Edible gifts and elephants too!

He is just back after offering traditional Iyengar food to 500 guests at a wedding in Sikkim. The bride’s family — Iyengars from Bangalore — took Sridhar and his team to Sikkim so that their sambandis — Sikkimese folk — could savour specialties like puliyogare, ambode-sambar and halbai.

“Buffets at wedding receptions may have everything from chaat to chowmein, but for the main lunch, it still has to be puliyogare, kosambari, yenegai, anna-saaru,” says Sridhar, whose father, late Belur Puliyogare Rangappa, is credited with putting puliyogare on the international culinary map thanks to all the NRI weddings he wielded the ladle at!

“Only 5 per cent of my clients ask for traditional food for wedding receptions but for the main ceremony, they insist on going traditional even if the boy and girl are working and living in Boston,” Sridhar says.

While the main course at the wedding lunch remains unchanged in principle, what inventive caterers like Sridhar have done is to give tradition a twist. That explains dishes like ‘Sprouts and fruit kosambari’ or ‘Dry fruits gojju’, which are offered as menu choices to well-heeled clients.

At the vara pooje, where the bridegroom and his family are welcomed by the bride’s people, Sridhar insists on decorating individual fruit bowls and studding them with dry fruits at the royal repast.

At the snack counter, he serves sweet and khara kolakottai and tender coconut water instead of predictable upma-idli-vada and coffee.

Sridhar’s understanding of tradition and his ability to add new dimensions to it have made him a one-stop shop for everything that an Iyengar wedding requires, from specific food, rangoli patterns at the mantapa, flower decorations and priests to — hold your breath — elephants to welcome the bridegroom’s family with garlands!

 On the other, D N Manohar of Vinayaka Enterprises, who has been in the business of catering for weddings of  South Indian Brahmins, only accepts orders for traditional food.
“My forte is Madhwa/ Smartha food like huli-anna-saaru-kosambari-payasa. If clients come asking for paneer butter masala and roti, I tell them to go elsewhere,” he says.

The fact that he has been in business for 28 years now and is booked months ahead of the wedding season says a lot for food choices that some families continue to make for truly special occasions.

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