Features & Business
The God of sweet
We Indians have a penchant for sweetmeat (mithai). The land of myriad religions, beliefs, races and castes has led to diverse festivities. It is famously believed that the Indian gods have a sweet tooth! Any good news, be it that of an elevation in office hierarchy, the firming up of a daughter's marriage or the examination result of a child - all this and more are invariably celebrated with a box of sweets or a tin of rosogollas.
And so is with the religious festivities ; sweets are an integral part of being Indian - a perfect way to please one and all - the politician, relatives and the Babus! Across the length and breadth of the country, mouth-watering sweets come in diverse shapes, colors and sizes, textures and tastes, each with different preparatory methods, signifying a particular area and the community.
Each sweetmeat has a boastful history of its own and given the magnitude of the repertoire of the offerings, any attempt to jot down the recipes becomes a humongous project. 'The Book of Indian Sweets' by Satarupa Banerjee, published by Rupa and Co., is a job done meticulously and painstakingly in a simple recipe format. As one flips the pages, one realizes it is a complete book on sweetmeat. Drop any well renowned Indian mithai and it has a mention; its preparatory methodology in the book. And with the author's occasional personal and sweet anecdotes.
With the 108 recipes from the Eastern India, though majority of them falling under the Bengali cuisine, the book comes as a must-read book for those who have been smitten by the world famous rosogollas, to the not-available-outside the Bengal Chinipata Doi, to the not-sold-in-sweet shop, Gokul Pithe and Patishapta (one of the author's favorite sweet), to the Lady Kenny, named in the honour Lady Canning, wife of Lord Canning.
Besides these names, other most widely sold Bengali sweets like cham cham, kheer mohan, rajbhog chanar jilipi and pantua are among others that also find place in the book. If one finds making of sarpuriya is not a greenhorn task and needs expert's hand, Banerjee comes up with a simplified version. So following the easily understandable steps, one could still make Krishan Nagara's specility - Sarpuria at home. Satarupa's book breaks the myth we all carry that Indian sweetmeats are difficult preparations. She has succinctly mentioned all the dishes, from their importance in a Bengali home to the occasion the particular dish is relished most.
About the sumptuous sweet dishes of northern India, Satarupa starts with an easier method to make khoya at home. In the list of 32 delectable dishes, from the traditionally prepared for Muharram, Zarda; to the flavour of Kashmir, Khurbani ka Meetha; to the Agra's famous petha which the author swear could eat tons; to the simple Gajjar ka Halwa; to the syrupy delight jalebi, all these have found place in the book. Not to forget the Boondi, Besan Laddoo, Mootichoor Laddoo, Mathura's Pedha, Feni and the Gulabjamun have also been described with a flourish.
The delectable sweet cuisines of the western India from the traditional Mahastratrians' Modak - a coconut filler delicacy, to the Shrikhand; to the Parsis cuisine, Khajur Ghari , Lagun Nu Kastar (a must for the wedding ceremony), Mava Malido and Koomas; to the Goan specility Bibinca, Bolings, Baath, and many more dishes of the region are extensively mentioned.
The Hyderabadi delicacy Gil-e-Firdaus, which amply demonstrates how even the humble gourd can be turned into an exotic sweet, to the pudding of the Mughal days, the Double ka Meetha; to the favourite of Tamilians, Pal Payasam; to the must for Onam the harvest festival and Vishu- the new year in Kerala, the Paruppu Payasam are amongst few of the names of the scrumptious sweets one must taste and devour. Considering that India is witnessing an epidemic of diabtetes, the author could have done justice by suggesting some calorieless and sugar-free recipes...next time, is it?