Wazwan Delights

Not that there is a restriction on having wazwan in any part of the year. People can relish this gastronomic delight any day and any time of the year. But wazwan does have a season of its own, the normal marriage season commencing April and lasting till October. This is when binge wazwan eating becomes a routine with at least 3 to 4 wazwan feasts a month. Although people find ways to have it in off-season too, at family get-togethers and other celebrations.

Come new season in early April when people look forward to the first wazwan feast of the year. There is this yearning to have it and relish it.  There is abundance of it on the copper plate, the trami, but having it in moderation to tickle your taste buds is the way to go so that you don’t get bored of eating it again and again the whole season. In these times of busy schedules and work pressure, the feasts at the weddings relieve the stress and people not only enjoy good food but friends and relatives share nice camaraderie.

Wazwan is a unique cuisine, exquisite. You can’t churn it out in every part of the world. It has to be geographically indicated, literally and metaphorically – Kashmir specific. It’s not spicy, bitter or sweet. It is all in moderation, every ingredient in right proportion. The taste is divine and awesome. This gourmet food might well turn out to be on the Heaven’s menu as well.

It goes without saying that the normal seven-course meal is the be-all and end- all of all wazwan feasting. The traditional seven-course meal should stay and less should get wasted. The add-ons depict extravagance and well-meaning people do not take kindly to wastage of food. Even though wazwan invitations bring with it burdens as well, financial and logistical, but we as a society have taken it in our stride and in the end the wazwan feast is the winner, the leveller between rich and poor which gives an overwhelming and fulfilling experience to the hosts and guests alike.

Kashmiri wazwan implies purity. The master chef wants all ingredients to be pure and of highest quality from spices to mutton. However, the nuanced taste of wazwan preparation varies from chef to chef. The quantity to be prepared matters as well and if the guest list is too long, the quality of taste may get diluted. Besides, over the years, quite a few bad influences seem to upend the rich wazwan tradition. The thorough-bred wazas are gradually giving up this calling and workforce getting inducted who are just strangers to the trade. Equally disparaging to the essence of wazwan is the use of polythene disposable stuff that is ruining the feast as such. These days even the famed Gushtaba is allowed to be served, rather dropped, in a plastic bowl which is hardly food grade and is injurious to health. It would normally land on a mound of freshly served rice with spoonfuls of yakhni at the base of the Trami. The moot point is that we ought to serve it in traditional copper-ware with curd in terra-cotta bowls.

Though feasting on wedding function gives the actual word picture of wazwan, the small factoid about wazwan is that it is also immensely enjoyed when taken at home.  On weddings, important relatives by virtue of being new in-laws, do get a full Trami sent home where there is a huge cheer the moment wazwan laden trami makes a koshur entry to the house. It is absolute delight to relish a wazwan at home in small servings whereas in a formal setting of invitation one cannot fathom the whole lot heavy meal. Now it is becoming more of a norm to carry some leftover back home in pouches which has helped with lesser wastage of food. One hopes to see more improvement and innovation in this aspect so that some packed food is carried home in a more respectable way as gift hampers.

At this hour and age when healthy eating is the mantra, wazwan is a high fat, high calorie power-diet. But for some smart thinking, the wazwan lovers with bad cholesterol and high uric acid have also found ways to relish wazwan against the doctors’ advice. They turn vegetarian for the whole month at home while as enjoy few wholesome wazwan meals every month. Such is the addiction and the urge to have the lip smacking cuisine.

Visitors and tourists joining marriage ceremonies get enthused to see the lavish use of dry fruits in Kashmiri weddings, the variety of wazwan dishes, the delicacies such as traditional kashmiri kehwa and bread varieties in the shape of kulchas and shermals. It does turn out to be a fat Kashmiri wedding in the end, made special by wazwan.