And there cannot be anything better than this - Neeti and I were in Delhi a few days back for her cousin's wedding. This was a rare occasion to experience Delhi in its wintry splendour.
North Indian weddings are known to be lavish, and Delhi weddings are literally big and very very fat! While people in Mumbai are used to a time bound schedule - say a hall would be booked strictly from say 7 to 11, Delhi is much more casual and open to fun in that sense.
On the feasting side, food in North Indian weddings is probably as important as, if not more, than the nuptial ceremonies - the robustness of flavours in wedding cuisine is something to talk about for days, the aromas set the digestive juices gushing out like a gigantic flood. Now that is quite unlike weddings in Mumbai, where caterers are majorly influenced by the Gujju palate and nearly every dish would have a sweetish tinge to it, though there was one exception - a pal's wedding I attended in June this year had exceptional Maharashtrian fare followed by Puri and Aamras for dessert, which I am sure to salivate over for years to come - dare I say that would be a foodie's equivalent of a wet-dream!
So coming back to the wedding in question - we looked forward to being back in Delhi for a couple of days, more than anything else, enjoying the weather and the unique winter delicacies that North India has to offer.
One of the best ways of enjoying an outdoor winter wedding is to stand beside burning charcoals in angithis, which are set up strategically, and warm hands in the near freezing temperature. That happened during this wedding too.
Then come out the waiters with a mouthwatering array of starters - fried stuff, tandoori stuff and papdi chaats. It is indeed sheer bliss to pop a hot aloo tikki straight into your mouth in the freezing cold.
In such functions, young women would dress up in their very best - sequined sarees and lehengas, baring the elements, showing a generous length of their bare slender midriffs and happily chomping away on fried stuff, blissfully unaware of how diet concious they were a few hours back. What the hell is dieting? Obviously a wedding treat is a convenient excuse to forget all that, isn't it?
The papdi chaats and spicy aloo tikkis with mouthwatering chutneys that make the guests endlessly salivate are actually ticking timebombs! Having this kind of stuff on a cold winter night is sure to give a good 50% of the guests a nerve wracking sore throat, but the temptation always gets the better of you.
The best, or rather, the healthiest bet would be to gulp down tandoori mushrooms (these are usually tangy, juicy and fresh), paneer (cottage cheese) tikkas, tandoori potatoes or other grilled and barbecued stuff. Not only are these equally yum, they also save you the morning-after guilt of counting the 4-digit calories!
I go after papdi chaats (notwithstanding the sore throat that follows!) and the grilled snacks with an indescribable gusto. I do try to avoid the fried options, but sometimes I do succumb to the temptation.
The main course usually comprises of standard North Indian fare - dal makhanis, malai koftas, tawa sabzi, paneer in some exotic sounding gravy, sarson ka saag and the likes. I usually the main course a pass unless I get too tempted, in which case I attack the dal makhanis, select okra, baby aubergines and bitter gourd from the tawa sabzi (minus the gravy) and some sarson ka saag alongwith a steaming hot naan or a makki ki roti!
After loads of starters and a light main course, the best is saved for the last - desserts, sinfully delightful and absolutely unavoidable!
As things have taken a modern turn, continental desserts like chocolate mousse and trifles have crept in into wedding menus. But the Indian fare is the safest bet, in terms of being sure of what quality you would finally get. one can be very sure to find ice creams, kulfis with falooda, tender gulab jamuns in thick sugary syrup, jalebis with rabdi, gajar ka halwa or moong dal halwa on the menu. This is the best part of the treat, the grand finale! The trick is to sample each of these first and then go hogging on the best. In this wedding I went after the jalebis with rabdi and gajar ka halwa without the khoya and nuts. My dessert platter got a rare thumbs-up from Neeti, who is impossible to please when it comes to desserts!
For us North Indians, the wedding buffet is somewhat of an event in itself besides the main event. Memories of a great feast would be etched forever in the hearts of guests, whether they remember who got married to whom and when and blah blah, like my grandma, who remembered the one wedding she attended in Lahore in the 1930s, as a teen alongwith her folks, where food was simply heavenly - she remembered the wedding feast till she died in 2004! That is the magic a great wedding feast can do on you!
But as the feast got over, I was reminded that we would return to Mumbai in the afternoon - Holy crap, not again - the thought of an inflight meal on Jet Airways made me feel pukish!