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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Who carried tray after tray full of delicacies


When

we reached Fatabad--that was the name of the village close to which our host's country residence stood--we alighted at a most beautiful avenue of high trees on either side of a long tank of limpid water, in which gracefully floated dozens of swans and ducks. We were met at the gate by our host, a charming old fellow, and his son, Mahommed Ali Khan, a most intelligent young man. Surrounded by a crowd of servants we were shown round the beautiful garden, with its rare plants from all parts of the world, its well-cared-for flowers, and its fruit trees of every imaginable kind. There was a handsome house built in semi-European style and with European furniture in it. On a table in the dining-room were spread a great many trays of sweets. After the usual compliments dinner was brought in by a long row of attendants, who carried tray after tray full of delicacies, part of which they deposited on the table, the rest on the floor.

Our host, with much modesty, asked us to sit at the table, and he and his Persian friends sat themselves on the floor. We--the Consul, the two other Englishmen, residents of Kerman, and myself, however--declined to take advantage of his offer and declared that we should all sit on the floor in the best Persian style, an attention which was greatly appreciated by our host and by his friends.

It was with some dismay that I saw more trays of food being conveyed into the room, until the whole

floor was absolutely covered with trays, large and small, and dishes, cups and saucers, all brim-full of something or other to eat.

[Illustration: A View of the Kerman Plain from the "Ya Ali" Inscription.

(How steep the ascent to the inscription is can be seen by the mountain side on left of observer.)]

[Illustration: Wives Returning from the Pilgrimage for Sterile Women.]

Persian food of the better kind and in moderation is not at all bad nor unattractive. It is quite clean,--cleaner, if it comes to that, than the general run of the best European cooking. The meat is ever fresh and good, the chickens never too high--in fact, only killed and bled a few minutes before they are cooked; the eggs always newly laid in fact, and not merely in theory, and the vegetables ever so clean and tasty. As for the fruit of Central and Southern Persia, it is eminently excellent and plentiful.

The Persians themselves eat with their fingers, which they duly wash before beginning their meals, but we were given silver forks and spoons and best English knives. Really to enjoy a Persian meal, however, one's fingers are quite unapproachable by any more civilised device.

The most sensible part of a Persian meal is its comparative lack of method and order, anybody picking wherever he likes from the many dishes displayed in the centre of the room and all round him; but any one endowed with digestive organs of moderate capacity feels some apprehension at the mountains of rice and food which are placed before one, and is expected to devour. A European who wants to be on his best behaviour finds the last stages of a Persian dinner a positive trial, and is reminded very forcibly of the terrible fable of the frog that tried to emulate the cow. To show the reader to what test of expansion one's capacity is put, no better evidence can be given than a faithful enumeration of the viands spread before us at the dinner here described, all of which we were made to taste.

Qalam pal[=a]j[=o] = Cabbage pilao. Chil[=a]-[=o] = White rice with a soupcon of butter. Khurish-i-murgh-i-b[=a]dinj[=a]n = Stew of chicken with tomatoes. Kab[=a]b-i-ch[=u]ja = Broiled chicken. Sh[=a]m[=i] = Meat sausages. Dulmayi qalam = Meat wrapped in cabbage leaves with onions and beans. [=A]b-g[=u]sht = Soup with a lump of meat. Halwa = A dish of honey, pistache, and camel's milk. K[=u]-k[=u] = Omelette of eggs and vegetables. Mushta = Rissoles. Mast = Curds. Kharbuza = Melon. Pan[=i]r = Cheese. Turb = Radishes. Pista = Pistachio nuts. [=A]n[=a]r = Pomegranates. Zab[=a]n-i-gaw = Green bombes. Tursh[=i] = Pickles of all sorts. Rishta = White and green vermicelli cakes. Murabba bihi = Preserved gum.


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