(56) State of society among Europeans, sitting-up, meals, wines, malt liquors, levees, sugar-candy, bread, camp-ovens, milk, ghee-butter, meats, buffaloes [[300-325]]
[] After what relates to the domestic habits and the architecture of the country, the next object of curiosity is the manner of living among Europeans in India. Of these there are two distinct classes, though perfectly on a footing: the fixed residents of Calcutta, and those among the civil and military who are liable to be detached from the Presidency. Formerly, only such gentlemen as held offices of considerable emolument, or were married, supported the expense of a regular table.
Such might be said to keep open house; at least, several spare covers were usually laid, especially at supper-time, under the hope of seeing their friends come in to partake of the entertainment. The dinner hour was known (for almost [] every family then dined between two and three o'clock), and little or no ceremony was required; the host being as much pleased with the compliment paid by the visit of a young friend, as the latter was to find a welcome among the most opulent and respectable portion of the European community.
Nor was the benefit accruing to the latter, confined to economical saving. Such as became habitually inmates of this description, were generally recommended to the notice of Government, or to such situations (if not in the Company's service) as afforded an immediate maintenance, or eventually led to lucrative speculations. A variety of instances could be adduced, of young gentlemen having been thus rescued from that most unpleasant situation, a want of respectable friends. These, as Shakespeare properly remarks, "had greatness thrust upon them."
Such was the state of society about fifty years ago, and such was the fair expectation with which not only young gentlemen, but many "far advanced upon Time's list," landed on the shores of the Ganges. Then it required that some very substantial personal objection should exist, to deprive any individual of an implied right to the most friendly reception. Still, however, there prevailed a certain distinction, rather too fastidious, in favour of those who came with appointments to the Company's service, especially in the civil line. To a certain extent, such were reasonable, from the experience of future association in the same services; but the preference was doubtless carried too far.
The gradual increase of commercial intercourse with several parts of that extensive territory which has become subject to the influence or the control of the British government, invited many adventurers to quit Europe under assurances of employ in the East. Their expectations [] were generally confirmed by permanent establishments in various parts of the country; whereby a complete change has taken place, as to the estimation of free merchants, as they are generally termed.
Among this class have appeared numbers whose industry in the conduct of extensive concerns has rendered them conspicuous; and it would not, perhaps, be too bold to predict that in a few years, the success of their efforts may stimulate to such an increase of private traders, as cannot fail to produce events of great national importance.
Thus it may be anticipated that the commercial society of India will, in time, grow out of the knowledge of such as surveyed its state some forty years ago. It is, however, to be lamented, that from such an augmentation of all ranks, it has been found necessary to drop many customs suited only to a limited society. Instead of these has been adopted a certain reserve, not exactly conformable to the very sanguine ideas of those who may have read of the ancient regime of Oriental hospitality, the disuse of which has unavoidably kept pace with the additional imports consequent to extended commerce. There will, however, even at this day, be found much to approve; and a mind endued with sensibility will have occasion to acknowledge many a civility, very nearly akin to kindness, and sufficiently poignant to give an ample scope for grateful acknowledgments.
Morning visits are not, generally speaking, so uncommon as they were. Formerly, few went to pay visits of ceremony during the forenoon; for the dinner-hour being early, there was little time for such unsocial compliments. Now that it is generally delayed till about sun-set, that is to say, to perhaps five or six, or even to seven o'clock, the forenoon is more applicable to the reception of visitors; [] these, if on any terms of intimacy, do not hesitate to join the family at a little avant-diner, commonly called a tiffin, and known in England by the name of lunch.
This kind of refreshment (for it is not considered a repast) is usually taken between one and two o'clock, and consists of grilled fowls, mutton chops, cold meats, and sometimes of curry and rice. Being conducted without ceremony, and in a very desultory style, the coming in of friends never occasions the slightest discontinuance. The various formalities are, however, now transferred from P.M. to A.M.; and it is usual to see the town of Calcutta thronged with palanquins during the whole of what is called the forenoon; but which commonly extends to three o'clock.
About this time, especially during nine months in the year, most persons are at home, divested of their usual dresses, and reclining in some cool apartment on a bed or a couch, for the purpose of repose, and to prepare for that change of linen, and for those ablutions, not forgetting the bath, which are both refreshing and indispensable in so sultry a climate.
Gentlemen who visit ladies commonly repair to their houses between eight and nine o'clock in the evening; ordinarily under the expectation of being invited to stay and sup; an invitation that is rarely declined.
