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Chefs dish out feast control

Srinagar Aug. 9: Problem with guest control' How about dish control'

While the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government is still grappling with the draft of the proposed guest-control law, traditional Kashmiri chefs have introduced their own brand of economics.

A novel “prohibitory order” has slashed the number of courses to seven from the over 30 normally served at the famous Wazwan feasts.

The Wazwan is commonly believed to have travelled from Iran to the Valley. The heavily spiced-up dishes, cooked mostly with mutton and chicken, include items like kebabs, Rogan Josh, Rista, Gostaba and Tabak Maz.

The Wazwan, now served in many restaurants outside Kashmir, had an illustrious admirer — Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.

The consumption of mutton at marriage feasts had increased sharply over the last few years and had reached a stage where it came to symbolise the host’s social status: the more one cooked, the higher the standing. It triggered a race among the rich. The consumption ranged from an average of 300 kg to 1,200 kg.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had earlier tried to restrict the quantity of food cooked at marriages and the number of guests. The consumer affairs and public distribution ministry put into force a nearly 50-year-old order — the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 — which empowers the government to “regulate the number of guests and menu at any marriage function in the state”. Violators can be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

The order triggered large-scale protests, and the government had to withdraw it. A cabinet sub-committee was later formed to draft a more rational guest-control law which the Mufti government intends to enforce strictly as the marriage season has already started here.

However, the chefs’ dish-control recipe has found support among the masses.

The Anjumane Ashpazani Kashmir (the Union of Kashmir Chefs) has issued instructions to all members to adhere to the seven-course menu and warned them of “excommunication from the union in case of any breach”.

“We have formed squads to enforce the dish control by visiting households holding marriage ceremonies and other functions in the Valley,” Haji Ghulam Nabi, the president of the union, said.

A state official said the initiative taken by the chefs could limit consumption at feasts. “It seems that this society-friendly voluntary act of the chefs will to a great extent help in solving the problem of heavy consumption at marriage ceremonies in Kashmir,” the official said.

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