“Okay But Is it Really Pizza or is it Indian Pizza?” : The Homesick Girls Struggle for Food in India
I LOVE Indian food. Let me tell you, it’s my favorite. At home, I can’t get enough. I love going to Indian restaurants as much as I can. That’s one reason I was so excited to come to India – the food! I thought “Hey, go have fun in Ecuador eating guinea pigs and rice, I’ll be in India with vegetarian food galore, naan bread and paneer and the best spices in the world!” I distinctly remember saying “No, you’re crazy, I’m never going to get sick of Indian food!”
Well, I think I was wrong. Don’t misunderstand, the food here is delicious. It’s homemade and fresh every day, it’s exotic and yummy but my homesickness has not been only for my family and home – it’s also been for food. You know sometimes when you get sick and your body just rejects certain foods, you look at it and it makes you want to projectile vomit? Well, my body decided it was going to get sick while in India and it was going to reject ALL Indian food. Convenient, right? And what did it want instead? Pizza. Fresh fruit and huge salads and smoothies and Mexican food and bags of frozen cherries like I usually eat at home. My journal has at least 4 full pages of me fantasizing about what I wanted to eat (all things that you just don’t get in India) One day, I spent hours on Amazon looking at food that I could possibly order in India. I’m not kidding. It’s getting a little bit out of control.
Here’s the thing about India- everything tastes like curry. Literally everything. I think I might be psyching myself out about this – there’s been times I thought the water tasted like curry. I’ve had a chocolate bar that tasted like curry (also a little bit like dust). It’s like curry is in the air or something. Anyways back to the food I’ve been dreaming of. I think pizza sums it all up.
Pizza is the epitome of my daily relationship with India. It’s on the menu, you get excited, you say “yes please, I’ll have the vegetable pizza!” It sounds like pizza, it’s gets to your table, it looks promising. You take a bite – this is not pizza. This is curry marinated vegetables with a sad excuse for cheese. I’ve learned not to order it. A few days ago a group of us went out for lunch. Pizza was on the menu — someone ordered it. My first question was “Okay, but is it Pizza or is it Indian Pizza?” (It was Indian pizza). Donuts are the same way. Oh you see that donut there at the coffee shop? Looks great right, covered in chocolate icing and exactly like you might find at home- wrong. This isn’t a donut, this is a stale bagel covered in curry/dust flavored chocolate. Coffee is not the coffee you’re expecting, it’s more like milk with a splash of some coffee flavored powder. Green salad? Forget about it.
But it’s not all bad- just like with the pizza, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected in India. You might not get what you imagined or wanted, but what you get isn’t half bad. The veggie burger I ordered last week wasn’t anything like the ones I eat at home, but it was still good. The mango milkshake I ordered definitely wasn’t a thick frozen treat, but it was a damn good glass of mango juice! This trip hasn’t been a sunshine-filled-travel-magazine-worthy-story yet, but it sure has been an adventure with culture shock.
I can eat Indian food again without wanting to projectile vomit. And we found an awesome restaurant that has an almost-American omelette with toast and french fries. The same place has a ‘salad’ which is basically just a plate of cut up fresh vegetables that’s safe to eat. Now I know when I need some non-curry covered food, I have somewhere to go!
And I’m making thanksgiving dinner for my host mom! (let’s just say I’m going to have to work with what I’ve got). I’ll make sure I give you a full report on how that goes.. I’m also going to try to attempt to make some Mexican food (I saw tortillas and tabasco on amazon.. I have faith)
Good news for me – I’ve got a care package on the way filled with very carefully selected contents: homemade chocolate chip cookies, sour patch kids, my beloved Hi-Chews, dried fruits, and ‘anything American’ (thanks dad!!). