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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1784

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Food in India is not dear, and the fact of only having to provide for the family and not for any servants makes a very great difference in the trouble of housekeeping. Indian cooks are clever, and will turn out a good dinner with simple materials which an ordinary English cook would waste or convert into the plainest meal.

Meat being eaten so soon after it is killed, even if for no other reason, is not good: the beef is coarse, sinewy, and tasteless, and the mutton decidedly inferior in quality. Fortunately Indian cooks are so clever in disguising the insipidity of both, otherwise meat would be very unpalatable. English ham is considered a delicacy: other pork is not eaten in India. Goat's flesh is sometimes cooked, but it is anything but pleasant to English tastes.

Poultry.—Chickens are plentiful and cheap, but inferior in quality to well-fed French and English birds. Notwithstanding this they play an important part in the Indian diet, and the native cooks are very skilful in preparing them for the table.

Game and Poultry.—Generally speaking, India abounds with game. Deer of many species are to be found in different parts of the country, and most of them afford excellent venison. High up in the Himalayas the ibex (a wild goat) and the ovis ammon (a wild sheep) are to be found, but their flesh is rarely tasted, except by sportsmen, though sometimes seen in the hill summer stations. Wild boar are found in most parts of the peninsula. The bison is also shot, and affords beef. Bears in great variety are found in the hills, and hunters appreciate the hams and stewpans prepared in the Russian fashion. Hares and rabbits are also abundant in some parts of the country: the Himalayas afford pheasants, partridges are abundant in the plains, snipe are plentiful and well flavoured, while quails and teal are better in India than almost anywhere else. Swampy districts abound with waterfowl, including wild geese.

Fish in the mountain streams are both plentiful and excellent in quality, but those found in the rivers of the plains are lightly esteemed. The murrel, which somewhat resembles the English pike or carp, provides a palatable dish. The native cook generally fills them with stuffing and either bakes or stews the fish over a slow fire. The sea affords an abundant supply; the seer is not unlike the salmon, and is usually dressed in the same way. The pomplet resembles turbot or brill, the hilsa is almost identical with our mackerel, while the Calcutta becktie, in size and appearance, is similar to the cod.

Vegetables.—Most parts of India are well provided with vegetables. Many European varieties are grown specially for the markets of big towns, and the hill stations are well supplied in this respect. Apart from these, there are many native varieties, such as the bringales or egg plants, maize, pumpkins, yams, sweet potatoes, and mollay which yields leaves that may be treated like our young greens or spinach. Yams and sweet potatoes may be baked, boiled or stewed, and served