Food blogging has been an amazing experience for me. The day I started blogging, little did I realise that it will transform me into a different person. Today, food is another emotion for me. Some five to six years back, cooking was a necessity for me and my family.
Later, I developed it as an art. It is the best way for me to express and communicate. This emotion definitely is different from the other emotions I have. In this case, I do not need to explain as one just needs to taste.
When I started exploring food, especially traditional, I realised it was beyond recipes. Nutrients and calories did count, however, what mattered more to me more was sharing and the honesty associated with it. The fact is traditional food has an identity and a heritage passed down from one generation to the other.
Travel also influences people's food tastes. When they travel from the countryside to towns, cities and across the world, it leads to accepting different kinds of food and developing the palate for an array of cuisines.
When I moved to England, Sugar Craft just amazed me. I was bowled over by the beautiful pieces created using marzipan, fondant and butter cream. There were occasions when I came across beautifully carved sugar cast figurines as cake toppers. Little did I realise that it was something similar to what was prepared back at home for festive occasions.
Further during my travels to Italy, I enjoyed exploring different types of pasta. I was absolutely astonished when I came across hundreds of varieties of pasta including the handmade ones. This is when I realised that whether it is the sugar artefacts or the handmade pasta, these do not limit themselves to their own countries.
We have the same forms of the confection and other varieties of hand-rolled pasta even back home in Maharashtra. I am surprised to know that there aren’t many written records and not much have been taken note of these either.
A recent wedding in our family had a display of rukhwat (bride’s trousseau) with ole rukhwat. Ole refers to wet because they are edible and of course perishable. It had both sugar cast artefacts and hand-rolled or twisted pasta.
Flour is the essential ingredient to make the pasta (either whole wheat or plain flour). Valvat/gavhalya is made using 4:1 ratio of semolina and wheat flour/maida and made into a dough using milk. Rolled with fingers, making this is the most enjoyable part of creating the rukhwat.
The ladies in the house sit down together with the dough and a handful of tools including comb, wooden stick and others which are clay tools-esque. A paat (a low-levelled table) is kept in the centre and the dough is rolled and twisted using the fingers.
Dexterous hands of ajjis, atyas, maushis, kakus and maamis (aunts of the family) trained obviously by the previous generation sing traditional songs to celebrate the bride’s special occasion.
The hand-rolled pasta is part of ole rukhwat offered to the groom before he visits the temple to pay his obeisance to Lord Maruti. The same hand-rolled pasta is served in Vihinichi pangat when the vidhi (ritual) is complete. The bride’s family then serves kheer made with these hand-rolled pasta to the groom's family.
Here are the 10 kinds of typical pastas, and the 11th remains my mother's specialty.
1. Pearl shaped or sabudana
2. Sadhe Valvat
3. Clove shaped or Lavanga
4. Cardamom shaped or Veldode
5. Tubes or Suralya
6. Shell shaped or shankha
7. Fanolya shaped like leaves and scored with a comb
8. Melon seeds shaped or Tarbujachya beeya
9. Twisted or Maltya
10. Flower shaped or phula
11. Plated pasta or veni
Cast Sugar artefacts are edible decorations in a Maharashtrian bride's wedding trousseau as well.
Traditional kitchen vessels made using cast sugar technique:
I tried my hands on sugar cast artefacts sing granulated sugar, sprinkled with water and mixed well. This is then packed in moulds of choice and left aside for a few hours. When dry, the moulds are turned over and tapped gently. Sugar syrup is used traditionally to glue the parts. I used Royal sugar paste (pithi sakhar mixed with water) used to glue the parts together to create beautiful artefacts.
At times we are oblivious about our traditional skills and heritage associated with food. This tradition has been age old and carried forward from mothers to daughters for generations in rukhwat's history.
1 cup granulated sugar
Couple of teaspoons of water to sprinkle
Food colour if used is mixed in the same water used to mix in sugar.
Once mixed well, the sugar is packed tightly in the moulds. One needs to be careful not to use too less or more water. Too little water will not be enough to wet the sugar and more water may dissolve the sugar. Once the moulds are packed, they need to be set aside for some time.
Either using a knife or a spoon the shapes are scooped to create bowls etc. I am not a good carver hence did not risk into intricate designs. To glue the parts, sugar syrup or royal icing made with mixing confectioners’ sugar and water may be used. Royal icing sets fairly quickly.
It has been a beautiful experience knowing about the two traditions. I am inclined to find more and experience food with a different aspect. Food for me is indeed now a universal experience!
I am a pharmacist turned a special needs educationist now. I blog at Isingcakes & more. I had started with cake baking, hence the name. However, this I-will-never-enter-the-kitchen-dame, now loves being in the kitchen and is cooking her way through Ruchira Cookbook by Late Kamalabai Ogale (very much Julie and Julia-esque) I am trying my best to adapt the recipes to suit the modern kitchen. Food photography is something that I enjoy too. I am a trained Kathak dancer. When I am not cooking, I dance.