Food related departments

As mentioned above, the Nazir of Buyutat had 33 workshops in his charge. Although the explanation provided for the Nazir in Chapter II makes his areas of responsibility clear, further divisions explained in the following chapters make it difficult to place precisely the ranks below him in the hierarchy.  Officials responsible for workshops related to the kitchen come under different headings and some are not mentioned until the end, in the ‘Conclusion’, where their salaries and remunerations are detailed.  Again, for our purposes, we will concentrate on food and food related workshops and their areas of responsibility regardless of where in the book they appear.

safavid-court-330Havij-khana: Generally described as a place for holding edibles and kitchen utensils. It was one of the larger departments within the Royal Household. Kempfer, another explorer who travelled to Iran in the second half of 17th century and wrote about his travels[1], has more about this and some of the other departments. He says Havij-khana consisted of many storehouses for different produce. These came under two main headings; the long-term stores or Anbar and the one set up to provide the short-term, daily consumption needs of the kitchens. The first was supervised by Havijdar-bashi Anbar and the second by Havijdar-bashi Jelau. Goods such as flour, wheat, rice, beans, pulses, dried fruit, nuts, vegetables as well as oil, salt, cheese, butter, kashk, honey syrup from grapes or dates and many others were stored in Havij-khana.

safavid-fruitMiva-Khana:  Fruit Department responsible for ordering, storing and providing fruit including melons, cucumbers, grapes, pomegranate juice, tamarind, greens, apricots and any other fruit and all the receptacles used in this respect; gold, silver or copper. The superintendent of this department according to Kaempfer, was Yemishchi-bashi, named after the Turkish name for the department, Yemish-khana.

 Ghanat: Buchery Department in Turkish also called Qassab-khana or sallakh-khana, responsible for ensuring that sheep slaughtered for the department are done in the presence of Nazir’s representative and all their useable parts are recorded accordingly. If the meat was bought in, the price were set fairly once a month by responsible officials and representatives of the guild.

timur-pots-205Abdar-khana: Department of Drinks responsible for jugs and bowls of gold or silver, bowls for washing hands, leather bottles, snow carriers, sacks for carrying ice, etc. Kaempfer mentions that drinking water for royal use was stored in sealed clay jars. When called for, Abdar-bashi would ensure that the seal was intact before breaking it. The jar was sealed again afterwards to prevent it being poisoned. Only trusted individuals were considered for the position of Abdar-bashi.

Qahveh-khana: Coffee Department responsible for coffee jars of gold, silver and copper and coffee roasting implements, coffee cups and trays in addition to coffee beans and all things associated with preparing and drinking coffee.

Sharbat-khana: Drinks Department responsible for gold, silver, porcelain, ceramic and copper dishes and sugar, block sugar, ‘aqaqir (spices), coffee, tobacco, shisheh, seroni, hookah implements, Halileh (a tropical fruit with medicinal properties), Amleh (a sour fruit similar to small plums) , jams, lemon juice, rose water, other plant extracts, aromatic extracts. Kaempfer adds a description for sharbat; a cold drink made up of water, sugar, fruit extract and a little rosewater. He also mentions another sharbat made with seeds which resemble frogspawns (تخم شربتی, Ocimum Album), very refreshing and effective in quenching thirst. During the hot summer months sharbat was served instead of coffee and hot drinks.

safavid-wineShireh-khana: Wine department, responsible for ordering, receiving and storing wine and wine related decanters and glasses. Chardin’s editor suggests that the word should be read as Sharab-khaneh and Sharabchi-bashi in accordance with the Persian word for wine, sharab.[2] Kaempfer says wine was mainly received from Georgia and Shiraz but spirits and fortified wines were also stored in Shireh-khana.

Ayagh-khana: Scullery, where hot and cold drinks were prepared for the court.

Morgh-khana: Poultry Department, where different kinds of birds were kept and slaughtered according to the requirements of the menu of the day.

Matbakh: Kitchen department presumably the actual locality where food was prepared. No further information is provided.

Attar-khana: Department for Spices. This department would acquire and store spices, potions and medicaments for royal use prepared and dispensed by the royal physician.

timur-small-detail-205Kaempfer[3] also menions Yoghort-khana, where dairy products were stored; Chorak-khana, department for bread including the sweet and savoury varieties; and  Parhiz-khana, a department responsible for preparing food and drinks for the sick and unwell under the supervision of the court physician. The basic ingredients used for this purpose were spices, barley, rice, plants and plant extracts.

Chardin’s version of food and food related departments as explained in Volume five of his travelogue is different in parts from Tadhkirat Al-Mulukand and is generally more detailed. He refers to them by the name of the official in charge using the suffix ‘bashi’ which literally translates as ‘the head of’. One of the main department heads he mentions, high up in the hierarchy and just below Tushmal- bashi, is Sofrehchi-bashi, responsible for table cloths, napkins and towels used in the court. He spread the king’s table cloth and stayed close by until the king retired. Chorekchi-bashi, the official responsible for the bread department and Sabzichi-bashi, the head of herbs and salads department come under his jurisdiction. Chardin says that the two positions, Tushmal-bashi and Sofrehchi-bashi, were usually held by members of the same family with one being promoted to the higher position having served at the lower rank.[4]

musican-205Anbardar-bashi: The head of store houses, an important position since he is responsible for ensuring the receipt of the best produce from across the country. These are kept in the relevant departments. Ambardar-bashi comes under the superintendent of the kitchen.

Chinikesychi- bashi: the official responsible for dishes for keeping and serving wine, where ever they might be held. He had a position of authority with substantial benefits since he was the superintendent of the venues and employees where wine for royal consumption was made or kept across the entire kingdom. Since wine was prohibited in Islam, Chinikesychi-bashi, being the only official who could sanction and issue licences for its production, would receive ample bribes to award the licence to the right people.

Halvachi-bashi: the head of sweets, dry or moist, served to the king and members of his harem.

Turshichi-bashi: the head of winter salads, pickles, preserves and sweet and sour liqueurs.

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[1] Amoenitatum Exoticarum, Plitico-Physico-Medicarum Fasciculi V
Kaempfer, Engelbert
Lemogoviae, 1712
Book 1, Ch 9, pp 120-124
ETH-Bibliothek Zurich

[2] Chardin, V 5 p 353
[3] Kaempfer V 1 pp 123/24
[4] Chardin V 5 p 351