"The food of the royal families of Awadh and Rajasthan is quite popular, but not much is known about Travancore or Tripura."
To change that, Sonal Saxena and Shantanu Mahanta of eatwithindia are creating an event wherein 36 royal families will play host and share their culinary traditions.
Avantika Bhuyan finds out more.
Learn to cook the wahan mos deng -- that is pork marinated in salt water, boiled and cooked with ginger, onions and mustard oil -- in the royal kitchens of Tripura.
Or, get a crash course on the courtly masalas of Mahmudabad.
This, and more, is part of the "Dine with Royalty" programme introduced by eatwithindia, an initiative that promotes regional cuisine in non-restaurant settings such as homes, cooking studios and also palaces.
Among the series of programmes planned for the Dine With Royalty segment are culinary trips to the royal forts and palaces of Kanota (Rajasthan), Mahmudabad (Uttar Pradesh), Balasinor (Gujarat) and Tripura.
"The idea is to sample food over two days, get the feel of the place as it once was and soak in the historicity and the legacy of the cuisine," says Sonal Saxena, who co-founded eatwithindia with Shantanu Mahanta.
The trips are likely to start by the end of March; one needs to book for the tour in advance.
Time and again, the culinary secrets of the royals have spilled out of the kitchens through events like the Royal Food Festival (organised by the Awadh royalty) or through books such as Neha Prasada's Dining with the Maharajas, which showcases the culinary traditions of the princely families of Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Jodhpur, Mysore, Patiala, and so on.
Despite these initiatives, not much is known about food diplomacy and heritage, Saxena feels.
"That information is not accessible to everyone," she says.
With the aim of bringing out these historical facts, Saxena and Mahanta started meeting royal families from across India.
"The food of the royal families of Awadh and Rajasthan is quite popular, but not much is known about Travancore or Tripura," she says. "We decided to create a three-day event wherein 36 royal families will play host to a party of guests, regale them with stories and share anecdotes of culinary traditions practised in the past."
- Read on Rediff Books: Dining with the Maharajas
The event will be held in October at the embassy of Belgium and will feature six luxury tents, created by art designers to represent the heritage of the individual princely states.
Each tent will seat 35-40 people at a given point of time and two meals -- lunch and dinner -- will be served daily by various royal families.
The participating royals are now busy, preparing a narrative for the culinary tours and helping with the special merchandise -- spices, pickles and preserves -- that will be available June onwards.
Tikaraj Aishwarya Chandra Katoch, the 489th descendant of the royal Katoch clan of Kangra, has been working hard to revive the dying arts and cultures of the region through the Royal Kangra Museum, which has the largest collection of Kangra miniatures in the world.
"The Dalai Lama stays in Dharamshala, located in the Kangra valley. Celebrities from all over the world visit the place, but go away without savouring the flavours of the region," says Katoch.
He is trying to create awareness about the region's temple food through the initiative. In the process, he too has come across surprising facts about the rich culinary traditions of Kangra.
"During a village feast, the pundits would start preparing food at the crack of dawn and by the afternoon, 5,000 guests would have been fed," he says.
Each vegetable served at the feast would be accompanied by a specific lentil that would complement its taste. "The chefs, or botis, were very clear that the order of the vegetables and lentils wouldn't be changed," he says.
Dine With Royalty will be a ticketed and pre-booked event.
"We have not restricted this to Indian royal families, but have also extended it to Spanish and Nepalese royalty," says Saxena, who intends to take this initiative to Belgium in 2018.
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