chapter  6
1 Pages

‘BREAD IS FIRST BEFORE EVERYTHING!’: MORAL ECONOMY IN HOUSEHOLDS AND STATES

WithKathryn Tomlinson

The Meskhetian Turks are a small Muslim group, numbering approximately 300,000, spread across the former Soviet Union, but residing primarily in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. Until 1944, when they were deported to Central Asia, they lived along the Turkish border of Georgia. In 1989, many were again displaced, this time as a result of conflicts in Ferghana, Uzbekistan. Describing her flight, with her husband, Zemira said:

That Zemira mentioned the bread in her narrative is, I argue, particularly significant. Amongst the Meskhetian Turks one is called to eat with the imperatives Etmek ye! or Çai iç!, ‘Eat bread!’ or ‘Drink tea!’. Bread and tea are never served alone, although both are present at every meal, and whenever guests visit. But etmek ye may equally refer to the main meal, usually potato soup, or to a rare treat of smoked fish. That is, the call to eat bread is an invitation to eat in general.2