Weddings come but once in lifetime (O.K. nowadays, they sometimes come two or three or four times). One thing that the guests surely don’t fail to miss, aside from the couple’s kiss, is the banquet where a parade of menus entices the guests to sit and feast with the couple. It is a cultural and traditional practice around the world to have a wedding banquet. Regardless of whether it is simple or grand, traditional wedding dishes are never out of style.
In modern times, while some traditions are kept at bay, some couples try to mix them with current trends in wedding foods. Often, the menu is a mix of traditional wedding staples, depending upon their religion, customs and traditions, the wedding motif and budget. It is said that in certain countries and regions, the types of wedding food prepared are historically significant, with a slant of their culture and tradition, something that cannot be altered despite the couple’s prodding. Let us take a journey to some of the favorite wedding treats, from the most unlikely to the extraordinary dishes from the different cultures around the world.
Morocco. Weddings in this region are some of the longest celebrations. It’s a week of never ending partying and feasting together with their families and friends. Moroccan wedding food staples are foods that symbolize fertility from ancient times like fish and chicken dishes. Weddings usually start at night so they also serve traditional dishes for dinner like oven-cooked Moroccan pastilla with trid which is a pie with chicken and shrimp meat, pigeon, ground almonds, cinnamon, sugar, parsley, pasta, and water. Other staple dishes include Moroccan couscous with vegetables, grilled salmon and of course, Moroccan roasted lamb. A lot of candy-coated almonds are also served in Moroccan weddings aside from the very traditional wedding cake. These are believed to be aphrodisiacs by the locals.
Egypt. Though Egyptians get the flow of the current trend in wedding preparations, they are very keen in keeping very particular traditions on this very special day. In Egypt, it is believed that food reflects the wealth of the family, so you won’t be surprised to see a wide variety of dishes prepared for a single day of celebration. Food treats are meat dishes, stews, vegetable salad, and of course, sweets. Foods served at weddings are some famous local and internationally popular traditional Egyptian dishes like grilled chicken, fish, Kebabs, Kofta, and saffron rice cuisines. Following customary Muslim traditions, alcohol is not served at weddings.
China. Eight is a lucky number for the Chinese. This goes true with the banquet of eight courses on the Chinese wedding menu and every dish served symbolizes happiness, prosperity, and long life. Wedding banquets involve cold plates or the so-called “dragon-phoenix” plates which include a variety of sliced meat, jellyfish, and dragon and phoenix-shaped. In Chinese restaurants, lobster literally means “dragon shrimp” and chicken feet represents “phoenix feet” and in marriage,the “dragon” represents the man and the “phoenix” represents the woman. In order to have a balance in their new relationship as husband and wife, they must serve chicken and lobster at the wedding dinner. Peking duck is also served as part of the red plate, with red being the color of happiness in Chinese culture. The banquet also includes Shark’sFin Soup (which is quite controversial), Roast suckling pig, fowl (2 pigeons are often served), Sea Cucumber, Fish (it sounds like abundant in Chinese), and Crab claws. Excluding the wedding cake, desserts are also served in the menu, the likes of Sweet Red Bean Soup and Sweet Buns. Lastly,the banquet ends with drinks like tea as a sign of respect, and alcoholic beverages which means celebrating a special occasion.
Philippines. Wedding menus usually depends on the motif of the wedding or the venue ofthe reception. Lechon (roasted whole pig) is a staple in Filipino weddings with literally every wedding celebration serving one, or two, or more. Among the regulars are different kinds of meat dishes like Bistek (beef steak), garlic chicken, fish fillet, seafood supreme, and chopsuey (sauted vegetable mix) with desserts like macaroni and fresh fruit salads with dressing and pastries like cupcakes and chocolate bars. In some cases, more traditional Filipino delicacies are served like Lechon Baka (roasted whole calf), stewed goat, Sotanghon (noodles for long life). Filipinos also take on sweetness on celebrations literally by serving kakanins which are usually made of glutinous rice cooked in different recipes.
Brazil. Foods served in Brazilian weddings symbolize the marriage or the union of the couple. They prepare these little cookies or sponge cakes that are joined together by sweet, creamy fillings like caramel sauce, marmalade, egg curd, honey, or jam. They are called, casadinhos, which means “married.” Each cookie sandwich is individually rolled in sugar, wrapped and tied with a ribbon or bow to seal everything. This is now referred to as bem casados, which means “well married.” This symbolizes the sweet union of the couple. These goodies are served to the guests at the end of the celebration as a favor or giveaway.
India. Despite the very festive celebration at Indian weddings, one thing that never fails to stand out is their food. In place of a wedding cake which is a wedding staple in some weddings, it is customary for the couple to offer each other bites of sweeter treats like honey mixed with yogurt. This is called “madhupak” which means offerings in which the honey represents a sweet start to the couple’s marriage and the yogurt represents eternal health. Some other local favorites and sweet treats are served in extended celebration of the wedding, which can last up to a week.
France. French are known to create one of the world’s first wedding cakes in the form of croquembouche. These are actually not cakes but cream puffs with Crème patissière (French custard) placed on top of each other to create a tower-like structure, commonly seen on weddings and baptisms in place of a cake. They are held together by using caramelized sugar, often decorated with chocolate, sugared almonds, flowers, or bows and ribbons. For its tower-like appearance and crunchy sweet bites, the croquembouche will surely stand out in weddings, something that is unusually done outside France.
Greece. Almonds, or candy-coated almonds are usually served at Greek weddings and other Mediterranean weddings as well. It also has a combination of bitter nuts and sweet sugar coating that represents the highs and lows of the couple’s married life. They
are served to give luck to the couple, hoping that they have more sweet moments than bitter in their marriage. This favor is often served to guests in small bags on silver trays.They fill in the bags with an odd number of almond treats inside, believing that odd numbers are indivisible which means that the couple will never break apart.
Mexico. Mexican weddings are very festive, even with the dishes and treats they serve on the celebration. They are also known to be very traditional and even with the preparation, they are really family-oriented. The food is often prepared by the bride’s family, one tradition that is never forgotten. They prepare dishes that are staple to the Mexican table like spicy rice treats, beef and chicken dishes, salsas and other colorful and festive dishes that this region is known for. The wedding cake is a rum-based fruit-cake with lots of pecans, pineapple, or coconut.
Scotland. Scottish people are known to be very traditional when it comes to wedding celebrations, from the wedding rites, to the wedding attire, and their wedding food. They often use ingredients that are found and grown in their land like sheep meat and vegetables. Haggis is known to be a staple in Scottish celebrations such as weddings. It is a kind of sausage or pudding made up from the sheep’s pluck (heart, lungs, liver), stuffed and cooked in the sheep’s intestines like any other sausages. Their blackberry pie and scones are also basics in traditional weddings. Scottish weddings are also not without the traditional Scottish whisky and other local traditional beverages.
Although all these countries have very different culinary traditions when it comes to weddings; one thing stands true. The foods served signify the wishes for happiness, health and longevity of the couple. To all those who are taking this journey in 2011 – Congrats!