1844 - William Makepeace Thackerey
In the Kitchens of the Sultan
The kitchens are the most sublime part of the seraglio. There are nine of these great halls, for all ranks, from His Highness downwards; where many hecatombs are roasted daily, according to the accounts; and where cooking goes on with a savage Homeric grandeur. Chimneys are despised in these primitive halls; so that the roofs are black with the smoke of hundreds of furnaces, which escapes through apertures in the domes above. These, too, give the chief light in the rooms, which streams downwards, and thickens and mingles with the smoke, and so murkily lights up hundreds of swarthy figures busy about the spits and the cauldrons. Close to the door by which we entered, they were making pastry for the Sultanas; and the chef pastry cook, who knew my guide, invited us courteously to see the process, and partake of the delicacies prepared for those charming lips. How those sweet lips must shine after eating these puffs! First, huge sheets of dough are rolled out till the paste is about as thin as silver paper: then an artist forms the dough-muslin into a sort of drapery, curling it round and round in many fanciful and pretty shapes, until it is all got into the circumfercence of a round metal tray in which it is baked. Then the cake is drenched in grease most profusely, and, finally, a quantity of syrup is poured over it, when the delectable mixture is complete. The moon-faced ones are said to devour immense quantities of this wholesome food; and, in fact, are eating grease and sweetmeats from morning till night. I don't like to think what the consequences may be, or allude to the agonies which the delicate creatures must inevitabIy suffer.
The good-natured chief pastry cook filled a copper basin with greasy puffs; and, dipping a dubious ladle into a large cauldron, containing several gallons of syrup, poured a liberal portion over the cakes, and invited us to eat. One of the tarts was quite enough for me: and I excused myself on the plea of ill-health from imbibing any more grease and sugar. But my companion, the dragoman, finished some forty puffs in a twinkling. They slipped down his opened jaws as the sausages go down clown's throats in a pantomime. His moustachios shone with grease, and it dripped down his beard and fingers. We thanked the smiling chief pastry cook, and rewarded him handsomeIy, for the tarts. It is something to have eaten of the dainties prepared for the ladies of the harem; but I think Mr. Cockle ought to get the names of the chief Sultanas among the exalted patrons of his Antibilious Pills.
Thackeray, William Makepeace
Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo