Saygin Ersin comes to the blog in translation with a wonderfully evocative story set in the time of the Ottoman Empire in
The Pasha of Cuisine
A tale of life, food, love and a journey of a thousand steps, Ersin weaves together descriptions of food that will have your mouth watering while you can’t help but wonder at the story of the chef, a supremely talented young man, dubbed at the tender age of six as the Pasha of Cuisine – one who has a ‘perfect palate’ and an almost instinctive talent for combining flavors, ingredients and heat to create unique masterpieces of flavor. From the start, the story grabbed me much like my first encounter with Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series – a look behind the scenes to agendas, histories and lives of the people that create something that stands through the ages, becoming iconic moments that define a place or time. And the definition here is the food -one of the best and most accessible ways to learn about and discover another culture. But – that’s my first jump into learning about ‘elsewhere’ , when I’m not reading.
In this story, we first meet the chef as he serves in the household of a prominent merchant – making a meal that will move him along in his journey to the ultimate goal: moving to the palace to find and reunite with his long-lost love, a dancing girl sold into the harem. We never learn his name – either the one he was born to in the harem, or the one given to him after his escape from the slaughter and placed by the Master of the Kitchens into trusted hands that will nurture and fuel his gift. Even without a name, however, the cook is an engaging and intriguing as he mixes spices and ingredients, always with a mind to his ‘next step’ on his journey.
With an innate understanding of tastes and flavors that evoke memories from childhood – it is said that smell and taste are the first and most vibrant of all memories, the cook uses his encyclopedic knowledge of flavors and combines it with his own exhaustive research on likes, dislikes and histories of those for whom he is preparing meals. Seemingly always thinking of his next step to achieve his goals, he cultivates or watches those coming and going from the kitchens, bestowing favors and treats to those who will serve his agenda, while using his position as personal cook for a powerful man to source the best ingredients and combine the most basic elements with spices and a touch of ‘intention magic’ to inspire memories and bring praise and notice to his creations.
Alternating the history, love story, a touch of a quest, magic and the sights, sounds and tastes of the kitchens, the story is lyrical and descriptive with easily-accessible moments that allow you to feel the heat from the fires, scent apples and cloves, desire to recreate the melted onions and leeks that add contrast and flavor to a simple stewed lamb. With a never-ending undercurrent of moving to ‘more’, throughout the journeys of learning in his earlier years to his arrival at the palace in reach of the ultimate goal, the story is transportive and evocative – allowing readers to immerse themselves in the days of the Ottoman Empire in ways that are unique and engaging.
Title: The Pasha of Cuisine
Author: Saygın Ersin
Genre: Food / Recipes, Historical Fiction, Ottoman Empire, Setting: Turkey
Published by: Arcade Publishing
Published on: 4 September, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google
For readers of Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series and Richard C. Morais's The Hundred-Foot Journey, a sweeping tale of love and the magic of food set during the Ottoman Empire.
A Pasha of Cuisine is a rare talent in Ottoman lore. Only two, maybe three are born with such a gift every few centuries. A natural master of gastronomy, he is the sovereign genius who reigns over aromas and flavors and can use them to influence the hearts and minds, even the health, of those who taste his creations. In this fabulous novel, one such chef devises a plot bring down the Ottoman Empire—should he need to—in order to rescue the love of his life from the sultan’s harem.
Himself a survivor of the bloodiest massacre ever recorded within the Imperial Palace after the passing of the last sultan, he is spirited away through the palace kitchens, where his potential was recognized. Across the empire, he is apprenticed one by one to the best chefs in all culinary disciplines and trained in related arts, such as the magic of spices, medicine, and the influence of the stars. It is during his journeys that he finds happiness with the beautiful, fiery dancing girl Kamer, and the two make plans to marry. Before they can elope, Kamer is sold into the Imperial Harem, and the young chef must find his way back into the Imperial Kitchens and transform his gift into an unbeatable weapon.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.