The history of the simit (Turkish bagel) dates back to the Anatolian era of the Ottoman Empire. The love affair with the simit extends to 1400's. The simit had its place on sultans' tables, in palace kitchens as well as the hands of the laborers. It is an adaptable food item, fit for both a king and a peasant.
Its name originates from the word "simithane," the name of a flour depot. A sweetened bread in the shape of a ring, scattered with sesame seeds, the simit was considered back in the time of the sultans to be a valuable and luxurious food item. During the month of Ramadan, the sultan would provide iftar (break-fast meal) for those fasting, and as a gift, give simit to the soldiers on guard as a token of his appreciation. As such, the simit was classified as a valuable offering in the Turkish culture.
Its affordability, availability and filling nature truly make it a popular community food. The simit is a staple food item that is readily accessible to the public from town bakeries, simit wagons and men on the street steadily balancing a massive tray on their head.
Simit and bread sales are often in competition. On June 10, 1910, local bakers established a bread and pastry organization and went on to establish bakeries that would sell simit exclusively.
The 1990s led to an explosion of popularity of simit when it entered into the fast food industry. Simit Sarayı is currently the most popular and widespread simit fast food chain, with 128 cafes, followed by Fırıncafe. With a distinctive taste and convenience, simit may be enjoyed on the go or in a pleasurable and leisurely setting. Despite its popularity, the simit has maintained its originality.
It has, however, been taken to new heights with an enhanced favor and option of adding cheese and tomato to it to enjoy like a bagel next to a traditional cup of Turkish tea. The simit, a Turkish cultural icon, is also the topic of poetry. Many have written on its comforting nature that takes them back to their childhood. Upon biting into a simit, they remember a quick meal to fill the tummy of a young boy kicking a deflated football on a dry, unmarked, dusty earth or their days as a young man grabbing a meal on the go between lectures or their days as a mature gentleman who now enjoys the simplicity of a simit with a cup of tea with old friends.
It is also prominent in art. It is present in many ancient European paintings, including that of Giovanni Birindesi, and Warwick Goble's oil painting titled "Simit Seller."
There are three main types of simit from which to choose:
1. Taban simit: baked similar to a bread
2. Tava simit: baked in a pan
3. Kazan simit: sprinkled with sesame seeds, having a glossy look There is no doubt that the simit has a distinctive flavor.
It maintains the beadlike texture with a slightly sweet but not overbearing kick. Upon tasting the treat, it is difficult not to make it a part of your routine. The sweet smelling essence of a freshly baked simit makes it virtually impossible to pass without your mouth watering.
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