Among ladies intimately acquainted, morning visits are common; but all who wish to preserve etiquette, or merely return the compliment by way of keeping up a distant acquaintance, confine their visits to the evening. Attended by one or more gentlemen, they proceed in their palanquins, on a tour devoted entirely to this cold exchange of what is called civility.
Among the several justly-exploded customs, we may reckon that which existed until within the last thirty years, of sitting-up, as it was called. The practice was [] evidently founded on good will and hospitality; though it bore so strong a resemblance to the exhibition of a cargo of slaves, as to occasion many a caricature, and much satirical expenditure of ink. This sitting-up generally took place at the house of some lady of rank or fortune, who, for three successive nights, threw open her mansion towards the evening, for the purpose of receiving all, both ladies and gentlemen, who chose to pay their respects to such ladies as had recently arrived in the country.
The fair damsels were thus at once introduced to the whole settlement, and not unfrequently obtained offers from men of the first consequence. Many matches have indeed been concluded even before the third night of exhibition. If we consider the fatigue attendant upon the return of these numerous visits (for the slightest omission would have been an unpardonable offence), and that the novelty of riding in a bochah (or chair-palanquin) would not be agreeable to all, we may form some idea of what many a delicate female, melting with the heat, tight-laced, and tormented with musquito-bites, must have undergone during the performance of this ceremony.
To the gentlemen of the settlement it might have been abundantly pleasing; they having nothing to do but to post about in their palanquins from one sitting-up to another, and there either to admire, or to quiz, the fair sufferers, according as their taste or caprice might dictate. The throng has, in some lovely instances, been so very great, that even a fourth night has been required for the benefit of bachelors from the interior.
The great increase not only of inhabitants, but of houses, some of which are situated at an inconvenient distance, has rendered the custom of sitting-up nearly obsolete. The modern instances of its continuance ate, indeed, so very few, and those few so modified, as barely to [] show that it is not quite disused. Now, a lady is received on landing by her friends, who generally, after a few days of repose and preparation, invite their acquaintances to be introduced to their fair companion, who in the course of a week usually returns their visits.
This is merely a partial show, compared with what formerly took place, and is no more than would be practised in England on a similar occasion. It is true that where superlative attractions exist, many who probably are not in the habit of visiting the family, will often avail themselves of the opportunity to chaperon some acquaintance. The company rarely sit long after dinner, unless among convivial souls who are incommoded by the presence of the ladies. Such were formerly very numerous; but of late, the society of the sex has been more duly appreciated, and the gentlemen quit the bottle to retire to the chabootah (or terrace), there to enjoy the cool air of the evening, and to take tea, or smoke their hookuhs.
Those who have business to attend, then proceed to their offices, &c., while the larger portion separate to partake of a family supper with some of their female acquaintances. Very little ceremony is used on such occasions; the gentlemen leaving their hats in the palanquins, and ordering their servants to proceed, as a matter of course, to the houses whither their palanquins are to be conveyed. In many instances, these evening visits are paid in a very airy manner; coats being often dispensed with, the gentlemen wearing only an upper and under waistcoat, both of white linen, and the former having sleeves. This would appear an extraordinary freedom, if not established by custom.
It generally happens, indeed, that gentlemen newly arrived from Europe, especially the officers of his Majesty's regiments, wear their coats, and prefer undergoing a kind of warm bath, of the most distressing description [] both to themselves and to their neighbours. In time, however, they adopt the local usages, and though they may enter the room in that cumbrous habit, they rarely fail, soon as the first ceremonies are over, to divest themselves of it, having a servant in readiness with an upper waistcoat.
Supper, though enumerated among the ordinary meals of a family residing at the Presidency, seems to be merely the means of concentrating the party. Few take more than a glass or two of wine, generally claret, with, perhaps, a crust, and a morsel of cheese; the appetite at this hour, say ten, being by no means keen. After supper the hookuh is again produced; and after sitting awhile in conversation, the lady of the house retires, after whom few remain long. On the whole, it may be said that at least four out of five are in bed before twelve, if not before eleven o'clock.
All concerned in card-parties are of course excepted, especially if the stakes run high; for such, no measure or calculation exists; the whole night being occasionally passed at tradrille, which is the favourite game, or at whist, &c. Such exceptions fortunately are not very numerous; and it would certainly be difficult to find any city wherein celibacy among the males is so prevalent as at Calcutta, that can boast of so few excesses of any description. The European inhabitants of respectability certainly live well, keeping as good tables as the seasons may enable them to furnish, and drinking only the best wines. Claret, Madeira, and Port are in general use.
Of the former, there are two kinds; one called English claret, which is the best wine that France produces, manufactured, after its arrival in England, with an addition of brandy, &c., that it may endure the hot climate of India, and of other liquids, to give it a richer body.
The other claret is the purest which can be obtained [] from the best vineyards near Bourdeaux, the Cote-Roti, Chateau Margeau, &c. This wine, however well packed and carefully treated, will not keep long. At the end of six or seven months after arrival, it becomes rather sharp, and is then extremely pernicious to the bowels. When fresh, it is remarkably fine and delicate; and being far lighter than the English claret, is certainly best adapted to the climate.
Occasionally, a few chests of claret are imported at Serampore, a Danish settlement about sixteen miles above Calcutta; but in wholesomeness as well as flavour, it is far inferior to either of the former. The severe bowel-complaints often occasioned by its free use, are attributed to the litharge with which it is said to be fined; hence, what is called Danish claret is rarely found at any gentleman's table.
It is no uncommon thing to see Madeira which has been in a gentleman's godown ten years in the wood. Many possess much older wine; and a few can boast of some which, though inconceivably mild and rich in flavour, is extremely potent. None will produce at their tables Madeira, till it has been two or three years in the country. The new wine is neither pleasant nor wholesome, and may be readily distinguished from the old, though some venders can add in the course of a few hours, many years of age to the liquor. Among the military, it is found best to purchase wine that is known to be of good quality, and of a certain age. This is easily done through the several agency-houses; all of which have generally large quantities of every description, either on commission or at command.
This mode is far preferable to the otherwise general practice of buying several pipes, with a view to filling up the ullage (say of four, from a fifth), as the contents decrease. By such management, any person settled at Calcutta, or elsewhere, may, in the course of [] five or six years, become possessed of a stock of excellent Madeira; observing, however, that, in that time, every fifth pipe will have been drawn off, to fill up its neighbours; therefore, in computing the value of such remaining pipes, that of the pipe thus expended must be included. Nothing can injure a cargo of Madeira more than to place near it a cask of coal-tar, which communicates to the wine a most nauseous flavour and scent, rendering it totally unfit for use.
The port-wine used in India is generally of a light kind, not unlike what we may term Southampton port. Several years ago, when claret began to be scarce, a large quantity was sent out, and bought up with readiness; but on account of its astringent, and consequently heating, quality, it fell into disrepute. It is, nevertheless, highly esteemed as a restorative, especially in a convalescent state after obstinate bowel-complaints, and in cases of debility not proceeding from obstructions.
Such exceptions are indeed rare; for I believe very few of the local diseases are unconnected with obstruction. In fact, almost every ague, which is a very common complaint in many parts of the country, and is generally designated the Hill, or the Jungle, fever, according to the situation in which it is engendered, either originates from, or resolves into, confirmed hepatitis.
Porter, pale-ale, and table-beer of great strength, are often drunk after meals. All these are found in the utmost perfection, for indifferent malt-liquors do not endure the voyage, and, even should they arrive in a sound state, would meet no sale. A temporary beverage, suited to the very hot weather, and called country-beer, is in general use, though water, artificially cooled, is commonly drunk during the repasts; and nothing can then be more gratifying, but especially after eating curry.
[] Country-beer is made of about one-fifth part porter, or beer, with a wine glassful of toddy (or palm-wine, which is the general substitute for yeast), a small quantity of brown sugar, arid a little grated ginger, or the dried peel of Seville oranges, or limes, which are a small kind of lemon, abounding in citric acid, and to be had very cheap.
The great cheapness and abundance of the materials, added to the frequent and great thirst to which Europeans in India are subject, might seem strong inducements to the free use of punch, lemonade, sangaree, negus, &c. The reverse is, however, the case; for with the exception of the lowest classes, all such beverages are justly discarded. They are deleterious; rarely failing in the first instance to injure, and ultimately to disgrace, all who yield to the temptation. Fortunately, that temptation is not strong, as liquors of a superior quality are found to be more wholesome and pleasant, and, in the long run, not much dearer.
Besides, there is a certain odium attaches in India to all who are in the habit of drinking spirits, whether raw or diluted. In a climate so ungenial to European constitutions, and where, as just remarked, thirst is often very distressing, the frequent recourse to brandy shrob pauny (brandy and water) never fails to produce that sottishness at all times despicable, but peculiarly unsuited to Oriental society, in which at least the better half are men of very liberal education, and all are gentlemen.
It may indeed be said, without fear of refutation, that fewer
from propriety are to be found in the British-Indian settlements, than
in one-tenth the number of inhabitants of the same classes in any other
It has been before shown that taverns, punch-houses, &c.,
no means places of resort, as in Europe. There is no such thing as a
merely as such; unless we so consider the few houses of certain French
and English traiteurs and restaurateurs, who
accommodate committees of shipping, or town meetings, &c., and who
send out dinners to any part of the town, or its vicinity, on terms
to both parties. Therefore, under such exceptions, which are rare, and
setting apart the civic operations of the beef-steak clubs, &c., it
may properly be said that coffee-house association is unknown in
at least among the respectable members of the community. Neither does
corps in the Company's service keep a mess; all the officers dining
at home or in small parties, according as their several fancies or
may lead them.
Among the gentlemen of the civil service, the society is far less diversified than in Europe; therefore intercourse with persons in any way unacceptable may be easily avoided. In this instance, however, there is the most liberal consideration: while any hope of reform may remain, there will rarely be found a disposition to exile a man from that converse with his countrymen, without which he can neither preserve the appearance of [] respectability among the natives, nor, in all probability, receive the approbation of Government. Hence, what is commonly called a black-sheep is a most marked and forlorn character throughout the East, and consequently is very scarce.
Many years ago, when it was customary for the Governor-General and some of the leading gentlemen, such as the Members of Council, &c., to have weekly public breakfasts, persons of all characters mixed promiscuously, and good and bad were to be seen around the same tea-pot. This occasioned a native of some consequence to remark that "among Europeans, all who wore a hat and breeches were gentlemen." The sarcasm was not, however, quite applicable; the breakfast being considered as merely the preface to a levee. It was, therefore, to be expected that on such occasions, persons of every description who had public business to transact at the levee would avail themselves of the opportunity, without reference to the opinions of others regarding their private conduct.
After the arrival of Marquis Cornwallis, these public breakfasts were discontinued, and succeeded by open levees. This was certainly pleasanter for both the Governor and the governed. There are, however, to this day some remains of the former ceremony preserved among a few of the principal gentry; who, on certain days, expect to see their friends, and others who may wish to consult them. Some have two levees, if they may be so designated, weekly: one for Europeans, and one for natives; but such cannot be considered official.
A breakfast in India bears a strong resemblance to the same meal in Scotland, with the exception of whiskey; the introduction of which (if to be had), or of any other spirits, would be considered both nauseous and vulgar. [] The general bill of fare consists of tea, coffee, toast, bread, butter, eggs, rice, salt-fish, kitchery (a kind of olio), various sweetmeats prepared in the country, especially preserved ginger, and orange marmalade, honey, &c.; and, after hunting or shooting, occasionally cold meat, with proper accompaniments.
During a great portion of the year, breakfast is rather a substantial meal. European gentlemen generally rise about day-break, and either proceed to the parade or to their field diversions, or ride on horseback or on elephants; thus enjoying the cool air of the morning. From the middle of March to the middle of October, the sun is very powerful, even when the atmosphere is overcast with very dense clouds. This induces all who ride for health or pleasure to avoid violent exercise; proceeding generally in small parties, each attended by his suee, who carries a whisk of horse-hair, fastened to a short lacquered stick, to drive away flies, which are generally very troublesome both to horses and riders. It is not uncommon to see the backs of horses covered with these noxious insects, which, by their buzzing and their attempts to alight on the face, produce extreme irritation.
During some part of the year, when scarcely a leaf is in motion, and the clouds hang very low, exercise, even so early in the morning, is often more injurious than refreshing. At such seasons, nothing but the abundant perspiration which then relaxes the whole frame, and absolutely oozes through the light clothing in common use, could prevent the occurrence of inflammatory diseases. Many, from uneasiness in consequence of this unpleasant exudation, change their linen three or four times within the day. Yet however refreshing such a change, it cannot be recommended; experience proving that a considerable loss of strength is the inseparable consequence of [] such an indulgence. It is best to have night apparel, and to ride out in the linen worn during the preceding evening; exchanging this for a clean suit on returning, so as to sit down to breakfast in comfort.
Those who are subject to bile cannot too cautiously regard their diet, which should be sparing, and confined to viands dressed in a simple manner. Many gentlemen of the [medical] faculty, in England, consider eggs moderately boiled as rather beneficial in bilious cases; from a notion that the yolk assimilates with the bile, and carries it off. But practice is better than theory; and such as maintain this hypothesis should view the number of patients who appear to owe their pains and sorrows merely to the practice of eating eggs for breakfast.
In the climate of England, to a person with a robust constitution and a digestion which might vie with that of an ostrich, eggs may be innocent; but, in the East, where relaxation weakens the powers of digestion, they are a pernicious article of diet. If, as physicians assert, assimilation take place, it assuredly is on the wrong side; for as all oriental practitioners will probably allow, by the use of eggs the bile is considerably augmented, but not carried off.
However grateful [=attractive] many of the other articles, such as salt-fish, &c. may be, as they cannot tend much to the preservation of health, they should be discarded from the breakfast-table. Many on this subject can speak feelingly. Unable to withstand what appeared a very alluring temptation, thirst, heat, and uneasiness generally followed the imprudence, and gave occasion for many a nauseous dose, which had [=would have] been avoided by a moderate exercise of discretion. Let juvenile readers then, especially, who may be about to proceed to India, forbear to indulge in breakfasts such as have been described.
The tea used in India is green, or hyson, with very [] little bohea. Rarely can either kind be obtained in good condition, as the climate speedily renders tea, if exposed to the air, unfit for use. On this account, leaden catties, generally containing from four to ten pounds, are employed for preserving it. These catties fit in pairs, or, if large, singly into neat boxes provided with locks. Little tea being sold retail, it is usual for a few friends, perhaps three or four, to join in the purchase of a chest.
Thus they would secure the purchase of a good quality; yet, to say the truth, it is seldom of much importance whether the tea be good or bad; for it is always made at a side-table by some menial who knows nothing of the matter, and who never tastes it; hence a cup of good tea is really a rarity. This must appear extraordinary, when it is recollected that many vessels, in five or six weeks only, from China, unlade at Calcutta.
The Arabs convey an abundance of fine coffee from Mocha to every part of India. This they sell at a high price. Bourbon and the Mauritius raise coffee of an inferior quality; and within a few [recent] years, considerable plantations have been formed at Chittagong, the produce of which is abundant, but not to be compared even with the French coffee.
Some coffee has been found to have a very salt, and rather bitter, taste, the cause of which was unknown till it was found to be occasioned by the frazils (or baskets) being immersed in sea water, in order to give the berries that greenish, horny appearance, which is supposed to be the indication of a superior quality.
Sugarcandy is always used with tea, coffee, and indeed for all
purposes. It may be procured of various degrees of purity, and either
indigenous manufacture, or imported from China. The former is sold by
maund, but the latter is in tubs made of thin deal, and [] other
wood, in which the candy, about sixty pounds'
Though the sugar-cane has been supposed to be indigenous in India, yet only within the last fifty years has it been cultivated to any extent. Since the failure of crops in the West Indies many years ago, it has become a most important article of commerce. It is strange that the only sugarcandy used till that time was received from China. Many gentlemen, however, have since speculated deeply in the manufacture, and, while amply serving themselves, have rescued the country from a very impolitic imposition.
Sugarcandy, of the first quality, is now manufactured in various parts of Bengal, and it is at length admitted that the raw sugars from thence are pre-eminently good. Some of a very superior fineness, called Soonamooky, from a place of that name in the Burdwan district, has been sold at a high price.
Further information on this subject, the readers will obtain from Mr. Colebrooke's excellent Essay on the Husbandry of Bengal.
Bread is not made of flour, but of the heart of the wheat, which is very fine, ground into what is called soojy; a kind of meal which, so far from being pulverized, bears a strong resemblance to rather coarse sand. Soojy is kneaded like flour, but there being no yeast in the country (at least such as is known in England by that name), it is leavened by means of toddy; which is the juice obtained, as already described, by making incisions into the taul, or palm-tree.
In many parts of India taul trees, being very scarce, are carefully preserved for the sake of the toddy, which is sold to the nonbaies (or bakers) at a high price. In Bahar, where these trees are peculiarly abundant, groves containing several hundreds are often let out to the kulwars, or distillers, to great advantage.
[] These venders of misery have the art of rendering the toddy peculiarly potent, by causing it to work upon the kernels of the datura, which grows wild in every part of India, and possesses throughout, in the stem, root, leaf, or nut, a most deleterious property. Toddy strongly impregnated with datura (the name it bears in the East) acts very rapidly on the brain; producing, when drunk to excess, mania, and frequent apoplexies.
