For a Chef, creating a couple’s wedding menu presents an exciting opportunity to tell the bride and groom’s story through the dishes we serve, designing what we call a narrative cuisine in the process.
The beauty of narrative cuisine lies in matching a classic dish that represents the groom and his family and with another traditional dish to speak for the bride and her family. In this way, the chef becomes a storyteller of two amazing souls and two amazing families coming together.
The process starts by having a deep and extensive knowledge of different regional menus of India. Today India has about 30 states, each with its own distinct identity with respect to language, food, art, festivals and more. Think of it as combining all of Europe into a single country. For example, couples from two different states like Punjab and Bengal or two different religions like Islam and Hindu fall in love and get married. The challenge is to celebrate their unity plus their diversity through menu choices.
Unity in Diversity
E pluribus unum. Today we are global citizens, and the essence of global citizenship has been an important part of the diversity that has existed for centuries in India. We embrace the beautiful variations of international flavors in play. For instance, a lemon mustard fish curry may represent the bride from Bengal and tandoori chicken may represent a groom from Punjab. Or a flavorful lamb biriyani may represent a Muslim groom and bisi bele bhath may represent a Hindu bride.
I was fortunate to be on the catering team celebrating the wedding of a bride from Fiji and a groom from Ireland. For this unique couple, I created a salmon curry with coconut and a hint of tamarind to represent the bride's favorite dish from the island nation of Fiji. For the Irish influence, I created a seasonal pumpkin dish with mushroom and cumin seasoning with a Guinness-float finish.
My favorite background story with historical highlights to dazzle a wedding menu is rice pudding.
For a dessert menu, I often recommend heavenly rice pudding: a rich concoction of spice-infused rice topped with Alfonso mango. The choice of rice pudding plays a prominent traditional role. Regardless of the couple's religion – Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, Sikh or their regional influence – Bengal, Gujarat, Kerela or Punjab – rice pudding is customarily eaten after the ceremony. For over 300 years, rice pudding has been used to break the bride and groom's fast. The mother and the mother-in-law feed the bride and groom the rice pudding. And why rice pudding? Because the plentiful grains of rice symbolize the couple’s long, bountiful life together. The dessert promises a sweet ending to the couples most important meal.
I believe this story on the wedding menu leaves an unforgettable taste memory for years to come.
India today is a celebration of diversity, and people are embracing and rejoicing in the variety of the cultures from different states and different religions to truly become global citizens. This is what a narrative menu is all about!
Chef Ranjan Dey