The informant is one of my Pakistani friends who has lived in many different countries, yet is very attached to the culture of his heritage and is very involved in the rituals, ceremonies and overall traditions that are tied to his roots in Pakistan.
The informant describes this dance, the Luddi, as a “circular formation that people dance to”. This dance entails the “clapping of their hands and spinning in circles as they are still moving in a circle.” Although the dance is not usually performed for a certain scenario or moment, it is “usually done at celebrations and ceremonies like weddings and dinners with the family” who are brought together and dance to specific songs that link to the informant’s culture. He describes his times watching the Luddi as a “coming together when [they] have not seen each other in a long time” and celebrating the family or a certain event happening at the time. It is always performed in Pakistan when the entire family joins, his family always visits to “celebrate their cousins, aunts, uncles and all the elders that have given us the privilege we have” conveying the importance of the dance in Punjabi culture.
The Luddi is typically done with “the group of women in the family that are important to the celebration or occasions” and this can range from “family of the groom or bride in a wedding or the parents and siblings of the birthday person.” The joining together of the women in a circle gives them a chance to “celebrate in a space without the men involved”. Although it is usually performed by older women in the family, younger women around the age of the bride and/or person of significance are able to join the dance and “learn the significance of what it means to become an adult woman” in the family that has their culture embedded into their daily lives. Luddi is msot typically seen in the winter and spring when all the family members come back from their travels for the wedding season, therefore, it allows the women to not only celebrate the occasion but also the family and other women.
The formation of a circle as part of the dance highlights the cycle of their culture and the generations that come together to form a chain that connects. It is creating a personal connection between the women of the family in that certain moment, growing as the girls grow and join the dance to celebrate each other. The clapping of their hands emphasises the celebration of the occasion and also creates a unified sound that the woman can sing and dance to, establishing their heritage and Punjabi culture in the form of performance and expression of their joy into feelings. The incorporation of this dance at weddings, which is also presented to be an important and momentous part of the culture in South Asia, highlights how the family is the base of their culture and even the women have their own traditions and rituals that create unity. Furthermore, the circle growing highlights the chain of Punjabi women in the family growing and the representation of the elders teaching the younger traditions to keep the culture alive.
My informant is a Pakistani male that has lived in many different countries across the world, yet his attachment to Pakistan and its culture plays a significant role in his life and how he lives.
Mithai is a “type of box or category of sweets” that exist within Pakistani culture. It is comprised of “different sweet treats and toffees that you give out to houses at the weddings.” He describes these sweets as a form of an invite for party favours that occur at the wedding. The sweets are often seen as a ‘thank you’ or token of appreciation and reminder of the wedding, they are the “staple sweets at Pakistani weddings”
The Mithai is usually made by certain stores in Pakistan that specialize in providing the sweets “on a large scale when they also are able to maintain the best quality” for the guests. Even though my informant is Pakistani and has seen these sweets at weddings and different family events that he has attended, it is “a general desi traditional sweet that also exists in India”. This sweet is provided before the dinner or reception as a sort of snack or small bite in order to keep the guests satiated and entertained for the long day of traditions ahead.
The incorporation of food into big events in Pakistan such as weddings allows the guests to feel like they are being cared for in a certain environment. It ties it back to their culture as the unified feeling of togetherness that is provided in the event is seen through Pakistani food as a whole which is usually made for sharing and family-oriented events. The ability that their culture possesses by bringing their families together with food allows them to maintain their connections with the children and set in place the values that they hold when prioritising family. Furthermore, this is seen in the wedding sweets as the guests are seen as part of the family and are given the opportunity to celebrate the day with the community whilst being fed and incorporated into a family tradition.
Context: The informant was born in Pakistan (her parents are from Afghanistan originally), and the only variety of cucumber (almost a luxury item) available at the time was a large, hard, bitter kind that had to be prepared a certain way in order to be palatable. In her family, each end of the cucumber (about a half-inch on each side) had to be sliced off, then the two inner surfaces had to be rubbed very hard and fast against each other to “draw out the bitterness”. Sometimes a cut is made into the “body” end of the cucumber before rubbing the end slice against it. A thin film of pale green foamy substance would appear at the edge of the cucumber end, which was then wiped or washed off, and the cucumber was ready to prepare and eat.
Analysis: From a couple different anecdotal and semi-scientific accounts, it appears that this practice is not unique to Pakistan or even the Asian subcontinent, but is practiced by people of Czech and German descent, in the US, in Canada, and in Britain (and probably in many more regions, as it likely that only in the past couple of centuries have we been able to produce consistently non-bitter cukes through genetic modification). The practice is often called “rubbing” or “wicking“, and though it doesn’t seem to have a strong scientific basis (bitterness level is often a result of many growing factors such as temperature, moisture content, etc.), those who use the method (the informant included) have always found it to work. The belief seems to be that the foamy substance that is created from friction between the two ends is what contains the bitterness (in scientific terms, in contains the cucurbitacin compounds which are toxic to some animals and very bitter to humans). So although serious scientific research hasn’t been done on the subject, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular folk food practice has any less validity in the kitchen.