Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
In the Streets of Pera
By Samuel Sullivan Cox (18241889)
[Born in Zanesville, Ohio, 1824. Died in New York, N. Y., 1889. Diversions of a Diplomat in Turkey. 1887.]
WHAT with the Maltese goats, who go tinkling by to their pasturage, each with two fair crescents of translucent horn; what with the vocal seller of bread in the early morning; the mournful cry of the milkman, which wakes you all too early, and, sad to say, wakes the dogs of your neighborhood; the snail-seller, who howls out in some terrible jargon that he has fat, juicy snails, all alive and kicking; and that other genius who peals the Turkish words for vegetables from morning until nightthese sounds are only to be heard in all their multifarious howling in Pera. I except one vegetable from my denunciation. What is there about asparagus that makes one kindly disposed toward its raiser and seller? Ah! I have it: his cry, as it is interpreted to me from the Turkish words, is:
You do not see any little lambs in his basket, neither alive nor dead. No; the lambs are the asparagus heads. They are plucked out of the very mud of the walls that once defended Constantinople through its historic crises. Why does he call them home-grown? Because they have not come from a distance, and therefore they are fresh! Another man cries:
He is an artichoke-seller. Was there ever anything so Oriental? Why does he call his vegetables lambs? Is it a sign of the early history of this Ottoman shepherd race? No: lamb is the choicest term of endearment among the Orientals. Our Bible shows this. If you should go so far as to have an affectionate word with a hanoum, she would call you a lamb, if you did not anticipate her.
Oh, he too is selling asparagus! The name suggests such a fairy, delicate leaf of green sprays, that the tiniest bird would break it down if it should alight upon its little stalk. This is a part of the vendible poetry of every-day life in Pera .
The butchers have something to do with enlivening the city. They have their peculiar noises. They go through the streets dangling their meats on long poles, which they carry upon their shoulders. They awake the carnivorous rapacity of the dogs. I arise early, sometimes, and look out of my window on a vacant plaza. I see the butcher bearing his pole covered with lights and livers. I am familiar with the canine prefecturate, or king-dog, of my neighborhood; for he frequently wraps himself affectionately around my legs. That dog is hungry this morning; it is dawn, and he has light enough to go for a liver. The tawny, cunning brute arouses his tribe. He moves quietly and indifferently. What does he care for the butcher or the liver! He carelessly stands on a little mound of dirt under our hotel window, so as to make a closer inspection as the butcher goes by. He sniffs the morsels. A drop of blood falls upon his cold nose. Now who, if he were a dog, could resist such a temptation? He forgets his loyalty to royalty. He is an enemya belligerent. His dignity descends; but he ascends. In one irrepressible moment he strips from the pole a sheeps liver. It is a game of polo; but two play at it. In vain the butcher goes to the rescue of his liver. Still, he believes in Kismet? He does not even swear. I nearly did, from my tower of observation. The butcher is bankrupt. The dog and his followers are his assignees. They have the whole concern. The members of the canine community lick their chops, after a contented meal. There was no battle that morning. The dogs in the neighborhood slept well. They even allowed several strange puppies to stray within their autonomous boundaries and to retire unscathed.
Generally speaking, the dogs which stray around the butcher-shops restrain their appetites. There is a dainty dish which you will see in all the restaurants of Constantinople, where the furnaces for cooking protrude almost upon the narrow street, and the fire flushes and warms your face day and night as you go by. This dainty dish is called kebab. It consists of morsels of mutton with the fat on them. They are pierced with a skewer and roasted hot. They are due on demand, and never protested. It is a succulent dish. It is eaten off the skewer hot, in the dining-saloon or on the street. It constitutes a great temptation to the tawny quadruped of the quarter. He seems to be a part proprietor of the establishment, by the interest which he takes in its cooking. From the time the kebab is placed upon the spit, until consumed by the customer, the dog never takes his eyes off of it. He has the opportunity, after waiting all daythe dog, I mean, not the customerof picking up many a stray bit of kebab. The kebab is generally served with a large, flappy, round unleavened cake, and pepper, salt, and herbs. It looks like a tempting dish, except this, that it is too greasy. Put these on the spit and roast them like kebabs. This was said by a famous Aga of the Janizaries when he ordered the impalement and roasting of some succulent Bulgarians, whom he dearly lovedI suppose.