Food sizzled on the street, simmered in the palace. The grandest of markets was the Egyptian bazaar, right on the waters of Golden Horn, whose stones still leak the scents of ambergris and coriander. Every district had its market, and fish were sold fresh from the deep waters of the Bosphorus, not to mention the anchovies which, along the Black Sea coast, had something of a religious flavour, and were used even to make bread.
All this required cooking – but you didn’t ever have to cook yourself, because the streets not only teemed with people from every corner of the world – Greeks and Turks, of course, Armenians and Jews, Laz and Georgians, Serbs, Arabs and the odd Frank – but with wandering peddlers, and fast food shacks. Rigorously patrolled by the kadis, who exacted summary punishment for infringement of the rules, these street vendors were even unwittingly patronised by sultans, who might wander incognito through the streets (Osman III liked roasted chickpeas, kebabs, and a sort of buttered toast called gözleme). Today you can still buy roasted chestnuts, or stuffed mussels, or stop a simit-seller for a ring of bread like a pretzel.