I thought I’d eat lots of healthy food in India, that somehow this country had been overlooked by the junk food industry that plagues the Western World. Much to my surprise, packaged and processed foods were everywhere and I, contrary to all my food habits, went for them, too scared to eat probably unhygienically prepared fresh food from street vendors. These tomato tango Lays were delicious. I shared a bar of very old and dry Cadbury with a fellow traveller. The mango Tropicana was lovely; the first of many mango juices I would have over my holiday.
Magic Masala became my favourite crisps flavour, by far.
As I mentioned before I left, I was going to stay in an Ashram for two weeks to participate in a yoga holiday. However, four days after reaching the Ashram, the Ganges, which flowed right beneath the window of my dorm, flooded. It never actually reached our dorms, but still, there was a great risk of danger and the nearest town, a few kilometres down the road, was severely damaged. We were evacuated and the yoga holiday was terminated.
The twenty participants, myself included, were obviously disappointed, but we had no other option, really; we had to make other plans. We were stranded for five days in the nearest hotel while we waited for some road to be made for us to descend back down the mountain (the nearest bridge on the only driveable road having been destroyed by the flood). Every morning I had dalia (pronounced dah-lee-ah; it’s a type of porridge made of broken wheat) for breakfast:
For lunch and dinner, we walked down the main street in Netala, the village near the ashram, and dined at one of its few restaurants. Every time we ate out I opted for tali, a plateful of dal, rice, chapatis and a vegetable curry.
The gang eating out.
Slice is a mango juice, and I had it very often. If you’re not accustomed to it, you’d better dilute it with some water before drinking it–it’s terribly sweet.
Freshly made samosas, a delicious type of Indian street food. Tell you what, though, stand around to see the vendor making it will put you off a bit when you see how much he uses to fry the samosas.
Many, many biscuits were consumed on the road in India. I stumbled upon these coconut flavoured biscuits on the way to Rishikesh. They were my downfall.
With one week left to enjoy in India, I finally made it to Rishikesh, the yoga Mekka of India. It was chock-full of Westerners, compared with other places I’d been, so I could relax a bit more. Above is a photo of ginger lemon honey tea, a delicious brew I had several times. It’s quite healthy and has a wonderful flavour.
Momos, God’s gift to Mankind. They are little dumplings served with a simple vegetable soup. So incredibly simple and delicious. I tried these for the first time in Little Buddha Cafe, a very hip and Western cafe, then a second time in Petit Momo, a little restaurant specialising in–you’ve guessed it–momos. Little Buddha won, hands down.
I got my hands on some proper banana honey porridge in Pyramid Cafe. The portions were huge.
Mixed fruit (they’re underneath there somewhere) porridge and vegetable kofta. Don’t ask me what it’s made of, I still don’t know–except that there’s cheese in there somewhere, which I only learnt after eating the whole thing.
You’ve got to love Indian spelling.
I took a cooking class with Naveen, a lovely guy from Rishikesh. He invited Matt (the guy with the checkered shirt) and me into his home, where he taught us to make bindi, chana masala and aloo paratha. Later we sat on his sofa, eating in front of the telly.
Okra, which we used to make bindi.
Making aloo paratha–a type of potato stuffed chapati.
Ta-da! We made this 🙂 I didn’t touch the curd, though. It’s extremely acid.
I would have loved to photograph the yogis as we all had breakfast and dinner at the Ashram, but it simply would not have been appropriate. Meal times were sort of sacred there: we sat down in a row on the floor, chanting a prayer as our food was served, then ate in silence. We could have as much food as we wanted, so long as we were truly hungry for it, but wasting food was considered very disrespectful. We only had two meals a day, though, so most of us had two, three, some even four helpings at each meal. I guess we were all a bit scared of starving, but the temperatures at lunchtime usually made me feel to queasy to eat anyway. If I got peckish, I could get some biscuits from the Ashram shop.
I miss chanting before eating, I’ll give you that. It made the whole process of sitting down for a meal so much more meaningful. At home I have a nasty habit of nibbling while I’m preparing my food, eating while I’m standing up, in front of the telly, on the go, etc. I rarely actually take the time to sit down and thank my food. It’s a wonderful tradition that I would like to try and incorporate into my daily life.
I do think, though, that my friends and family might give me some weird looks if they heard me singing hare Rama, hare Krishna before I eat.
The one thing that surprised me was how hard it was to be vegan. Vegetarian, sure, no problem. But avoiding milk? That was something else entirely. I don’t think Indians are as concerned with the health benefits of avoiding dairy as Westerners are beginning to be (emphasis on beginning–we’ve got a long way to go yet). I did not let it bother me too much; after all, the dairy industry over there is not tainted with cruelty like ours is. I’m pretty sure none of the cows that provided our dairy whilst staying in Netala were harmed in any way. The dairy being unpasteurised, however, was not so kind for my digestive system. I’m very glad to be back to tofu and almond milk.
On this note, I leave you to go take a nap. The jetlag still has me in its grip. (Mum says it could take up to five days. Oh dear.)