MANGALURU: Christmas time is also Kuswar time in Mangaluru. A traditional platter of goodies made by the Mangalorean Catholic community during the festive season, Kuswar is popular among all communities and acts as a sweet binding tool.
Earlier, families would get together to prepare the delicacies and the process would be a month-long affair. The Kuswar would be distributed among friends, neighbours and servants as a gesture of goodwill. With joint families shrinking, preparation of the 22 traditional items that make up the Kuswar platter has largely moved on to bakeries and self-help groups.
During Christmas, bakeries and shops are flooded with the goodies. But for those wanting to feast on the full platter and in home-made style, the various stalls put up outside churches in Nanthoor, Kulashekar and Jeppu are the go-to places, says Elyas Fernandes, a true-blue Mangalurean.
And it is not just Christians who buy them.
“I have more non-Christians as my customers during the Christmas time. My friend of 20 years Ramakrishna Nayak, in fact, is one of the first customers to walk into my shop for the Kuswar platter,” says John D’Souza, a baker.
Former Mayor Jacintha Vijaya Alfred, who runs a production unit of the Kuswar goodies, has her hands full. Her stall in Jeppu is one of the popular places to buy Kuswar. “There is no secret ingredient in Kuswar making. More than the aroma and the taste it is the reverence of Christmas that makes them more delectable. There are thousands of women who make them in their houses during Christmas and many of them do distribute Kuswar to their neighbours and friends and not just among Christians but other communities as well. It is an expression of joy, spread through Kuswar,” she says.
Christmas cuisine too is undergoing some change. The bakers did their shopping much before the baking season began. The availability of chocolate chips, California prunes, dried apricot, blackcurrants and dried orange peels are giving a tangy twist to the rich plum cakes in the city. A special self raising dough makes the cakes taste so much better, D’Souza said. Also, the traditional Christmas lunch and dinner is seeing dishes made from quail, turkey and emu.