Many years ago, Chuck set about finding a birthday dessert that he didn’t have to make from scratch for me to enjoy; something he could bring home after work that I could devour like a birthday dessert should be devoured…with reckless abandon and without fear of the ramifications. This wasn’t a simple quest by any means. Given my sensitivity to all things derived from corn, it couldn’t contain baking powder, powdered sugar, corn syrup, marshmallow, food starch, and a whole host of other questionably corn-y ingredients. That easily ruled out most traditional store-bought western desserts such as birthday cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, candies or ice creams.
One year, though, while having lunch at one of his favorite vegetarian stops, Chuck came across a display case filled with Indian sweets. I am told he drilled the lady behind the counter about what went into the colorful confections and concluded that they were primarily crafted from sugar, nut flours, spices and various forms of milk – dried, creamed, or condensed. There wasn’t a single questionable ingredient as far as he could discern so he picked up an assortment and brought them home.
The box was practically a gift by itself, all wrapped in colorful fabric with gold sparkly trim. I kept it for years because it was too beautiful to toss. The sweets themselves were equally colorful with vibrant green, pink and silver among the choices. Complete with a birthday candle stuck in several of the confections, I got to blow out my candles and make my wish. I loved the presentation and I was able to enjoy with that reckless abandon I mentioned above. No consequences! 😉
At the time, we had no idea what any of the sweets were called. We had no idea why there was such a large selection available in the fall. All we knew was that they were beautiful, they were tasty and they were ‘friendly’.
Now that we live in an area with a high concentration of Indian expats and have made a few Indian friends, our awareness of all things Indian is expanding quickly. We are picking up the nuances between regional Indian cuisines. We are learning of the symbolism inherent in so much Indian art. We have even been taught how to do a few Bollywood dance moves to Indian pop music and are starting to learn what the words mean on Indian signs and menus.
We now know that I am partial to a well-made mango or almond burfi and that, for me, a little rose-water goes a long way. Gulab Jamun is an excellent dessert…even out of a can. There are so many interesting Indian sweets around my birthday season because it often falls within or near the time frame of the Indian holiday – Diwali – the five-day festival of lights.
Given the plethora of fantastic Indian restaurants, bhavans, chaat shops and more in our area, there are so many more confections to try and so much more to learn from what has become a birthday tradition. And not being much of a traditionalist myself, I have to say it is the perfect tradition for me…while the concept is the same every year, the execution is different so it never loses that element of surprise or that foray into new territory that I love…almost as much as my sweetie. Thanks again, dear! ♥