Two friends of mine had been on a trip to Europe a couple of years ago. Both of them were vegetarians. Now, being a vegetarian in South India is great. You always have lots of tasty variety to choose from.
But it’s a little different on a Europe trip. In the beginning, they were all excited to be able to eat European food everyday. Gradually, they realised, they had no more choice but to eat lettuce, potato and bread and at the best, pasta! throughout their trip.
By the end of their trip, they were literally dying to eat Idli-Chutney!
After listening to the story, I felt proud of myself. Because I could eat anything.
If I ever have to visit another country, I would never have this problem.
Later that year, my mom and I travelled to a couple of places in Europe and then London. First few days of our trip were the honeymoon period. Eating authentic european food, living the ‘foody’ image of ourselves and so on.
Because she didn’t eat pork or beef, in most places she was left with only boiled chicken or eggs (only if it was available) or cheese and potatoes. If the place was rich in variety according to European or British standards, then some lettuce or the rocket leaves and some capsicum (if we were lucky enough) along with it.
(I may be exaggerating; but to a mind hungry for Desi food, it seemed just like that!)
One day, midway through trip, we were wandering about in the Venice market. We were passing by crockery shops, glass shops,garment shops, restaurants, vegetable market, cookie shops, fruit stalls and then tired, sat in a restaurant to eat our lunch. And then mom admitted something startling. She had got so bored of eating the indistinctively bland food everyday, that she had picked a single little red chilly from a vegetable stall! And now she was going to have it with her lunch to make it more interesting.
We laughed our eyes out!
After this incident, now I was prouder that I could eat anything.. I would never be unable to eat anything anywhere. This was my superpower.
Much later, a couple of months ago, while I was camping with some friends, one of them mentioned of a restaurant which served the Japanese dish Sashimi. Eating just a raw fish sounded something I must try. So back in Bangalore, I took the best buddy of mine and found out that particular restaurant and ordered this strange sounding dish. My friend had already turned my choice down and ordered something else for herself.
But she was equally excited to have exquisite food in an authentic Japanese restaurant.
(Remarkable, this friend of mine is a hardcore vegetarian turned an eggitarian and then had started eating chicken and fish once in awhile. I truly appreciated the fact that she was preparing herself to be more and more adaptable for rare, yet dreadful conditions, such as being stuck on the Arctic region and having nothing to eat but weird animals.)
While my Salmon sashimi arrived at my table, it looked nothing like I had imagined it to be. Fish – to me – always meant the silver sea fish of the Arabian sea with white meat. And here I had a completely raw orange coloured cut fish, which looked like freshly cut muskmelon strips. But now I had ordered it, out of my own choice. There was no way to turn back. Gathering my optimism, I put the first piece in my mouth. It didn’t feel like fish (I mean like I had imagined) to my teeth either. It rather felt again like a raw muskmelon, including the taste.
(My friends say I am exaggerating and that it is impossible for a fish to taste like a fruit; but I swear! It tasted exactly like that.)
While I was silently chewing my Sashimi, my friend was also struggling to eat her soup and swallow the rice she had ordered.
We were still hungry..much hungry. But we couldn’t dare order anything else. We decided we’d rather straight go home and find a McDonalds’ nearby.
While browsing through random shops on our way towards the bike, we read “Hot maggie with hot chai.. the best combination”! Sounded interesting!
And there. We found a one-stop-shop to the rest of our hunger plus everything that our tastebuds were craving for.
Masala maggie, chai, banana cake.. what else could one ask for!
And then I realised something. My Idli-craving friends’ yearning, my mom’s picking, or rather shoplifting a chilly and our ending up in a Chai Point after ‘enjoying’ the Japanese delicacies were not very different. Their cravings were not because they were vegetarian or didn’t eat certain kinds of food. It was the craving for spices. Just like ours.
We Indians have been so spoilt by these spices, that no matter how hard we try to adapt with the world cuisine, however wide we stretch ourselves to eat anything and everything in the world, we will always come back to the home food.. spicy and tangy!
P.S. Your thoughts are invited in comments!