The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION X. Of their Diet, their Cookery in dressing it, &c.

ANd though this Country affords very much variety of ex∣cellent good Provisions, yet the Mahometans feed not freely on any flesh, but on that which is strange, and forbidden (of the Hindoos Diet I shall speak afterwards): but for the Ma∣hometans they are a people, as I conceive, not much given to their Palate; but are very careful of, and temperate in their Diet, as having learn'd by experience, that full bellies do more op∣press, than strengthen the body, that too much of the Creature doth not comfort but destroy Nature; It being a tried truth, that Gluttony reacheth, and kills those whom swords cannot touch. All Diseases of the body for the most part being con∣tracted to it by Surfeits, in on kinde or other; and therefore they keep themselves to a thin Diet, and eat not to pamper and please their Appetite, but to satisfie and support nature, which is con∣tented with a little every where, but with less in hot Countries, where mens digestion of food is not so quick and good; this be∣ing further a tried truth, that those bodies are most strong, active, and healthy, which are most temperate.

Therefore though they have abundance of flesh and fowl, and have fish too, yet are they temperate in all of them. For Swines flesh, it is an abomination unto the Mahometans; and therefore they touch it not. And for other kind of flesh, they eat very little of them alone, to make their full meals of them, for they dress no kind of flesh in great pieces, or whole joynts, nor scarce any of their fowls whole.

Page  407For boyling of flesh in water, or baking or roasting any flesh, are pieces of Cookery (if I observed well) they know not; but they stew all their flesh as their Kid and other Venison, &c. out into sippets, or slices, or little parts, to which they put Onions, and Herbs, and Roots, and Ginger, (which they take there green out of the earth) and other Spices, with some butter, which ingredients when as they are well proportioned, make a Food that is exceedingly pleasing to all Palats, at their first ta∣sting thereof most savoury Meat, haply that very dish which Jacob made for his Father Isaac, when he got the blessing, Gen. 27.

With their flesh and herbs, &c. they sometimes stew Hens and other Foul cut in pieces, which is like that the Spaniards call an Oleo, but more toothsome.

But their great common standing dish there is Rice, which they boyl with more Art than we: for they boyl the grain so as that it is full, and plump, and tender, but not broken in boyling; they put to it a little green Ginger, and Pepper, and Butter, and this is the ordinary way of their dressing it, and so 'tis very good.

Sometimes they boyl pieces of flesh, or Hens, and other Fowl cut in pieces in their Rice, which dish they call Pillaw; as they order it, they make it a very excellent, and a very well-tasted Food.

Once my Lord Ambassadour had an Entertainment there by Asaph Chan, who invited him to dinner (and this was the only re∣spect in that kind he ever had, while he was in East-India) That Asaph Chan was a Man made by his great Alliances, the greatest Subject and Favourite in all that Empire; for his Sister was the Mogol's most beloved Wife, and his Daughter was mar∣ried unto Sultan Caroon the Prince, and very much beloved by him, but of all these, more afterward.

This Asaph Chan entertained my Lord Ambassador in a very spacious and a very beautiful Tent, where none of his fol∣lowers besides my self, saw, or tasted of that Entertainment.

That Tent was kept full of a very pleasant Perfume; in which sents the King and Grandees there take very much delight. The floor of the Tent was first covered all over with very rich and large Carpets, which were covered again in the places where our dinner stood, with other good Carpets, made of stitch'd Leather, to preserve them which were richer; and these were covered again with pure white and fine Callico Clothes, and all these covered with very many dishes of Silver, but for the greater part of those Silver dishes they were not larger than our largest trencher-plates, the brims of all of them gilt.

We sate in that large Room as it were in a Triangle; The Ambassadour on Asaph Chan's right hand a good distance from him, and my self below; all of us on the ground, as they there all do when as they eat, with our Faces looking each to the Page  408 other, and every one of us had his several mess. The Ambas∣sadour had more dishes by ten, and I less by ten, than our en∣tertainer had, yet for my part I had fifty dishes. They were all set before us at once, and little paths left betwixt them, that our entertainers servants (for onely they waited) might come and reach them to us one after another, and so they did. So that I tasted of all set before me, and of most did but taste, though all of them tasted very well.

Now of the provision it self, for our larger dishes, they were filled with Rice, dressed (as before describ'd.) And this Rice was presented to us, some of it white, in its own proper colour, some of it made yellow with Saffron, and some of it was made green, and some of it put into a purple colour, but by what Ingredient I know not, but this I am sure, that it all tasted very well; And with Rice thus ordered, several of our dishes were furnished, and very many more of them with flesh of several kinds, and with Hens, and with other sort of Fowl cut in pieces, as before I observed in their Indian Cookery.

To these we had many Jellies, and Culices; Rice ground to flower, and then boyled, and after sweetned with Sugar-Candy and Rose-Water to be eaten cold. The flower of Rice mingled with sweet Almonds, made as small as they could, and with some of the most fleshy parts of Hens stewed with it, and after the flesh so beaten into pieces, that it could not be discern'd, all made sweet with Rose-Water and Sugar-Candy, and sented with Amber-Greece; this was another of our dishes, and a most luscious one, which the Portugals call Mangee Real, Food for a King. Many other dishes we had, made up in Cakes of several forms, of the finest of the wheat-flower, mingled with Almonds and Sugar-Candy, whereof some were sented, and some not. To these Potatoes excellently well dressed, and to them divers Sallads, and the curious fruits of that Country, some preserved in Sugar, and others raw, and to these many Roots candied, Almonds blanched, Raisons of the Sun, Prunellas, and I know not what, of all enough to make up that number of dishes before named; and with these quelque chose, was that entertain∣ment made up.

And it was better a great deal, than if it had consisted of full and heaped up dishes, such as are sometimes amongst us pro∣vided, for great and profuse entertainments. Our Bread was of very good and excellent Wheat, made up very white and light, in round Cakes; and for our Drink, some of it was brew'd for ought I know, ever since Noah his Flood, that good innocent water, being all the Drink there commonly used (as before) and in those hot Climates (it being better digested there than in any other parts) it is very sweet, and allayes thirst better than any other Liquor can, and therefore better pleaseth, and agreeth better with every Man that comes and lives there, than any other Drink.

Page  409At this entertainment we sat long, and much longer than we could with ease cross-leg'd, but all considered, our Feast in that place was better than Apicius, that famous Epicure of Rome, with all his witty Gluttony (for so Paterculus calls it, ingeniosa Gula,) could have made with all provisions had from the Earth, and Air, and Sea.

My Lord Ambassadour observed not that uneasie way of sitting at his meat, but as in his own House had Tables and Chairs, &c. Served he was altogether in Plate, and had an English, and Indian Cook to dress his dyet, which was very plentiful, and cheap likewise; so that by reason of the great va∣riety of provisions there, his weekly account for his House-keep∣ing came but to little.

The meaner sort of people there eat Rice boyled with their green-Ginger and a little Pepper, after which they put Butter into it, which is their principal dish, and but seldom eaten by them: But their ordinary Food is made (not of the flowr of Wheat) but of a coarse well tasted Grain, made up in round broad and thick Cakes, which they bake upon their thin iron plates (before spoken of) which they carry with them, when as they travel from place to place; when they have bak'd those Cakes, they put a little Butter on them: And doubt∣less the poor people find this a very hearty Food, for they who live most upon it, are as strong as they could be, if they had their diet out of the King's Kitchin. I shall here say no more of this, but proceed to speak.