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AFTER THE POISONING, Babur never again takes a chance with shady kitchen appointees. There is a shake up. The kitchen will be as important as the department of defence. Babur will not only lay the ground for the Mughal Empire but will establish the rank of the kitchen department for coming generations of its Emperors. The Mir Bakawal (Chief Taster and Head Cook) will be the first word, the last word, the lord of all things epicurean. He will also take the brunt of the brick bats. By the time Babur’s grandson Akbar becomes Mughal Emperor, these are the precautions and processes that will be observed before the Emperor is served:

  • A sheet is tented out to block out preparations from prying eyes.
  • The food is sampled; cooks and Bakawals taste it.
  • The Mir Bakawal is the very last to taste the dish, he then doles it out into the dishes.
  • Dishes of copper and China are each covered up in white cloth; gold and silver dishes are each covered in red cloth.
  • The Mir Bakawal attaches his seal to each cloth-covered vessel.
  • The pantry clerk makes a list of all the vessels which he dispatches with the dishes.
  • The dishes are carried by a retinue of servants to the dining hall.
  • The head-end and tail-end of the retinue is safeguarded by macebearers.
  • Also on its way are bags containing freshly baked breads, curds in saucers and stands stacked with pickles.
  • Palace attendants taste the food from each vessel before spreading the embroidered dastarkhwan upon the white sheets laid on the carpet.
  • The attendants arrange the dishes upon the dastarkhwan.
  • The Emperor sits down to his meal which he begins with milk or curd.
  • The Mir Bakawal is in attendance throughout.

(Paraphrased from steps documented by Abul Fazl, vizier of Mughal Emperor Akbar)