Bread is usually made into small single loaves, weighing about a pound each, and double loaves, including double the weight. A large proportion, of both sizes, is baked in tin moulds, of a brick form. These are generally preferred, because they are rarely scorched, and require no rasping; as all the other bread, baked in the form of heavy cakes, generally does.
Soojy (the basis of the bread) is frequently boiled for breakfast into stir-about, and eaten with milk, salt, and butter; though some moisten it with porter; a curious medley, by no means suited to every taste, or every digestion.
The camp-oven in common use, consists merely of a very large naud, or pot, rather of a conical form, and capable of containing from thirty to fifty gallons. This vessel is prepared for the purpose by a hole punched through the bottom, large enough to admit a man's arm. It is then placed, mouth downwards, over a corresponding cavity dug out of the soil so as to fit close every way; but in order to allow a proper draught of air, two or more sloping apertures are left, passing under the circumference of the naud.
The vessel is next covered with turf, &c., and thus rendered capable of retaining a considerable heat, long enough to bake small bread. The interior being filled with chips of wood, charcoal, gutties (dried cow-dung), or whatever fuel may be at hand, a strong fire is [] kept up till the naud appears to be nearly at a red heat. The hole, which served for a chimney, is then closed; and the embers being withdrawn, the bread is introduced upon pieces of iron plate or tin, boards, leaves, &c. &c.
The natives invariably eat unleavened bread, generally wheaten, or of barley-meal. Being made into a good dough, it is flattened between the hands, with very great dexterity, into cakes, called chow-patties. These are either put at the edges of the heated choolah, or fire-place, or baked upon a convex circular plate of iron, in diameter about ten inches or a foot. This plate, called a towah, exactly resembles the girdle [sic] made in Scotland for baking oaten bread, and is used in the same manner.
Milk is abundant throughout India, especially among the Hindoos, who venerate the cow, and follow all occupations relating to the dairy; yet from the general custom of smoking the insides of all vessels used for milk, it will not be obtainable in a state suited to the palate of an European, unless a clean pitcher, &c., be sent to the gwallah, or cow-keeper, that the cow may be milked into it.
That fuliginous taste, so obnoxious to Europeans, is perfectly palatable, and perhaps agreeable, to the natives, who assign as a reason for smoking their vessels, that it prevents the milk from turning. It is, however, a question whether the operation of scalding, always performed when practicable, while the milk is warm, be not the true preventive against acidulation. Certain it is that sour milk is very rarely found in India, though for full half the year the thermometer is generally up between 75° and 95° in the shade; and in a Bengallee hut, frequently rising to 110° or more.
The milk obtained from buffaloes is much richer than that from cows, though the butter is very inferior, generally speaking; [] yet the butter produced from the former is very inferior, generally white, and brittle: it however possesses qualities suiting it admirably to the climate, and occasioning the natives to give it the preference. After being warmed to a certain degree, so as to become rather liquified, it is kept nearly stationary in that state for a long time; whereby it loses its aqueous particles, and is rendered fit for keeping. When thus treated, it is called ghee.
Others deviate from this tedious process, and by exposing it to a greater heat, keeping it simmering for some time, effect the purpose more speedily, but not without danger of burning, or at least of giving it a certain empyreumatic flavor. Few of the natives will touch cow-butter, to which they attribute many bad effects, though they will drink ghee by the quart, and pride themselves not a little in being able to afford so luscious an enjoyment. The uncontrolled expenditure of this article, among those whose purses will bear them out in the indulgence, though it may tend to that obesity of which they are inordinately vain, cannot but contribute greatly to the generation of those bilious diseases which so often attack the more opulent natives. Ghee and idleness may be said to give birth to half their ailings.
As an article of commerce, ghee possesses some claim to importance; many thousands of maunds being sent every season from some of the grazing districts, such as Purneah and Sircar-sarun, to the more cultivated parts, and especially to the western provinces. The ghee is generally conveyed in dubbahs, or bottles made of green hide, which, being freed from the hair, and worked up while in a pliant state into the form of a caraboy such as we use for spirits of turpentine, &c., will keep sweet for a long time, provided the mouth of the vessel be well closed. In this manner it is conveyed by water in dubbahs, often measuring nearly a hogs-head; but a smaller kind, containing perhaps from fifteen to twenty gallons each, are made for the purpose of being slung across the backs of bullocks, by which it is carried to places situated at a [] distance from navigable streams. The price of ghee varies according to demand and quality.
