ursula: (bear)
"Gorby and the Rats" is a fourteenth-century Persian poem with a strong element of political satire about a cat who decides not to kill a rat because he's full. The rats decide the cat must have changed his eating habits, and seven rat princes bring him a celebratory feast. Here are two descriptions of that feast, from two different translations:

    Gorby and the Rats,
    trans. Omar Pound
    copyright 1972, 1989

    One brought wine,
    the next, a whole roast lamb,
    another, sweet raisins from his estate,
    the fourth, seven dates as big as mice,
    the fifth, a bag of fragrant cheese
    which was to have been his New Year's feast.
    Another thought yoghurt would bring peace
    to his digestion,
    and the seventh, proudest of them all,
    carried above his turbaned brow
    a bowl of great price, heaped with pilaw
    nightingales' wings
    almonds and rice
    decked with sweet lemon rind and spice . . .

    A Tale of Cats and Mice of Obeyd of Zaakan
    trans. Mehdi Nakosteen
    copyright 1971

    One bore upon his palm
    A flagon of the seasoned wine,
    The next a plate of roasted lamb,
    The third a tray of raisins sweet,
    The fourth a plate of Persian dates,
    The fifth a cake of cream-rich cheese,
    The sixth a loaf of whole wheat bread,
    The last of noble chiefs,
    A bowl of saffron rice,
    Well steamed with spice and lemon juice,
    Upheld on head with balanced care.

I don't know why one translation has yoghurt and the other has bread. Nakosteen says in his introduction that he has changed some details to make them more familiar to Western readers, so my best guess is that he believed yoghurt was unfamiliar to everyone except hippies?

I decided to put together a similar feast for Saturday dinner at July Coronation. We brought wine (Shiraz, for the name, though I've no reason to believe the modern version has much to do with Persia. We had an inexpensive Australian version with a penguin on it. It was pretty good for the price), raisins, sugared dates, and goat cheese. I drained the whey from some plain yoghurt and replaced it with a bit of cold water-- this sweetens the taste, and there are a number of Middle Eastern recipes from our period which call for more aggressively drained yoghurt as one of the ingredients. We weren't up to a whole lamb, but [livejournal.com profile] aelfgyfu brought lamb kebabs to grill. The pilaw was the most complicated. Modern Persian pilaw is made by partially cooking the rice, then steaming it with a slurry of butter and yoghurt at the bottom which makes a crunchy crust called tah dig. I've read discussions of sixteenth-century Safavid Persian recipes which mention the partial-cooking technique, but I don't know whether tah dig is modern or not. I decided it was plausibly Timurid-- the fondness for butter in Ottoman cooking seems related to the Ottomans' nomadic roots, and the Timurids likely had similar influences-- and served my pilaw with toasted almonds and with lemon rind slivered and boiled to remove the bitterness. (Next time I'd use more rind-- I only bought one lemon.) Since [livejournal.com profile] glasseye is vegetarian, I didn't worry about nightingales' wings, but roasted chicken or quail might be tasty another time.

OK, I Lied

May. 21st, 2006 07:54 pm
ursula: (ambigram)
I didn't buy thirty pounds of rice this weekend. I bought sixty. Here is a picture:

So the current project is documenting Persian rice. I did find this website (http://www.asiafood.org/persiancooking/rice.cfm) which says the fanciest rice dishes are from the 1800s. But I have found period references to saffron rice with flavors like rosewater and nightingale wings. So as long as I don't get TOO fancy I am good :)

Pictures Of Other Stuff I Bought )

[Same game.]

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