchens were established on a wide scale in any Islamic society, though food distributions of various kinds were not unknown and took place on many occasions in public venues and from the houses of individuals. An investigation of these kitchens reveals a nexus of patronage, charity, and hospitality. It also introduces many of the broader issues surrounding charity: Why do people give? What are the implications of giving and receiving, and what meaning inform these actions? Individual examples reveal the specific and quotidian aspects of the public kitchens: Who decided what to give, to whom, how much, when, and where? What kind of charity was the soup kitchen, and what kind of “poverty” did it address? How much food was distributed at one meal, and was it sufficient to constitute a minimally nourishing meal?