Buffaloes' milk may be supposed to possess a very considerable portion of cream, since one-sixth part turns to butter; whereas in England, if a cow, and it must be a good one, yield twenty gallons of milk within the week, this will rarely produce ten pounds of butter, which is equal to only one-eighth part of the mass of milk. The d'hoob grass, which grows wild in almost every part of the country, is peculiarly nutritious; but the food of cattle of all descriptions throughout India, is more dry and solid than that offered to cows in England. Hence, though the quantity of milk yielded by a buffalo may not be equal to that of an English cow of equal weight, the produce in butter, from an equal quantity of milk, will be in favour of the former.
The difficulty of preserving milk from the taste of smoke has been already stated. Besides the cause described, the difficulty is increased by the very small proportion of milk yielded by cows in India; which are, with few exceptions, white, and rarely grow larger than the generality of yearlings, or steers, in England. In some grazing districts they thrive well, attaining to full thirteen hands high, and weighing, when fit for the butcher, from four to five hundred weight; but such are not very numerous. Butter produced from cows' milk, except from such as are well fed, is very indifferent.
Gentlemen keeping dairies, scarcely ten for all India, certainly obtain excellent butter; but that sold by the muckun-wallahs (the butter-men) would appear to a stranger not to be made from the same species of animals. Considering the price of a cow, this butter is remarkably dear, as is usually the case with articles of inferior quality.
Gentlemen, as before mentioned, usually keep for the [] supply of their tea-tables a few goats, which afford milk of a remarkably fine quality, and are herded with store sheep intended to supply vacancies among the fatting stock. The kids produced, generally twice in the year, by each milch goat (mostly twins, and not unfrequently three or even four at a birth), serve to keep up the number of the flock, besides yielding occasionally a most delicate viand for the table.
Nor is any meat more sweet or wholesome than a kid allowed to suck the mother at pleasure; being as white, and, in proportion, as fat as any veal. Kid-meat is in general request, as admirably suited for rich curries, and also roasting remarkably well. It may be had of any butcher; and when of a good size, and duly fatted, a whole kid weighs about six pounds.
By the word butcher, must not be understood a shopkeeper exposing the several joints of various animals for sale, as in English markets. On the contrary, a fat kusse (cut-goat) or two, and two or three kids daily, with now and then a half-fatted ox during the cold months, comprise the whole business of an Indian butcher in full trade. The greater part of his profit is derived from slaughtering oxen, calves, pigs, sheep, and kids, for families. For this service he receives a few annas (or two-pences), according to the size of the animal: in most instances butchers take the skin, pluck, and sometimes the head, as a perquisite.
It is impossible to produce finer mutton than is served up in India; nor can there be finer beef than that seen in most cantonments, and among fixed residents. At some of the principal military and civil stations, gentlemen who keep a regular table usually fatten several bullocks for winter slaughtering. Some of these are fed full two years on gram; and, exclusive of being burdened with fat on the kidneys, &c., have their flesh absolutely marbled by [] the admixture of fat among the fleshy parts. Sometimes the officers of a regiment join to fatten four or five head, the parts of which are either divided according to mutual concurrence, or drawn for by lot. This supplies fresh beef during the winter; very few bullocks being killed at any other time, from the extreme difficulty of preserving the meat.
To persons who have never witnessed the hasty strides of putrefaction in hot climates, this forbearance from beef, for so large a portion of the year, may appear unnecessary. It is, however, a fact that during the close weather, prevalent throughout the rains, and for a certain part of the hot season, meat, though killed only about midnight, will often become putrid long before the time when it ought to be on the spit; and that too in spite of every precaution.
The markets at Calcutta are open at day-break; when very fine meat of every kind, with various sorts of choice fish, fruits, vegetables, &c., may be purchased on very reasonable terms. Beef may sometimes be seen there in the hottest weather; for being cut up into small joints, a bullock may be readily sold off among so many customers; but generally the prime pieces, with all the best fish, &c., are bought up by sunrise.
The refuse joints are usually bought by Portuguese, Europeans of the lower classes, or persons who supply the shipping, the only customers for bazaar-pork. The whole of the non-commissioned and privates, in the several regiments of Europeans, are served with meat, rice, spirits, and fire-wood, by contract; receiving their several quotas early in the morning, under the inspection of their commissioned officers, who make their reports of any deficiencies, either in quantity or quality.
