George T. Lowth was one of the nineteenth centuries intrepid travellers who turned his adventures into a book. He made his journey in 1850-1, and published his account under the title of The Wanderer in Arabia: Or Western Footsteps in Eastern Tracks. At the turn of the New Year he was ‘in the wilds of Upper Egypt’, and he and his fellow guests aboard the Cambria sat down to dinner presented by ‘the caliph and Selim.’
A Nile fish, with Prince of Wales’ sauce (a small silver fish, delicate as a Thames flounder).
Pigeon-pie – lamb kufties, with wine sauce
Roast turkey and fried bacon.
Mashed potatoes – boiled native légumes – unknown.
Mince-pies – puddings of Damascus mishmish of apricot.
Gloucester cheese – pale ale.
Oranges, figs, almonds and raisins, dates from Mecca.
Nectar from Yemen – English biscuits.
The menu details are somewhat lost in interpretation. The dinner was clearly a mix of local and English ingredients and dishes: the lentsiche soup was presumably lentil soup, the kufties presumably meatballs (kofta, kofte.) The nectar from Yemen is a mystery – it is not likely to have been alcohol in any form, so perhaps was a sweetened fruit drink? The Gloucester cheese was, and is unequivocally English, and along with Cheshire cheese, was a seafaring staple for centuries.
I had thought at first that mishmish was a simple compote of apricots, but it is described in another book of travellers tales from Egypt as ‘an excellent dish of small apricots, dried and stewed, and served up in general with boiled rice.’ The dried apricots of Damascus are particularly admired, and some books refer to the apricots alone as the Mish-mish.I guess the name means the same as mish-mash, or ‘a confused mixture; a medley, hotchpotch, or jumble’. The OED ascribes a German origin to mish-mash, and admits to perhaps some Yiddish influence – but I would love to know what this dish is called in Arabic. Any experts out there?
The recipe for the day could easily be the simple description above, but I also offer you:
Compôte of Apricots.
Pick out the stones of twenty-five apricots that are not quite ripe, prick and blanch, but do not boil. Put them into a pound of clarified sugar, upon a slow fire, that the sugar may penetrate them; dish them in the compôtier, give the sugar a boil, and pour it over them: a kernel may be blanched and put in each.
Domestic Economy and Cookery, for rich and poor, by a Lady (1827)
Quotation for the Day …
Travel by sea nearly approximates the bliss of babyhood. They feed you, rock you gently to sleep and when you wake up, they take care of you and feed you again