Between tasteless bites of toasted onion bagel and sips of Dunkachino at a street-side Dunkin Donuts in a relatively smaller town of New York, I remember the good old days of kalyana sappadu [wedding feast] back home.
Thoughts of steaming rice, pappadams and the ever-smiling mamis [aunts] with their overflowing plates of goodies flash through my mind. Slowly the nearby chatter on Yankees and Elvis Presley look-alikes start to fade and I get transported to the Land of sambhar and rasam. The onset of winter and the hope to see the first snowflakes are no more pertinent as memories of a tropical wedding feast crowd my mind...
As the caterers and unlucky relatives of the bride prepare to scuttle around with heavy utensils, others await to relish the delicious multi-course meal. The fragrance of sambhar is in the air; it dominates other less fragrant delicacies. Plantain leaves are laid out on the table.
The cluttering of stainless steel glasses (aka 'ever-silver') are heard as a boy runs through the dining hall placing glasses on the leaves. Briefly pausing to pick up stray leaves, he moves among the tables to help elders desperately trying to hold on to the leaves against the sharp tugs of the nearby Khaitan fan.
Faces seem to brighten up as the first course finally arrives. A hoard of sweets including laddoos, brightly coloured jangris (excuse me, but I prefer jangris to jalebis) and pickles are served.
Even as the elders and kids, who dominate the mundal pandi or the first round, appear ambivalent on the order of sweets to be devoured, the second round of delicacies arrive.
This time the mamis lead from the front with courteous smiles and quick jokes serving steaming rice, pure ghee (200 per cent fat), sambhar and hot-hot pappadums. Everyone digs in without the slightest inkling of the mamis favouring the mamas with extra-goodies on the sly.
The next course is rice with rasam, a virtually non-existent dish even in the more authentic Indian joints in the United States. An optional course -- but definitely mandatory for the pot-bellied mamas -- is the thayir sadam, a mixture of rice and curd.
The last is the payasam or kheer, a terrific digester made of milk simmered with badam, pista, cashew and the like.
Sighhh, I am now done with my bagel...
I really miss those days, those gala affairs with a menu that could put to shame most American weddings.
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