DEEPAVALI POP UP: Shruti Sawant from Porvorim was selling poha white/red/roasted (`40/half kg) at Caculo Mall. It’s the season to stock up on fov in Goa, the one useful ingredient which can be converted into several quick-fix snacks

It’s a actually a thanda festival of lights this year in Goa

By Our Special Correspondent

ON the eve of yet another Deepavali, everyone is still  trying to drum up a festive mood with dozens of promotional leaflets with special price offers slipping out of the newspapers! But the spirit of celebration is missing. The Dussehra-Deepavali stretch is one time when European confectionary goes for a toss with the Hindu community seeking some quality mithai, the health-conscious looking for desi ghee mithai to sweeten the palate – kesari jalebi, kaju katli, balushahi, boondi ladoo or mava barfi. These are the usual bestsellers.

There is very little choice in desi ghee mithai for then the pricing is three to four times higher. A stop at Mithai Mandir which is already in early action reveals a choice range of mithai usual and unusual – dry fruit barfi (`800 kg), mohanthal (`560kg), kaju kesar katli (`980 kg), dry fruit kajur roll (`680 kg). They also have boxes of mixed mithai selling at `250/`350/`450 for gift giveaways.

At smaller outlets like the Diwali Shopping Utsav at Caculo Mall foyer from October 22-27 a few self-help group women are retailing desi ghee besan ladoo or sweet potato halva (`100 plus for 200g), but the usual range of sweets are steeped in Vanaspati ghee (hydrogenated vegetarian fat) and the savoury fry ‘ems are selling at `50-60 per package, a price hike of at least `20. Here one can find whte or yellow poha chivda, chakli, rose cookies, ladoos of all kinds, shankarpalli, etc.

Needless to say wealthier and choosier khaas aadmi prefers to get the family “bhaji” or a favourite caterer for batches of sweetmeats and savouries. This is presumably of a purer quality. Increasingly, the health conscious younger generation is shunning sugar and ghee-doped sweets in favour of dry fruit  – a packet of almonds (`220 for 200g), golden raisins (`75 for 100g), black raisins or currants (`90/200g), apricots (`180/200g, figs (`450/500g). The most economical item is golden raisins or kismis but even this is selling for `200/kg this year.

One come-lately mithaiwallah in town mourned “We have anjeer katli but anjeer or figs are `760 kg this year, badam-kaju (almonds/cashewnuts) are `720-800, broken kaju which we buy is `750. Pista is at all time high of `1,360/kg.” They have some delectable pista rolls selling at `1,110/kg, the best buy at Arvind Jangid’s Heritage Sweets at St Inez.

Most mornings these days, jalebi is selling off at `450 kg (a little on the high side), mava peda/barfi and most mava-based sweets are priced at `560/kg, kaju katli at `800/kg. They also do kaju/badam or pista-badam katli on order and if desi cow ghee is used as in their balushani, the prices are higher.

Patanjali cow ghee is at `460/kg. That’s more or less the price of ghee even from Belgaum, besan or gram flour is `160, tur dal `200, moong dal `110 all per kg. These are the usual skinned pulses used in the making of the better quality of mithai (most of which is usually of maida, Vanaspati ghee and white sugar, a deadly trio).

The Goa Sahakar Bhandar at Junta House in Panjim has a dry fruit outlet next door and shoppers jam the small premises to buy dry fruit in small quantities – the ever popular Goan cashew nut is selling at `485 per half kg; almonds are at `212.50 per quarter kg, natural pista (not toasted/salted are at `170 per 100 g.

The best prices are here and the place is usually packed. They don’t keep apricots or walnuts or pine nuts which few look for nowadays and are mostly forgotten for the price has hit the skies this Deepavali season.

There are exclusive dry fruit sweets at the best mithai shops in Panjim if you don’t want to eat sugar/ghee-doped treats, but that’s premium unless the filling is of dates instead of figs. We always say eat a handful of mixed nuts and be happy, or stay with our favourite item of paneer gulab jamuns from Bhaghylakshmi at the Panjim market (the best in town at `400 kg). What’s a gulab jamun here or there this depressing Deepavali with warfare at the country’s borderland upsetting the aam aadmi’s modest lifestyle?

The joy of eating mithai is over for most senior citizens although it’s not the price which puts them off. It’s the quality which puts them off and any comparisons with mithai of childhood are of course odious! Few make mithai at home, preferring to buy from the marketplace in small quantities even if unsure of ingredients asli or nakli.

In any case, one quote came out way, “At the beginning of the season with all the mithai coming my way, I may take a bite of a peda or Mysore paak but once is enough! Most of our mithai is over-sweet and over the years I’ve lost whatever craving I may have once had!”

Those who are health-conscious are aware of the link between the excessive consumption of refined sugar and Vanaspati or vegetarian fats and how these, along with refined oil fry ‘ems, contribute towards heart disease and diabetes. One most go easy on the consumption of both mithai and savouries even at Deepavali, preferring to pop a handful of caju-kismish instead. One friend said, “I soak alu bukhara (apricots) or anjeer (figs) overnight and serve them simmered in honey-lemon or honey-cardamom syrup the next day by way of sweet delight. It’s better than any mithai loaded with sugar and reeking of ghee/oil!”

To a query, one shopper at the mall quipped, “I’ve bought no mithai this year unless you want to consider a packet of doce de grao I bought while at the Magsons Supercentre here. My husband and children only love this love this soft elaichi-flavoured gram sweet of Goa. It cost `90 per 300g packet!”

Incidentally, shoppers do have options here by way of packaged mithai, for example there’s GRB’s Butter Scotch Soan Papdi (`65/250g), also a pineapple-flavoured soan papdi, and Haldiram’s have festive packs of their selection of mithai and savouries.

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