Gulkand is an edible rose preserve found across the Indo-Persia region. "Gul" means flower in Urdu and Persian and "kand" means sweet in Arabic. Gulkand is traditionally preserved in clay vessel and sun-cooked for months. The Damask rose blooms twice a year and is traditionally used due to its strong perfume. Gulkand's aged, sweet flavour and velvety texture is unlike anything I've tasted before.
The first time I came across gulkand was while visiting my grandfather’s home in Pakistan. He kept an old jar wrapped in muslin in his wardrobe. In the subcontinent, it’s common to keep precious food items to be safeguarded in one’s personal closet. Distanced from the chaos of the household, the jar of gulkand in nana’s wardrobe signalled to me that this was precisely his shauk, his pleasure. Nana reluctantly shared this treat with us, mumbling about the jar’s precious origins and complaining about how we always demanded more. Occasionally, he would dispense a tiny amount on an old spoon with his shaky hand to us. The taste of its sweet and unique flavor made our day.
In the patriarchal society that Pakistan is, he was always contradictory. He loved his roses, whether in the form of gulkand or his garden. He was sweet, funny and sharp. The intensely rich and feminine flavour of gulkand forever reminds me of him. Preserving and creatively archiving memories that ground me in my heritage has become even more important to me this week. Our identities, histories and material culture can be erased by force, violence and politics. And yet the most cherished moments and stories survive subtly. We made this video reminiscing about our grandfather and the sweet and mysterious gulkand that he cherished so much. People leave this world physically, yet they leave so much intangible matter behind.
Created for Third Edit
Shot and edited by: Annum Shah
Art direction and words by: Savia Shah
Music credit: Bruce Miller, drum and hornet quintet. Field recordings from India
Watch on Instagram here
See More ›