Sondesh: Background information when reading The Newlyweds

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Newlyweds

A Novel

by Nell Freudenberger

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger X
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Sondesh

Print Review

In The Newlyweds, when Amina returns home to Bangladesh, her mother picks up a box of freshly-made sondesh from a reputed vendor to bring to Amina's aunt.

sondesh Bangladesh shares the Bengali language with the Indian state of West Bengal. Bengali sweets (mishti) are famous all over South Asia and sondesh is particularly well-known. Like most other Bengali sweets, sondesh is a milk-based treat made from fresh cheese (paneer).

The word sondesh (or sandesh, as it is spelled in the rest of South Asia) is both singular and plural and means "messages." The sweets, it is said, got their name because the dry confections were often sent along with the bearers of good news.

According to a paper presented at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 1999, "'Mukha mishit korao' - 'Sweeten your mouth' - is the phrase used when offering [sondesh] to guests. The number, quality, and provenance of the sweets are an index of a guest's status. In remote villages, where sweets are not available or people are too poor to buy them, visitors may be offered a glass of sugar-flavored water. Friends and family members who travel bring back sweets from famous shops."

Writer Colleen Sen, the daughter-in-law of the late Arati Sen - a well-known Bengali columnist - explains that, "Sweets are an essential component of Bengali hospitality. Bengalis send sweets to friends and superiors as gifts, eat them to celebrate passing an examination or getting a new job, and offer them to the gods at pujtts. Sweets are a marker of rites of passages in a Bengali's life: the birth of a child, pregnancy, marriage, even death. The apogee of the Bengali sweet-makers' art and the sweet most emblematic of Bengaliness is sandesh."

sondesh Though there are many different recipes for how to make sondesh, it is generally cooked with paneer (made from cow's milk), sugar, lemon juice, clarified butter (ghee), and spices such as cardamom or flavorful extracts like vanilla. The mixture can be molded into a variety of shapes and is often garnished with nuts, such as pistachios or almonds.

Other popular Bengali sweets include the syrupy rosogolla (cheese balls in syrup) and mishti doi (literally translated as "sweet yogurt").

You can try your hand at sondesh by following the instructional video below, found at ManjulasKitchen.com:

Top photo by kspoddar
Bottom photo by Biswarup Ganguly

Article by Poornima Apte

This article was originally published in May 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...
  • Book Jacket: Look Alive Out There
    Look Alive Out There
    by Sloane Crosley
    After a brief (and thoroughly enjoyable) foray into fiction (with her 2015 novel The Clasp), Sloane ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.