Those gentlemen who produce pork at their tables, are very particular as to the manner in which the pigs are fed. [] Many are so fastidious as not to allow any to be served up, unless educated, as it is called, in their own sties; the very circumstance of being born elsewhere absolutely disqualifying, and rendering of no avail, all that change of bulk, and all that purification, derived from perhaps a whole year of confinement to a clean sty; in which they are fed only with the best corn (gram).
This is carrying daintiness to an extreme; but it must be confessed that swine in that part of the world are so offensively greedy in the indulgence of their appetites, as to give occasion for many very reasonable scruples regarding the use of bazaar-pork; which is indiscriminately killed from the fattest of those wanderers that sometimes feast upon the most offensive lay-stalls.
A very laughable circumstance occurred in 1803, at Berhampore. An officer who had been many years at Gibraltar, where a joint of meat of any kind was a rarity, and probably gave occasion to no questions as to its education, produced at his table a very fine corned leg of pork, of which all his guests ate with great avidity. One of them, when the repast was over, begged leave to enquire how the gentleman kept his pigs; what had been on table being of a flavour so superior, that he presumed it was educated in some very particular manner.
"Oh no," answered the host, "I never trouble my head about sties. My man bought a whole side of it this morning of Neeloo the butcher, for eight annas" (15d.). This untimely disclosure operated not only like magic, but like emetic tartar. The whole company were affected with violent sickness, and retired to give vent, both to the pork and to their feelings, on so dreadful an occasion. However, none died in consequence of having been thus poisoned; but the whole station received the tale with [] horror, and resolved, to a man, never to accept another invitation from the unfortunate hero of the rock.
Very few officers have piggeries; they commonly content themselves with hams and cheeks imported from England. The grossness of the viand is, however, so very inappropriate to the climate, that even after the most delicate management, pork is by no means considered as a choice dish; sucking pigs are more generally approved.
Veal can so very seldom be obtained in the market, of a quality fit for the table, that four or five friends commonly join to rear calves for their own expenditure, dividing every calf that is slaughtered. The best and most economical plan is to agree with some butcher, to receive of him a cow and calf, the latter being newly born, and to return him the mother, after the calf has been killed, together with four rupees (10s.). By this mode, the calf will thrive admirably if the cow be well fed; but it is a common and useful practice to give the calf, three times daily, as much scalded milk as it can drink, drenching it either with a horn or a quart bottle.
From three to four quarts, in each of which the yolk of a fresh egg is beat up, will commonly produce the desired effect, rendering the meat very fine by the end of a month; the usual age at which they are slaughtered. What with the food of the mother, the milk and eggs given to the calf, and the necessary attendance, a gold-mohur (£2.) will generally be expended upon each calf, unless several be kept together as a successive supply for the table; in which case, about twelve rupees will be found the average expense. In this is reckoned the expense on a calf which will, now and then, perhaps one in five, prove a bad one; and, notwithstanding every precaution, either scour or pine.
[] From the extreme antipathy which the horned cattle of India always exhibit towards Europeans, it is impossible to remedy many bad practices and neglects to which these animals are subject under the care of the native servants. An Indian ox or cow, when at liberty, is always carefully shunned, lest it should indulge its savage disposition. A stranger, on first entering the country, would suppose the cattle to be wild instead of domesticated; for not one in a thousand will admit the approach of an European; nor are they always more gentle towards strangers of any description. As to what are called tame buffaloes, they are commonly fiercer than any British bull, and, with calves at their sides, will attack man and horse with unbounded ferocity.
Hence, it is extremely proper to be cautious of approaching herds or single cattle of either kind, even when tolerably mounted. Sometimes, in riding through the country, and especially where jeels (lakes) are to be forded or pools to be passed, the unwary traveller finds himself, on a sudden, within a few yards of a whole herd of buffaloes, which, to avoid the heat of mid-day, will wallow in the muddy water, so deep that only their noses and eyes are above the surface. Among rushes, &c., even those parts are not discernible; or, if in an open expanse, may be easily mistaken for clods of mud; for the horns lie back towards the false ribs. On a sudden, the whole herd sometimes rise, and at least frighten the horse, of whatever the rider's heart may be made.
Such a surprise, and from animals that, according to the old saying, "give but a word and a blow, and the blow comes first," is far from pleasant. In such situations, all depends on the conduct of the leading bull. If he snorts, shakes his horns, and advances, the danger is imminent. But it frequently happens that, whether [] owing to lassitude, or the absence of any object particularly irritating to buffaloes, of which a red coat may be considered the extreme, the herd content themselves with rising from their reclined postures, and, after those who roused them may have passed on, again sink into the friendly pool.