An Engineer-turned-Sweet-Maker tells you how she left Construction for Confections
“In the Hindi language, there are no sweeter words than “Muh Meetha Karwaho” – ‘Make Your mouth Sweet’ – and any occasion of joy needs a sweet ending. Something about the idea of how no meal was truly complete without a sweet bite and how every major celebration, gathering and even religious event is commemorated with sweets has resonated with me.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Make your mouth sweet”, but I do it happily every time. However, it is Diwali that I especially remember from my childhood because it featured an abundance of sweets.
As the harvest season starts in India, it is the beginning of holiday festivities. As with many Indian holidays, Diwali is celebrated differently in each household, as there are many facets to this holiday. Be it religious connotations or cultural significance, each region of India and each family has their own particular way of celebrating the holiday. However, certain traditions universally epitomize Diwali such as lighting of diyas or candles, sky filled with fireworks, colorful rangoli designs, social gatherings, exchange of greetings and sharing of sweets.
Diwali in America: Sweet Ideas
Being American born and Indian, my parents continued some of the old world traditions they were accustomed to during the Diwali holidays in India. Even to this day, as our family in New Jersey has grown into a part of the close-knit Gujarati community, we continue to celebrate Diwali the same way. The women of the family spend weeks prior to Diwali going from house to house, cooking a rich assortment of snacks and sweets. Half of the delicious snacks are consumed right away while the other half is divvied amongst the households. Then finally as Diwali approaches, the house fills up with family members and friends visiting and dinner parties. So Diwali in my home is like a week-long Thanksgiving full of delicious foods and memorable family time.
The best part of Diwali for me, growing up and even now, is the variety of sweets after the spicy snacks or at the end of the meal. It was such a delight to have this array of homemade treats to choose from every night for a week! My favorites were always my mom’s specialties, which are common Gujarati sweets, such as googra (fried half moon shape pastry filled with sweet mixture with nuts and cardamom) and laddoos. That, however, didn’t stop me from overly consuming common Eastern & South Indian sweets that were a novelty to us, such as milk-based sweets like bright juicy Chumchum.
As I grew older, I realized what actually makes Indian sweets so luxurious are the rich ingredients such as nuts and spices. I wanted to create sweets that would highlight the wonderful flavors of the nuts and spices by using only all-natural, high-quality ingredients and take the confection to another level by pairing with various types of French and Belgium chocolates. I didn’t want to necessarily create another take on Indian sweets but rather to elevate the experience of enjoying a sweet by making it visually appealing without the excessive sugar.
So when I was laid off from my engineering job, I delved into my passion for confections and after numerous trials, consultations with my mom, grandmother and aunts, I developed various types of sweets with influences of Indian and Middle-Eastern flavors, cut to perfect square bite size portions.
While I was developing my sweets, I had also envisioned the full experience from taste and look of the sweets, packaging and finishing touches that would stimulate all the senses. With the help of my siblings (who are also partners in the business), the vision was carried out and Sweet Silk went from being an idea to a reality.
We began over two years ago by catering events such as weddings. We quickly began to get requests for boxed sweets for birth announcements and favors, which led me to develop our Signature Collection of sweets and launch our online site in time for Diwali. Our sweets come packaged in contemporary gift boxes elegantly wrapped with satin ribbons. I wanted every recipient to have that joyous anticipation when they’re opening a box of chocolates and can’t wait to indulge by trying every flavor!
Sweet Silk now offers an array of products from nut, dried fruit and milk-based sweets to all vegan fruit-filled truffles. We take pride in being an artisanal brand and continue to make all of our sweets to order by hand, using age-old traditional cooking techniques in small batches. We do not use any preservatives or additives and use only the finest ingredients to ensure fresh quality of taste and texture.
The idea of carrying on traditions is the mantra behind Sweet Silk. This is why each year we have continued to offer special limited edition gift boxes for the holidays. This year we offer our Diwali Sweet Gift boxes filled with your choice of sweets. The sweets come packaged in a gold colored silk box tied with an organic red ribbon and topped with our exclusively designed gift card that may be customized to include a personal message. We were inspired by the spark of a flame that shines from a diya and earthy tones to create an elegant gift box for this holiday.
I hope you are inspired to enjoy Diwali festivities with family & friends, continue the traditions and share something sweet…..From our family to yours…
(Shefalee Patel is a civil/environmental engineer who now heads Sweet Silk, an artisanal confections company. Visit www.savorsweetsilk.com.)