Yesterday’s post was on one of my favourite themes – food through a foreigner’s eyes. It seems that many of you also enjoy this sort of foodie travelogue, so I have another interesting narrative for you today. It is lengthy, and I am a slow typist, so I will give you the second half of the story tomorrow.
The piece appeared in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1722.
The Mauritanian or Barbarian Moor, when, he rises in the Morning, washes himself all over, and dresses, then goes to Church, says his Prayers, and returns home, to their Jiama, where his Wife, Concubine, or Slave hath his Breakfast provided for him, which is sometimes made of Barley or Wheat-Gruel, for I have known both. It is made something thicker than ours, till it be ropy, they put Origan, and other Herbs, powdered into it, which for such Uses they keep dryed all the Year, some will put a little Pepper and other Spice. I have often been treated with warm Bread, fresh Butter, and Honey, in a Morning, which is not seldom used amongst themselves, an Hour or two after they have had Gruel, as also Hasty Pudding, with Butter and sometimes Butter and Honey. Some again give Cuscusoo with Milk and others with Flesh, a third with Roots. When any one hath a Guest or Guests in his House, the Neighbours bring their Dish to welcome him or them, on account of the Respect and Love they bear to their Neighbour, as well as to shew their readiness to entertain the Stranger. This Practice is found constantly used throughout the whole Country amongst the Moors one towards another, reciprocally: And I have as often found the like Civility, as I had occasion to take up my Lodging at any Place, where I was acquainted with any of the Inhabitants. The Jews likewise shew great Civility to any Christians, and treat him with what they have, as Stewed or Baked Hens, Capons, hard Eggs boiled or roasted, (which they press flat with Pepper and Salt) Wine, Brandy, &c. They have generally the best Bread, and every thing else of the kind that they can get, They put Annis and 2 or 3 other sorts of Seeds in their Bread, one is Black and Angled, tastes almost like Carrot-Seeds, and I think I have seen these sometimes used in Bread in Spain. They esteem Honey as a wholesome Breakfast and the most Delicious that which is in the Comb, with the young bees in it before they come out of their Cases, whilst they still look Milkwhite, and resemble (being taken out) Gentles, such as Fishers use; These I have often eat but they seemed Insipid to my Palate, and sometimes I have found they gave me the Heart-Burn.
In Suse [?] I had a bag of Honey brought by a Friend who made a present of it, as being of great esteem, this he told me, I was to eat a little of it every Morning, to the Quantity of a Walnut; it was thick as Venice Treacle, and full of small Seeds. It always made me Sleepy, but I found my self well, and in very good temper of Body alter it. The Seeds were about the bigness of Mustard, And according to the Description of them to me, and the Effects found by eating the Honey and them, they must be a large sort of Poppy Seed. The Honey was that sort they call in Suse Izucanee or Origamu, which (the Bees feed on, and) these Seeds were mixed with.
Cusous or Cusksoo, is the principal Dish among them as the Olla is in Spain, This is made of Flower of Wheat, and when it is scarce, of Barley, Millet, Indian Corn, &c. they shake some Flower into an Earthern Pan, made on purpose, which is not glazed, sprinkling a little Water on the bottom of the Pan first, then working it with both their open Hands flat, turning them backwards and forwards to grain it, till they make it much resembling Sago which comes from the East-Indies. They strew their Flesh, keeping their pots close covered which are made of Earth, put the Cusksoo into an Earthen Cullender, which they call Caskass [?], and this Cullender into the Mouth of the Pot, that all the Steam which rises from the Meat may be imbibed by the Cusksoo which causes it to swell, and makes it fit to be eaten. When it is enough they put this Cusksoo out into a Dish, and the Cusksoo being heaped up, they make (as it were) a Bed or Place for the Meat to lie in, then they put good store of Spice, as Ginger, Pepper, Saffron,
Sec. This Dsh is set upon a Mat on the Ground, and 4 Men may easily sit about it, tho I have feen 6 or more at one Dish, they sit with their Buttocks upon the Calves of their Legs, with the bottom of their Feet on the Ground. If there are many to eat of this Meal, there are more Dishes. This Dish they have in Use sometimes at Breakfast, as well as Dinner and Supper, but it is commonly used for the two last Meals.
