Friday, October 2, 2009

VII. Of the Grain of Siam.

The way of boiling it in pure water; Or in milk; Wheat; Wheaten Bread too dry at Siam; Other Grain.

Rice is the principal Harvest of the Siameses, and their best Nourishment; it refreshes and fattens: And we found our Ship's Crew express some regret, when after a three months allowance thereof, they were return'd to Bisket; and yet the Bisket was very good, and well kept.

The Siameses know by experience how to measure the water, fire and time necessary to the Rice, without bursting the Grain, and so it serves them for Bread. Not that they mix it with all their other Food as we do Bread; when they eat Flesh or Fish for example, they eat the one and the other without Rice; and when they eat Rice, they eat it separately. They squeeze it a little between the ends of their Fingers to reduce it into a Paste, and so they put it into their mouths, as our Poor do eat Pottage. The Chineses do never touch any meat but with two small Sticks squar'd at the end, who do serve them instead of a Fork. They hold to their lower Lips a small Porcelane or China cup, wherein is their portion of Rice; and holding it steady with their left hand, they strike the Rice into their mouth with the two Sticks which they hold in their right hand.

The Levantines, or Eastern People, do sometimes boil Rice with Flesh and Pepper, and then put some Saffron thereunto, and this Dish they call Pilan. This is not the practice of the Siameses: but generally they boil the Rice in clear water, as I have said; and sometimes they boil it with milk, as we do on fasting days.

At Siam, in the Lands high enough to avoid the Inundation, there grows Wheat: they water them either with watering Pots like those in our Gardens, or by overflowing it with the Rain-water, which they keep in Cisterns much higher than these Lands. But either by reason of the Care or Expense, or that the Rice suffices for common use, the King of Siam only has Wheat; and perhaps more out of Curiosity than a real Gusto. They call it Kaou Possali, and the word Kaou simply signifieth Rice. Now these terms being neither Arabian, or Turkish, or Persian, I doubt of what was told me, that Wheat was brought to Siam by the Moors. The French which are settled there, do import Meal from Surrat; altho' near Siam there is a Windmill to grind Corn, and another near Louvo.

In a word, the Bread which the King of Siam gave us, was so dry that the Rice boil'd in pure water, how insipid soever, was more agreeable to me. I less wonder therefore at what the Relations of China report, that the Sovereign of this great Kingdom, altho' he has Bread, does rather prefer Rice: yet some Europeans assur'd me, that the wheaten Bread of Siam is good, and that the driness of ours must proceed from a little Rice-flower, which is doubtless mixt with the Wheat, for fear perhaps the Bread should fail.

At Siam I have seen Pease different from ours. The Siameses, like us, do make more than one Crop, but they make only one in a year upon the same Land: not that the Soil was not good enough, in my opinion, to yield two Crops in a year, as some have related concerning some other Cantons of India, if the Inundation did not last so long. They have Turky-Wheat only in their Gardens. They do boil or patch the whole Ear thereof, without unhusking or breaking off the Grains, and they eat the inside.

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