Diet & Kitchens


Sikhs and Hindus share a separate slaughterhouse from the Muslims.
Brighton and Hove and South Sussex Graphic, July 29, 1915

Efforts were made to provide the Indian patients with the types of native foods and cooking that they were used to. Being able to eat their own food rather than European foods was certainly much appreciated by the patients. The British created three groups of kitchens, one group for Muslims, one group for meat-eating Hindus and Sikhs and one group for vegetarian Hindus and Sikhs. These three groups of kitchens were further divided along caste and ethnic lines, resulting in nine kitchens in total. [1]

As the cow was considered sacred by the Hindus, beef was not allowed in any form at the hospital, although other kinds of meats such as goats and chickens were allowed for the Muslims and meat-eating Hindus and Sikhs. Pork and bacon, popular among the British were also banned from the hospital grounds to keep the Muslim patients happy. Separate butchers and places for killing and storing meat were also provided [2] as Muslims ate Halal meat, while meat-eating Sikhs were prohibited by their religion from eating Halal and the Hindus required their own facilities to avoid ‘contamination’ of the meat. Muslim patients were also able to observe their Ramadan fasting requirements at the hospital.

Many of the Indians, especially the Hindus refused to eat food that had been touched by British cooks, so special native cooks where used for each religion and caste. [3] There was a caste head cook in charge of each kitchen, as there were not enough caste cooks, patients fit enough from the various castes were put into service in the kitchens cooking for their comrades. [4]

As the new kitchens had European style counter tops, the cooks had to be taught to stand up when cooking, as opposed to squatting on the ground over a coal burning mud stove. The kitchens were equipped with counters made of slabs of stone with gas rings for pots. For roti’s, sheets of iron were provided with parallel pipes with jets of gas underneath. Cooking with gas provided a new experience for the native cooks, as the flame could be instantly lighted and did not create a smoke filled room as their traditional ovens did. [5]

Due to the large amount of milk that Indians traditionally use, a dedicated dairy was established for the soldiers use inside the Pavilion complex. Again keeping with their Hindu related caste taboo’s, milk was wheeled from the hospital dairy to the wards in special cans, each painted with the name of a different caste. These specially marked milk cans could only be handed out by milk attendants of the same caste as their patients drinking the milk. [6]

Dhal (lentils) and ghee (clarified butter made only from milk with no animal fat) and Indian spices were the only food imported, all other foods and ingredients were sourced locally in the surrounding communities. It took some experimentation to find the right kind of local English flour to use for making roti’s and this was approved by the British bureaucracy of a special committee of Indian Officers representing all the various castes. [7]

Footnotes

1. A Short History In English, Gurmukhi & Urdu of the Royal Pavilion Brighton and a Description of it as A Hospital for Indian Soldiers (Corporation of Brighton, 1915) 7

2. Ibid. 8

3. Mark Harrison, Disease, Discipline and Dissent: The Indian Army in France and England, 1914-1915. in: Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark, Sturdy Steve, eds Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, 1999) 190

4. A Short History In English, Gurmukhi & Urdu of the Royal Pavilion Brighton and a Description of it as A Hospital for Indian Soldiers (Corporation of Brighton, 1915) 8

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.