The Wedding Preview

So I’m off to attend my cousin’s wedding on 10th. He will be the first of my cousins to be sacrificed at the mandap, and the poor guy is actually happy about it. Its an unmissable event and I’m really looking forward to it. The singing and dancing and music and the pretty clothes. Meeting a lot of people I’ve never met before, and might never meet again. Meeting a lot of people who I’ve met before but don’t remember at all. Meeting some people who I’ve met, remember, and know that I will meet again. And the very few people who I know and like and want to meet. Anyway, there’s the shaadi and the baraat and the sangeet and other ceremonies that I don’t know about, and then there’s the FOOD.
So why does food get block letters when nothing else did? Its not just because this is a food blog and I’m obviously a little biased towards the topic (although I admit that is part of the reason), its also because the wedding is in Agra. Having lived my whole life away from my “native state” of Uttar Pradesh, I’m definitely not in a position to get homesick about it. But I do miss the food. More than any particular dish that I crave, its the undefinable something that permeates the food there. That flavour, that whateveritis, is part of what defines ‘home’ for me. And so even though I’ve never lived in Agra, going there is still going home for me. The particular blend of spices, the specifics of the cutting and the cooking of vegetables (and of course the selection of vegetables), the bursting kachoris and the hot badam milk… 
If I were to ask someone what Agra is famous for, you can guess what answer I’m going to get. Yes, the Taj Mahal is its biggest attraction, but there are two others that are pretty famous. There’s the Agra Petha, and the Agra Dalmoth. If you’re familiar with Haldiram’s, you might have across their Agra Taj Dalmoth. Its a mixture of fine sev, fried dal, melon seeds and cashews. Tasty and addictive. As far as memory serves, it is pretty close to the original Agra Dalmoth, albeit with a little extra richness. The Petha, though, has somehow managed to escape national spread. Sure there is petha in other places, but the Agra petha – yellow juicy syrupy melting deliciousness that it is – is a class apart.
In the hierarchy of sweets (I hope you knew there was a hierarchy?), the petha is pretty low down. The particular variant that I’m talking about, called the Angoori Petha, is a little higher than its poor cousin, but not by much. Considering how delicious it is (and that is not just a personal bias… it is a much loved dessert), the only reason I can think of for this is the cost of its ingredients. Petha, unlike dry fruit barfis or ladoos or milk-based sweets, is pretty inexpensive. And maybe that is why it has been relegated to the lower rung of the ladder. There’s a pretty disturbing suggestion of a possible obsession with appearances here. Have we been taken in so completely that our own taste buds are dictated to by others?
I’d love to know what you think about the sweets’ hierarchy and the reason for it. Is a laddoo higher than a burfi or vice versa? And where does halwa figure in this? And the chena-base sweets?  And why? why? why?

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3 thoughts on “The Wedding Preview

  1. In my opinion, the price does dictate the hierarchy to a certain extent but regional bias also comes into play here. Bengalis, for example, are crazy about syrupy sweets and rasgulla, gulab jamun etc are the predators in the dense forestry of sweet shops you find everywhere. A special variety of big rasgullas are even named "Raj Bhog", emphasizing its lofty status. Dry sweets such as barfi and peda rank lower.Hence the price of sweets are also determined by demand and its ultimately the varied tastes of the Indian populace which is again dictated by generations of foodies before them who specialized in one thing or another that leads to this diverse hierarchy. Declaring a particular "meetha" as the "ultimate" is quite a challenge in this scenario.Not that I mind. I love petha too, and kaju barfi. It's well past midnight though, and no sweet shop in sight (sigh)

  2. Yes, the price, surely, but its again the same story of the dialects, isn't it? The ones that the "popular," richer guys favored gains prevalence. This, obviously, explains the price thing also…Take the case of barfis…Kaju hogs the limelight. But then, sometimes religion also plays a role. The laddoos, I guess must've been popularized by Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams. Also, the commercial angle…the ones that could be preserved longer could actually TRAVEL places.Speaking of travelling, hope you had a great time in Agra…when u back? We need to talk about CHOCOLATE! 😀

  3. Sorry, I was late in reading this even though you had given me a lecture about this blog during our 20 hour bus journey through the only unmapped, google-forgotten places on this planet. Reading about food and home, I can understand your feeling of 'Home Coming' and the craving you have for those dishes. I know how much you enjoyed and what all you missed… for those things you missed, better luck next time..Excellent Post.. brief but amazing. Waiting for more….

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