Sweet, Sacred and Profane: Dessert in Kolkata
New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Fifth Ave. & 42nd St., Manhattan)
No nation is as obsessed with dessert as India and no Indian more passionate about sweets than a Bengali. In Kolkata, West Bengal’s capital, it is hard to walk more than a block or two before stumbling onto a sweet shop. The state’s sweet makers’ association claims more than a 100,000 members, which comes as no surprise when you find out that per capita consumption here is about six times the national average. In this part of India there is a sweet for every occasion and no event is complete without a box from the neighborhood confectioner. Births, weddings and wakes are all celebrated with sugary creations. The gods all have their favorites and each puja (religious holiday) has its essential complement of treats. As part of his research on the history of dessert, Michael Krondl visited the city’s oldest sweetshops, which have been in business for over a 150 years. The extensively illustrated lecture will focus on these sweetshops, their history but especially on the role sweets play in Hindu ritual and culture.