I don’t know if my parents failed to mention that we would be having a dinner party or if I was to busy concentrating on the television to register the news, but I remember “discovering” that we would be having company as a child on certain evenings, and having only a short amount of time to get ridiculously excited before guests arrived. I loved that dinner parties meant having “friends” over to play with but even then I also loved everything else that came with entertaining, including the telltale signs that led me to the discovery of the events themselves.

For instance, the house would be tidied and prettier than on a normal day, with special table cloths wooshed over a table and every light in the house burning even before dusk. Records replaced the radio. I was scrubbed clean, made to wear something too nice to play in and actually encourage to sit and watch something on TV rather than run around. And the commotion in the kitchen was different too. The energy was palpable. Maybe there’d been crabs scurrying across the kitchen floor earlier in the day, maybe a caramel flan was setting in the fridge, but I didn’t make the connection from those things, actually. But once I caught whiff of a biryani coming together, I knew for sure it was a special night, with special visitors to pamper and plump on their way.

To this day, regardless of how much my immediate or extended family toils and creates in the kitchen, I’ve never seen biryani envoked for anything short of a birthday or entertaining guests. I would never think to request it for dinner, even to this day when my aunt asks me what I would like to have when I’m planning to visit–see, I’m not a “guest” so a request for biryani simply never even crossed my mind. It has nothing to do with the effort involved–I assure you that whatever my aunt does whip up for my casual visits is much more intensive. Biryani, and it’s traditional, expected if not required accompaniments, are simply reserved for a very special dinner. I hope you have both the occasion and inclination to make this feast one day soon–and somewhat often too.

(Happy new year.)

a biryani feast (all the recipes you need, below)

jackfruit biryani

spiced, fried potatoes

cashew nut curry

mint chutney*

pickle*

curried beans*

fried eggplant curry*

*Previously published on le sauce.