Nearly 1.5 million Indian soldiers, fighting in the trenches of France and Belgium during World War I, missed home for many reasons — one of which was their craving for pinni, a sweet famous in Punjab. This sweet is mostly eaten in winters, and is prepared using flour, desi ghee, nuts, sugar and jaggery.
During winter in Europe, the Sikh community in London wrote a letter to the government, demanding that the Indian sweet be given as a replacement for the English sweets they were being served.
A London-based committee that was looking after Indian soldiers sought to provide them the Punjabi snack to boost their morale. It also arranged for them to be able to listen to music from their homeland, and gave them oil, combs, and items significant to the Sikh religion.
The committee ordered two batches of pinnis from India. However, due to the high cost of the ingredients, they were forced to discontinue this. They then suggested that a chef be brought in to France from India to make the sweet. In addition, the committee also attempted to cook kheer (made of milk and vermicelli). However, they were unable to cook the dish as perfectly as Indians could, and the plan was dropped as well.
Eventually, Indian soldiers, some of whom were teenagers, had to make do with English sweets, while fighting a war they had nothing to do with. But today, after 73 years of freedom from the British, pinni remains a favourite among many.
Learn about the traditional sweet’s history in the video below:
(Edited by Divya Sethu)