Sir Burton’s views on English Pilaf, from East Africa

Richard Burton could be downright nasty – or at least, edge very far in that direction.  Here, he gives highly negative views about the way the English make pilaf, together with attacks on the British and Anglo-Indians.  After this diatribe, I’m not sure I’d want to debate him on the topic.

Richard Burton looking particularly menacing. Source:

Burton, Richard – The Lake Regions of Central Africa, Vol. 2 1860

…In the East if you praise a man’s meat you intend to slight his society. The _plat de resistance_ was, as usual, the pillaw, or, as it is here [East Africa] called, pulao – not the conventional mess of rice and fowl, almonds and raisins, onion-shreds.cardamoms, and other abominations, which goes by that name among Anglo-Indians, but a solid heap of rice, boiled after being greased with a handful of ghee-

(I must here indulge in a little digression. For the past century, which concluded with reducing India to the rank of a British province, the proud invader has eaten her rice after a fashion which has secured for him the contempt of the East. He deliberately boils it, and after drawing off the nutritious starch or gluten called “conjee,” which forms the perquisite of his Portuguese or his Pariah cook, he is fain to fill himself with that which has become little more nutritious than the prodigal’s husks. Great.indeed is the invader’s ignorance upon that point. Peace be to the manes of Lord Macaulay, but listen to and wonder at his eloquent words!:

“The Sepoys came to Clive, not to complain of their scanty fare, but to propose that all the grain should be given to the Europeans, who required more nourishment than the natives of Asia. The thin gruel, they said, which was strained away from the rice would suffice for themselves. History contains no more touching instance of military fidelity, or of the influence of a commanding mind.”

Indians never fail to drink the “conjee.” The Arab, on the other hand, mingles with his rice a sufficiency of ghee to prevent the extraction of the “thin gruel,” and thus makes the grain as palatable and as nutritious as Nature intended it to be.)


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Colonialism, Explorers & exploration, Food, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

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