Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Right Numbers

Yesterday I attended the upanayanam ceremony of a cousin’s children. A religious ceremony, it was conducted simply with only close relatives in attendance, and a lunch to follow.

The invitation had carried a request that we inform the hosts of how many would be present, and would participate in the lunch. This is quite unheard of in the circles where upanayanams are conducted. Everyone is welcome to eat. Loads of food is cooked, expecting many people to eat. And then invariably, a lot of perishable food is left over and hasty and unwise decisions made as to their disposal.

A simple note like this, very much like the RSVP (Repondez s’il vous plait) is very much to be appreciated, (though some hard core traditionalists might object on the grounds that it reflects on the hospitality of the host). It gives the host an idea of how many people will actually lunch, and suitable arrangements can be made. Caterers spiral out of control and go overboard with the numbers – when they cook for 30 around 45 people can be fed, as they easily admit.

And the menu was perfect – a good balance of vegetables and proteins, with the right amount of side dishes (including chips and appalam), sweets and Payasam (kheer), all served in reasonable helpings, second helpings on request. I found that everyone enjoyed the food, and at the end, very little left on the leaves to be cleared up. A far cry from the upanayanam I had attended two months ago. There were two kheers, three sweets, and to top it all, three varieties of ice cream, not to mention the innumerable side dishes. The hosts said they had been pressurized by the caterers that this was the norm. (The ‘norm’ at weddings is mind-boggling). This keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome is an unhealthy practice, for there is just so much a person can eat at a meal. It benefits no one except the caterers.

Let the pipers put their foot down and call the tune – good food with adequate variety in moderate quantity - this should be the norm on all occasions, and will the guests be good enough to let them know how many will partake of lunch/dinner.

1 comment:

Swarna said...

It would need courage to overcome peer pressure and put out such a message in a wedding invitation!
My Keralite husband felt he was eating thoughout the three days of an Iyer wedding. The morning snacks are soon followed by the heavy lunch, and hardly have you put out the last belch when you hear "Vaango, tiffin saapidalam". Then you have time only to freshen up for dinner...
Wastage is vulgar, the sooner the caterer realizes this, the better!