At a stately Entertainment they will have a Sheep roasted whole, sometimes a Half, or a Quarter on a wooden Spit, or the most convenient thing they can find, They do not continually keep turning it, as we do, but leisurely let one Side be almost roasted before they turn the other. The Fire is commonly of Wood burnt to clear Coal, and made so that the Heat ascends to the Meat. They baste it with Oyl, and a little Salt and Water incorporated. They let it be thoroughly roasted , then they say Bismillah, In the Name of God, after they have washed their right Hands, and pulling the Meat in Pieces, they fall to eating. It is to be noted, that they never use but their right Hand in eating, and one holds while the other pulls it asunder, distributing the Pieces to the rest, as he pulls it off. They seldom use a Knife and a Fork is a strange thing amongst them. They are dextrous at this way of Carving, and never flinch at the Heat or Warmth, for that would look mean, and might occasion one more Bold to take his Office upon him to perform. When they have done, they lick their Fingers, and as often as they have a hot Dish, they wash their Hands afresh. Then they have Alfdoush [?} or Virmezzeli, with some Meat one it, stewed Meat, well spiced with savoury Broth, and after they have eat the Meat, they didp their Bread in the Sauce, or Broth, and eat it. They
They are cleanly in their Cookery-, and if a Hair be found f]it is a capital Crime, but a Fly not, because it has Wings, and may get in after it passes from the Cook's Charge or Management.
Cubbob is small pieces of Mutton with the Cawl of a Sheep wrapped on them. Some make good Cubbob of the Liver, Lights and Heart. They Pepper and Salt them, and put sweet Herbs and Saffron into them, then roast them, and when they dish them up, squecze an Orange or two on them.
Elmorosia is another; This is Pieces of Beef, or Cow or Camel stewed with Butter, Honey and Water, some will put [word?] of Wine amongst it; they add Saffron, Garlick, or Onions, a little Salt, and when it is enough, serve it up. They esteem this a delicious Dish, used mostly in the Winter, and say, it is good against Colds, notwithstandingthey say Beef is cooler than Mutton. Then they will treat you with Hare stew’d, stew’d and roasted Hens and Partridges: These they disjoint, and let stew in Water and Oyl, or Butter, if they are not Fat enough of themselves. When they are almost enough, they beat a Couple of Eggs, mix them with the Liquor, with Juice of Lemon, or Vinegar, which they usually have very good, and serve it up.
Then you may have more Baked and Roast, and another dish of stew’d Meat, which for its Goodness would be esteem’d amongst us: They take a Leg of Mutton, cut off the fleshy part, leave out the Skin and the Sinews. This Flesh they mince very fine, they also mince some Suet, Parsly, Thime, Mint, &c. Then they take Pepper, Salt, and Saffron beaten together, and some Nutmeg, and these they add to the rest, with about a Handful of Rice; they cut an Onion, of the best sort, half through, and take off the first Lay, as not fit for Use, unless it be thick. (They that are curious take out the inner Skin, saying, it is not wholesome, and bad for the Eyes, it being the worst thing in an Onion, which otherwise would be the best of Roots.) this Lay they fill with forc’d Meat, then the next, and so on, which makes them look like so many Onions; some they put up in Vine-Leaves, of the best they can find for their Purpose. Whilst this is doing, the Bones and Residue of the Leg of Mutton, being in moderate pieces, are stewing with as much Waters as will just cover them; then they put on their forced Meat Balls a-top of the Meat, and a green Bunch of Grapes upon them, cover it, and let it boil till thoroughly enough. This, I think, is one of their best Dishes, which they often use in Fess and other Cities.
Pillowe, or Piloe, is a Dish very well known, made with Rice boil’d, with a good Hen, Mutton, and Spice, the Flesh and Fowl being put on the Rice in a Dish, as Cusksoo, and so served up.
A Bustard, which they roast and stew, and make an excellent Dish of its Guts, (I eat of it once) to me seem’d very pleasant and savory, and very grateful to the Stomach. This Bird is fit for their King’s Table, as likewise the Hedge-Hog. Then they have Ragous, made with Sparrows, Pidgeons, &c.
It is such fun to read these remarkably even-handed descriptions (no mean-spirited laughing at the barbarians). Who would have guessed that the term "heartburn" goes back to 1722? And an excellent description of making and cooking couscous. And the mutton-stuffed onion looks marvelous!
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