Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/159

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usual accompaniments of nummuds, which are long, narrow pieces of a thicker and softer substance made of wool or felt, kalliouns were presented, and then coffee served in very small cups without cream or sugar. Kalliouns succeeded; then tea in larger cups; and this over, conversation filled an interval of ten minutes, when the minister gave a signal for dinner to be brought. Several servants immediately entered, bearing a long narrow roll of flowered cotton, which they laid down and spread before the whole company, who now occupied both sides of the room. This napery was placed close to our knees. The next service was, to set a piece of a thin sort of bread or cake before each guest, to be used as a plate and napkin. Then came a tray between every two persons, containing two bowls of sherbet, each provided with a wooden spoon of delicate and elegant workmanship; a couple of dishes of pillau, composed of rice soaked in oil or butter, boiled fowls, raisins, and a little saffron; two plates, with melons sliced; two others, containing a dozen kabbobs, or morsels of dry broiled meat; and a dish presenting a fowl roasted to a cinder. The whole party being in like manner supplied, the host gave the sign for falling to; a command that seemed to be well understood, for every back became bent, every face was brought close to the point of attack, and every jaw was in motion in an instant. This is done by a marvellous dexterity in gathering up the rice, or victuals of any kind, with the right hand, and almost at the same moment thrusting it into the mouth. The left hand is never used by the Persians, but in the humblest offices; however, during meals at least, the honoured member certainly does the business of two, for no cessation could be observed in the active passage of meat, melon, sherbet, &c. from the board to the mouths of the grave and distinguished assembly. I must say, I never saw a more silent repast in my life, nor one where the sounds of mastication were so audible. I could only think of a range of respectable quadrupeds, with their heads not farther from the troughs than ours were from the trays. For my part, whenever I wished to avail myself of the heaps of provender on mine, at every attempt to throw a little rice into my mouth, it disappeared up my sleeve; so that after several unsuccessful essays, I gave up the enjoyment of this most savoury dish of the feast, and contented myself with a dry kabbob or two.

When the servant cleared away, it was in the order the things had been put down. A silver-plated jug with a long spout, accompanied by a basin of the same metal, was carried round to every guest by an attendant, who poured water from the jug on our right hands, which we held in succession over the basin, while each individual cleansed his beard or mustachios from the