Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wedding musings

I don’t have a dish to write about, just a haze of thoughts and posts that I’ve been planning but didn’t crystallize or materialize in post-tour work. I’ve been away attending a wedding and associated events - which was hectic - but a lot of fun as well.



Pic from http://www.horton-szar.net/clipart/food.php

It’s probably been a while since the trend started but I encountered it for the first time – a live pesarattu counter at a wedding breakfast, and the ginger chutney served along with it was the yellow-green variety and not the familiar red variety that I know. I don’t attend too many weddings and even less in other cities so it’s interesting to see what the caterers come up with each time. Of course, that depends on the faith(s) the bride and groom practice (or don’t) but most wedding feasts I attend tend to be vegetarian (many non-vegetarian communities too serve strictly vegetarian meals when it involves rituals) so we’re set for veggie talk.
As a kid and teenager, my impression was that wedding meals were usually ho-hum – the mandatory muddapappu, pappucharu, a palav, maybe, a few chips, one or two vegetables (potatoes and peas, perhaps, and brinjal/eggplant in some form), curds/yoghurt, a pinch of salt in the corner of your plate, a bit of chutney, a spoonful of pickle, a banana, jalebi and mysore paak (the hard variety, not the ghee-saturated one that goes by the name of mysurpa now), paan and ice-cream, for that really special touch. Now you get all this and more. So even if you’re served only a spoonful of each vegetable, you don’t really need to ask for second helpings to feel full – only if you want to revel in the good taste once more. And again!
Even at a sit-down, served meal, you get at least three sweets from beginning to end not counting the ice-cream, and one of them could be the semiya payasam. An all-time favourite, I don’t ever remember coming across it growing up. I never thought about it then but looking back, I wonder why? Preparing it in large quantities was too complicated? Well, I’m glad to say this wedding served it in cute little tubs, and it was divine. At an associated lunch, we were also served a cutlet that would have been routine if not for the addition of melon seeds – nice twist!

Exclusively wedding fare?

And some dishes, I’ve ever seen them only at weddings and associated events – vankaya pakodi (eggplant with pakodas), vankaya/dondakaya with fried peanuts, a sour-and-spicy gravy that contains paneer (cottage cheese) or lotus seed, palav with fried bread cubes (to approximate the taste/texture of meat?) and once in a while, strange combinations of vegetables that I’d like to remember and recreate at home but always slip my mind. It’s not that the others I’ve mentioned can’t be made at home, they can, but somehow, neither mine nor my friends or relatives seem to make those dishes.

A glutton is made

What I do hate about wedding meals, though, is how the video man and the photographer zealously come to catch you at that most awkward moment when you are busy shoveling these glorious morsels into your mouth, casting you in a rather gluttonous mode in the memoirs of that family for posterity. For many years now, I make sure I don’t have my hand anywhere near my mouth when this team comes along with its long, snaking cables and interfering flash bulbs – I fiddle with the leaf/plate that my food is served in, move my food away from me to a corner, as if it’s too much for me, keep my head resolutely down, or stonily stare the camera team away into slinking off to the next batch of feasters.

Give it a thought

First, the qualifier: I’m writing about wedding meals only because this is a food blog and I don’t have a recipe ready – it’s not like it’s the main takeout for me from a wedding, so I’ll take the opportunity to preach a bit – I dislike the way guests criticize the hosts for a meal that was not up to their expectations in taste and range. Sure, the feast is something to look forward to, but don’t we attend weddings to honour the invitation, to wish the couple a good life? Why is it that so many of us go on discussing and gossiping about the food, how bad it was, and how miserly the hosts were just because some curry didn’t have enough ghee or cream in it or because there were just two sweets instead of three? Are we so badly off that we can’t afford to make/buy those things ourselves that we should feel so let down? All of us love free lunches, but shouldn’t we end our disappointment with a measured observation, if at all, rather than mean comment?

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13 comments:

  1. Your post got me thinking about wedding feasts. I'm all nostalgic now..:). Its been a while since I attended a wedding. Coming to think of it, yes, its quite true that certain delicacies like lotus seed curry or a vanakaya pakodi are hardly dished out at home.

    And reg video/photographer, please don't ask! I have had a lot of these episodes where I actually run away when I see one of them coming towards my direction.

    I guess, gossip is very much a part of our weddings and its really sad that many a times we have guests/relatives being nasty and rude insisting on stupid demands, expect to be treated like princes/princesses and generally giving the bride's family a hell of a time.

    All part and parcel of a typical Indian wedding!-:) Enjoyed reading your post,Sra.

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  2. Sra, that was a nice write up...I totally agree with you on the observation about guest's behaviour...

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  3. Thanks Sailu. Don't even start me on the subject of how the bride's family is treated, this blog will become a (justifiably) feminist rant!!! I didn't mean just those creatures, though - I was talking about all guests, related and unrelated, who do this, who seem to feel they are 'owed' a slap-up meal.
    Chandrika, thanks. I wrote that post with some hesitation, but am glad it struck a chord.

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  4. Sra...you made me remember my last vacation to india..during which i attended more than 5 weddings ..:D.Had wonderful feasts to last i guess another two year or so.I guess photographers,gossips, and even too much jewelry comes with the package..errr..

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  5. Great post! Our Indian weddings are always elaborate but still get to hear these nasty opinions about this was bad and that was bad!!
    My dad was so clever that he gave the in-laws to choose the Menu and they did and they had only themselves to blame if they didn't like it all! ;D Of course,didn't hear any complaints about the food!:))
    Wrong dress for that bride in the picture for a Indian wedding!;D

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  6. Maheswari, that must have been fun! The jewellery is fun to observe too!
    Asha, that was really clever of your dad! I found this pic with great difficulty, all the free pix sites are not really free, you still have to pay a few cents. Any suggestions for truly free picture sites?

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  7. Hi sra ,Yes this is the normal scene in all Indian weddings with the typical menu, and video man has to be there.
    The effect of other cultures is clearly visible in menus . Like chaat was served in a thali along with the typical maharashtrian food as a wedding feast :))
    Here the North Indian weddings have a line of tables one chinese , thai, chaat , tandoori,etc..Not to forget one whole table devoted to salads and separate one for sweets.
    It is a feast to the eye and leaves you totally confused as to which table you should attack first:)))But weddings are fun to attend:)

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  8. Since its been a while that I attended a traditinal Bengali wedding, your very nicely written post brings back lot of memories

    For us Wedding Feast always had 2 to 3 non-veg items, a must, and the dinner was always something to look forward to. But now with the caterers taking over things have changes and a lot of fusion dishes are being introduced. But for Bengali weddings the best food I like is on the morning of the wedding day (you get invited only if you are really close) when you are served all the authentic dishes.

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  9. Archana, I've never attended a wedding in the North - it would be interesting to do so. The salad mania didn't seem to have caught on at the weddings I've attended so far (barring the ones held at hotels).
    Sandeepa, thanks, and glad I was able to dish out some nostalgia for you. I'm okay with fusion as long as the traditional specialities are served - I once went to a traditional Eastern wedding in a traditional Eastern town, all excited about the new and different food I was going to eat, only to be faced with a vast array of dishes in the butter chicken and kadai paneer genre!!! Nothing was authentic, boo hoo!

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  10. very interesting post sra. enjoyed reading it. oh!!! abt photographers and camaramen its better i shut my mouth coz or else i will end up writing one big brick size novel about how irritating they r;)
    and abt the gossip i dont think we can do much abt it. i guess people won't be able to digest what they ate w/o commenting;) even if u have dozens of yummy dishes they will find one thing or the other to talk about. there is a saying in kannada "ishta illada ganda mosarallu kallu hudukida" which means mean people will find reason to search for stone in curds/yogurt too(oh!!! hope u got the point;)

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  11. wow. u made me so hungry and nostalgic for a sadya! Our weddings are simple with a biryani,coconut chutney, chicken dry curry and yogurt raita. The previous day's menu is a lot more interesting.Only close friends na dfamily are invited for the henna function.But now even these are getting complicated with chinese items, cooked in front of ur dishes and lots of desserts!
    Still a wedding is a wedding. no other way to feel like a glutton.:)

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  12. I do get you, Supriya! There's no pleasing some people if they've made up their minds to find fault with everything.
    Mallugirl, come to think of it, at the few non-Hindu weddings I've attended the menu has always been short and sweet! The vegetarian section at these weddings always has a lot of choice but the non-veg section just has a biriyani, chicken or mutton curry, brinjal curry, raita and one or two desserts. Very fulfilling. And if you're an ardent non-veg, who wants more variety?

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  13. Sra,

    So well written, makes me very nostalagic. I remember growing up wedding lunches/dinners were always a sitting affair unlike the buffet style now. we as kids used to love serving stuff during weddings. These days I guess its much more fancier with varieties and ways to serve them.

    Indian weddings are so full of emotions,colors and lots of fun and ofcourse the whole gossips add another dimension

    Added you to my blog roll

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