The History of the Kebab

This article was written by Phineas Upham

It’s almost universally believed that the kebab originates in the Middle East. The reason most widely attributed to this amazing culinary development is a lack of fuel. Without a lot of kindling for fires, it would have been hard to cook a roast over a spit, or bake something within an oven. The people there most certainly had the means to make clay, and to make it last, but they would have had to pick and choose their materials wisely.

It’s believed that the kebab originated in Turkey, eventually spreading throughout the Middle East through the Balkans. It’s believed that the Turkish soldiers would use their swords to skewer meat, which was then cooked over an open flame as they slowly rotated it. Still, there is also evidence that the Greeks cooked shish kebab. There are vivid descriptions in the work of Homer that describe the act of roasting skewered meat.

Kebabs are also a large part of Middle Eastern culture. It’s common for citizens of these countries to buy smaller cuts of meats from the butcher, unlike Western super markets with greater portion sizes. Fuel also played a role, but these smaller cuts seemed prepared for skewers.

The Arabs, Turks and Greeks all made a version of a special sandwich that used the meat from those skewers. You might call it a “Gyro,” some places call it by the Turkish name Doner, but the concept is the same. Tasty meats piled high with vegetables and a creamy sauce. The modern gyro can trace its roots back to New York and Chicago, where the industry continues to thrive today.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his Twitter page.