I took a road trip through Turkey several years ago and enjoyed having Turkish pizza (lahmacun) when the bus made a meal stop. Pizza there does not consist of the unique and sometimes absurd toppings one gets used to here with plenty of melted mozzarella and tomato sauce over a heavy crust. In Turkey, pizza is made up of a smaller and crispier round of dough covered in ground lamb, onion, chili, parsley and olive oil. It's a basic dish but very satisfying. As Australian-based food writer Dani Valent points out, the mark of a good Turkish cook is not creativity; it's skill. You don't experiment with what already tastes good. You just enact it to the best of your abilities. That's the philosophy behind Turkish cuisine.
Thanks to the author's zeal, Turkey comes alive through its food in this small tome, one of the many country-specific entries in Lonely Planet's series of fine, pocket-sized "World Food" books. Any traveler worth his or her salt knows the best and easiest way to get to the heart of a country is to experience firsthand the culinary delights that country has to offer. This book would be an invaluable guide to anyone visiting this surprisingly robust epicurean center as she covers the vast landscape of food and drink there. Valent moves fluidly from the culture and history of Turkish cuisine through the staples and specialties you would find in a Turkish kitchen to the nuances of regional fare, whether it's the heavy influence of the sea in the Aegean and Black Sea regions or the wheat-based dishes of Central Anatolia.
I particularly like the sections that focus on celebrating with food and the delicacies you find in street kiosks. Obviously not all the food is meant to be savored by everyone, but this provides a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to the variety of tastes and sensations to be experienced including a definitive culinary dictionary, a quick-reference glossary and useful phrases when you order food and drink there. Valent includes recipes for delicacies like chicken breast pudding and stuffed grape leaves, city maps highlighting favorite eateries, and special insets on highlights like Konya's whirling dervishes, Bosphorus fish sandwiches and of course, Istanbul's world-famous Spice Bazaar. If Valent's knowledgeable prose is not enough, the wonderful photographs should convince you. Whether you are visiting to Turkey or content as an armchair traveler, this is a guidebook worth seeking out.