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“The ladies of zananah life are not restricted from the society of their own sex; they are, as I have before remarked, extravagantly fond
RELIGIONS OF PERSIA.
of company, and equally as hospitable when entertained. To be alone is a trial to which they are seldom exposed, every lady having companions amongst her dependants; and according to her means the number in her establishment is regulated. Some ladies of rank have from two to ten companions, independent of slaves and domestics; and there are some of the royal family at Lucknow who entertain in their service two or three hundred female dependants, of all classes. A well-fitted zananah is a mark of gentility, and even the poorest lady in the country will retain a number of slaves and domestics, if she cannot afford companions; besides which they are miserable vrithout society, the habit of associating with numbers having grown up with infancy to maturity: “to be alone,” is considered, with women thus situated, a real calamity.
“On occasions of assembling in large parties, each lady takes with her a companion besides two or three slaves to attend upon her, no one expecting to be served by the servants of the house at which they are visiting. This swells the number to be provided for; and as the visit is always for three days and three nights (except on ’Ids, when the visit is confined to one day) some forethought must be exercised by the lady of the house, that all may be accommodated in such manner as may secure to her the reputation of hospitality.
“The kitchen and offices to the zananah, I have remarked, occupy one side of the quadrangle; they face the great or center hall appropriated to the assembly. These kitchens, however, are sufficiently distant to prevent any great annoyance from the smoke—I say smoke, because chimneys have not yet been introduced into the kitchens .of the natives.
“The fire-places are all on the ground, something resembling stoves, each admitting one saucepan, the Asiatic style of cooking requiring no other contrivance. Roast or boiled joints are never seen at the dinner of a native; a leg of mutton or sirloin of beef would place the hostess under all sorts of difficulties, where knives and forks are not understood to be amongst the useful appendages of a meal. The varieties of their dishes are countless, but stews and curries are the chief; all the others are mere varieties. The only thing in the shape of roast meats are small lean cutlets bruised, seasoned and cemented with pounded poppy seed. Several being fastened together on skewers, they are grilled or roasted over a charcoal fire spread on the ground, and then called kabab, which word implies roast meat.
“The kitchen of a zananah would be inadequate to the business of cooking for a large assembly; the most choice dishes only (for the
PERSIA BY A PERSIAN.
highly-favored guests) are cooked by the servants of the establishment The needed abundance required in entertaining a large party is provided by a regular bazar cook, several of whom establish themselves in native cities, or wherever there is a Moslem population. Orders being previously given, the morning and evening dinners are punctually forwarded at the appointed hours in covered trays, each tray having portions of the several good things ordered, so that there is no confusion in serving out the feast on its arrival at the mansion. The food thus prepared by the bazar cook is plain boiled rice, sweet rice, khir (rice milk), mutanjan (rice sweetened with the addition of preserved fruits, raisins, etc., colored with saffron), salans (curries) of many varieties, some cooked with vegetables, others with unripe fruits with or without meat; pulaos of many sorts, kababs, preserves, pickles, chatnis, and many other things too tedious to admit of detail.
“The bread in general use amongst natives is chiefly unleavened; nothing in the likeness of English bread is to be seen at their meals; and many object to its being fermented with the intoxicating toddy (extracted from a tree). Most of the native bread is baked on iron plates over a charcoal fire. They have many varieties, both plain and rich, and some of the latter resembles our pastry, both in quality and flavor.
“The dinners, I have said, are brought into the zananah, ready dished in the native earthenware, on trays; and as they neither use spoons nor forks, there is no great delay in setting out the meal where nothing is required for display or effect, beyond the excellent quality of the food and its being well cooked. In a large assembly all cannot dine at the dastarkhwan of the lady hostess, even if privileged by their rank; they are, therefore, accommodated in groups of ten, fifteen, or more, as may be convenient; each lady having her companions at the meal, and her slaves to brush off the intruding flies with a chauri, to hand water, or to fetch or carry any article of delicacy from or to a neighboring group. The slaves and servants dine in parties after their ladies have finished, in any retired corner of the courtyard—always avoiding as much as possible the presence of their superiors.