|Source: Abu'l-Fazl 'Allami, A'IN-I AKBARI (3 vols.). Vol. 1 trans. H. Blochmann, 1927. Vol. 1, pp. 59-61. Ed. *ZDJ*|
Book 1, Chapter 23: The Imperial Kitchen
|His Majesty even extends his attention
to this department, and has given many wise regulations for it; nor can
a reason be given why he should not do so, as the equilibrium of man's
nature, the strength of the body, the capability of receiving external
and internal blessings, and the acquisition of worldly and religious advantages,
depend ultimately on proper care being shown for appropriate food. This
knowledge distinguishes man from beasts, with whom, as far as mere eating
is concerned, he stands upon the same level. If his Majesty did not possess
so lofty a mind, so comprehensive an understanding, so universal a kindness,
he would have chosen the path of solitude, and given up sleep and food
altogether; and even now, when he has taken upon himself the temporal and
spiritual leadership of the people, the question, "What dinner has been
prepared to-day? " never passes over his tongue. In the course of twenty-four
hours his Majesty eats but once, and leaves off before he is fully satisfied;
neither is there any fixed time for this meal, but the servants have always
things so far ready, that in the space of an hour, after the order has
been given, a hundred dishes are served up. The food allowed to the women
of the seraglio commences to be taken from the kitchen in the morning,
and goes on till night.
Trustworthy and experienced people are appointed to this department; and all good servants attached to the court, are resolved to perform whatever service they have undertaken. Their head is assisted by the Prime Minister himself. His Majesty has entrusted to the latter the affairs of the state, but especially this important department. Notwithstanding all of this, his Majesty is not unmindful of the conduct of the servants. He appoints a zealous and sincere man as Mir Bakawal, or Master of the Kitchen, upon whose insight the success of the department depends, and gives him several upright persons as assistants. There are also treasurers for the cash and the stores, several tasters, and a clever writer. Cooks from all countries prepare a great variety of dishes, of all kinds of grains, greens, meats; also oily, sweet, and spicy dishes. Every day such dishes are prepared as the nobles can scarcely command at their feasts, from which you may infer how exquisite the dishes are which are prepared for his Majesty.
In the beginning of the year the Sub-treasurers make out an annual estimate, and receive the amount; the money bags and the door of the store-house being sealed with the seals of the Mir Bakawal and the writer; and every month a correct statement of the daily expenditure is drawn up, the receipt for which is sealed by the same two officers, when it is entered under the head of the expenditure. At the beginning of every quarter, the Diwan-i buyutat and the Mir Bakawal, collect whatever they think will be necessary; e.g. Sukhdas rice from Bharaij, Dewzira rice from Gwaliar, Jinyin rice from Rajori and Nimlah, ghi from Hisar Firuza; ducks, water-fowls, and certain vegetables from Kashmir. Patterns are always kept. The sheep, goats, berberies, fowls, ducks, etc., are fattened by the cooks; fowls are never kept less than a month. The slaughter-house is without the city or the camp, in the neighbourhood of rivers and tanks, where the meat is washed, when it is sent to the kitchen in sacks sealed by the cooks. There it is again washed, and thrown into the pots. The water-carriers pour the water out of their leather bags into earthen vessels, the mouths of which are covered with pieces of cloth, and sealed up; and the water is left to settle before it is used. A place is also told off as a kitchen garden, that there may be a continual supply of fresh greens. The Mir Bakawal and the writer determine the price of every eatable, which becomes a fixed rule; and they sign the day-book, the estimates, the receipts for transfers, the list of wages of the servants, etc., and watch every transaction. Bad characters, idle talkers, unknown persons are never employed; no one is entertained without a personal security, nor is personal acquaintance sufficient.
The victuals are served up in dishes of gold and silver, stone and earthenware; some of the dishes being in charge of each of the Sub-Bakawals. During the time of cooking, and when the victuals are taken, an awning is spread, and lookers-on kept away. The cooks tuck up their sleeves, and the hems of their garments, and hold their hands before their mouths and noses when the food is taken out; the cook and the Bakawal taste it, after which it is tasted by the Mir Bakawal, and then put into the dishes. The gold and silver dishes are tied up in red cloths, and those of copper and china in white ones. The Mir Bakawal attaches his seal, and writes on it the names of the contents, whilst the clerk of the pantry writes out on a sheet of paper a list of all vessels and dishes, which he sends inside, with the seal of the Mir Bakawal, that none of the dishes may be changed. The dishes are carried by the Bakawals, the cooks, and the other servants, and macebearers precede and follow, to prevent people from approaching them. The servants of the pantry send at the same time, in bags containing the seal of the Bakawal, various kinds of bread, saucers of curds piled up, and small stands containing plates of pickles, fresh ginger, limes, and various greens. The servants of the palace again taste the food, spread the table cloth on the ground, and arrange the dishes; and when after some time his Majesty commences to dine, the table servants sit opposite him in attendance; first, the share of the dervishes is put apart, when his Majesty commences with milk curds. After he has dined, he prostrates himself in prayer. The Mir Bakawal is always in attendance. The dishes are taken away according to the above list. Some victuals are also kept half ready, should they be called for.
The copper utensils are tinned twice a month; those of the princes, etc., once; whatever is broken is given to the braziers, who make new ones.
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