Guide to SKOPJE

Food for the whole village – KESKEK

This tradition is on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of Turkey.keshkek2_balkon3

Several women from a small village in southeastern Turkey are singing songs around a huge stone mortar filled with grain. They are holding wooden pestles alternately thumping in the mortar and grinding the grain. Each thump gives rhythm to their song. They seem to have turned singing into their job.


After a while men take their place. They sing a traditional man’s song and continue to thump into the mortar grinding the grain. This is how they begin preparing keskek, an age-old traditional dish which is only preserved in some parts of Turkey. The whole village participates in the preparation of this dish and then the whole village feasts on it. Keskek is served at weddings, holidays and other celebrations, and sometimes at the rainmaking ceremony when people pray for a fruitful year.

Everybody takes part in the preparation of keskek – men, women, the old and the youngest. Some of them work, others sing, and then they change roles and play the zurla and drums. The preparation is accompanied by loud music and singing, by the piercing sound of zurla and heavy beat of drums. All neighboring villages can hear that there is a celebration and keskek is on its way.

Once the grain is completely ground it is put in a huge copper pot together with the meat, usually chicken. The bottom of the pot is covered with ash so as not to burn on the strong fire. Keskek recipe is passed down from generation to generation and the masters in preparing this dish are called keskeks.

Keskek is cooked all day and all night. During the day you can hear songs and music, but the night is filled with jokes and anecdotes. The next day keskek is stirred with wooden ladles until it is perfectly cooked. Traditionally, people eat it together from one deep plate. It takes a long time to prepare it but it quickly disappears from the plates. Such is the fate of keskek. It is so deeply engraved in the tradition of certain communities in Turkey that there is even a village named after it. In some parts of the country, single boys and girls get a hint that it’s time to tie the knot when they are asked “When are we going to try your keskek?”

Text: Aleksandar Manasiev

Video and photo: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey