After the "I Do" (see the previous post), guests eagerly await for the culinary delights to follow. Indian weddings are accompanied by fabulous meals of meat, fish, vegetables, and many sweets. The Bengali tradition was to serve food on banana leaves, elevating us to eco royalty. Leaves are a rarely used now, but the wedding menu has not changed much through the years. Here's a picture from the net of a typical Bengali wedding spread.
If you didn't know this already, the Bengali commitment to fish reaches fanatical proportion.
From head to roe, we turn every part of a fish into a myriad of delicacies. On the morning of the wedding, the groom's family sends a fish dressed as a bride to the bride's family. This offering is then cooked and served at the wedding reception. Humera immediately latched on to the idea and cheerfully announced, "I want that!" Confounded with the logistics of delivering a very large catch to a hotel room, yet not wanting to do away with this tradition, we ingeniously delivered a fish made out of sweets and dressed as a bride to her family.
In China, like in India, the wedding banquet is a showcase of the best you can afford. While the Bengalis are focused on achieving food coma, the Chinese go the extra length to serve lucky foods: lobster (yin) and chicken (yang), scallops which in Chinese language is synonymous with “raising or bringing a child into your life,”, sea cucumber (good heart), whole duck (fidelity), and noodles (longevity). The Koreans too eat kuk soo - long noodles - for the same reason. In Thailand the wedding cake is topped with long noodles symbolizing eternal love.
And you thought you were just eating noodles and scallops, tsk.
The Italians are known to go for up to 14 courses, including fried dough twists dipped in sugar for good tidings and candied almonds for sweet and bitter parts of life. Moroccans celebrate for days indulging in tagine and other goodies. The Germans offer a soup called hochzeitssuppe - wedding soup. Lest you think that sounds simple, consider that it takes days to make. The Japanese serve kozunoku or herring roe symbolizing fertility.
All this meaningful food enriches our soul and fills our bellies but there's only one thing that makes our taste buds dance: desserts.
The Bengalis overdose on mishti doi, rosogolla and sandesh - milk based goodies with loads of sugar. No happy occasion is complete without bowls full of these delicacies. Mishti doi - sweet yogurt - is made in earthen pots with a layer of milk fat on top to propel you into gastronomical ecstasy. It's not easy to buy pots of mishti doi in the USA but here's a picture from Google to entice you into putting Kolkata on your bucket list.
The French wedding cake - croquembouche - is meant to represent the Eiffel tower - a tower of profiteroles covered in, you guessed it, sugar. In Norway, kransekake is made with almonds, sugar, and egg whites, and is a set of rings formed into a cone. The Brazilians create a sandwich cookies called bem casado - meaning "well married" - with marmalade and jam inside, rolled in sugar to symbolize the new union.
The Vietnamese serve banh xu xe, the conjugal cake, made from tapioca and green banana leaf to symbolize the couple's golden heart and faithful connection. The British and the Irish indulge in fruitcakes. Naturally, the ones in Ireland are loaded with whiskey. In an interesting twist, the bride and groom's families come together in Ukraine to make a sweet bread called korovai to symbolize the union of the two families.
So, no matter the language you speak, the dress you wear, the traditions you uphold, the faith you keep, and the spouse you take, these foods will remind you that the union is incredibly rich and very, very sweet.
And if talk of these scrumptious dishes hasn't made you want to lunge for your fridge or pantry, sprinkle some cold water on your face and revive yourself immediately.
In the meantime, I'll go load up on some yummies.