Tushmal Bashi

servants-close-205Tushmal Bashi[1]

Placed directly under the Nazir of Buyutat is the Tushmal Bashi or ‘the chief of the attendants of the royal kitchen’.  He is only mentioned in the Conclusion in Tadhkirat Al-Muluk where officials and their salaries and remunerations in kind and in cash are mentioned. His salary is slightly lower than that of the Nazir of Buyutat and he is due a cash payment for each head of sheep and cattle slaughtered at the court plus a percentage of the cost of any purchases for the Royal Kitchens.  Chardin says Tushmal Bashi is the master of ceremonies and the head of Royal Kitchens and related departments. As for Tushmal Bashi’s influence and intervention in the Royal kitchens and on the food prepared there, we have not been able to find any information in the sources we have consulted.

The scene Chardin describes of the Tushmal Bashi entering the hall marching in front of the servants carrying the platters of meat all the way to the king’s presence is impressive. At the entrance to the hall he tests the meat to ensure it is fit for royal consumption (and presumably that it is not poisoned). On occasions when the king is dining in the seraglio he would only accompany the dish to the entrance. During the meal, he stands in the middle of the hall and as plates are taken way from before the king, he would stick his knife in a plate of his choosing and send it to one of the audience present in the hall.

To have the right to distribute the blessed food and drink touched by the king was a privilege with obvious consequences in terms of power and influence. To fully appreciate the importance of his position and function we need to appreciate the superhuman quality of the king. The Safavid kings were revered as holy beings who blessed anything they touched. This attitude had its roots in the beginnings of the safavid kings. Sheykh Safi, a sufi who traced his lineage to Imam Ali and the Prophet, was treated as a saint and his mausoleum became a shrine visited by pilgrims from across the country. The earlier kings in particular Shah Isma’il benefitted from this supernatural, God like stature on the battle ground and at home. Thus, food and drink in particular and even the clothes they wore on special occasions were believed to have special healing qualities.  The veneration lavished on the king by his subjects continued to the end. However, within the court and among courtiers it diminished and disappeared completely in the later years of the dynasty although they carried on the pretence in public.

Chardin says food was prepared only once per day for the royal household and the seraglio but twice for the king himself and the pregnant women in the seraglio. [2] The king always dined at a separate table while hosting high-ranking courtiers. For his personal daily consumption the kitchen needed two sheep, four lambs and 30 chickens for lunch and half as much for his dinner not counting the game and fish included in the menu. As the table was cleared, the remaining food was sent to the seraglio and other predetermined destinations.

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[1] Voyages Du Chevalier Chardin, V 5 P 349

[2] Ibid pp350-51