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Honey, sugar and spice on the Indo-Pak menu

February 25, 2010 14:06 IST

So, what is in a menu, you might ask. Oh, a world and more. Especially, if it is to do with a high-profile lunch hosted by the Indian foreign office for a Pakistani delegation.

The lunch hosted on Thursday at Hyderabad House in central Delhi by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is as elaborate as the menu is carefully chosen.

There is Gosht curry (lamb preparation). That itself is significant. If the main course was chicken instead of mutton, it would have been seen as a mild insult.

Then there is baby corn, Khofta khaas (please note, not aam as in common but khaas, as in special), daal sultana (that's lentils with raisins, not daal served by a nymph called sultana), peas pulav, lagan ka paneer (no lagan is not a marriage of minds or hearts. its just a Parsi preparation) and kumbh palak (and no kumbh is not as in the kumbh mela. It is just the Hindi word for mushroom).

Clearly the Pakistanis will be overwhelmed by all the green stuff on their plate, what with the palak (spinach) and peas in rice. They are more accustomed to eating spinach with gosht (lamb) and rice with beef or lamb.

For dessert (yes we are trying to sweeten the bitter pill) there is honey gulab jamun (that's a triple whammy if you ask me, fried dumplings in sugar syrup laced with honey) and chena khas (that's a milk based dessert again). Both are extremely sweet. Oh so we are honey and sugar are we!

And these lunches are elaborate affairs in Hyderabad House. This isn't a state banquet but the chinaware selected is formal. White with gold edging, no color or floral pattern. The cutlery is heavy and silver plated.  The place settings immaculately set. Liveried waiters, unsmilingly, waiting to pick up your plates as you finish your courses.

Nobody really eats to one's heart or tummy's content at these lunches. And there is a reason.

Soon after the lunch, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao meets with the Indian press and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir goes ahead to meet National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

After these two meetings, he briefs the press at the Pakistan high commission. Now, with such a heavy schedule, the two foreign secretaries can ill afford to binge on lunch.

Source: ANI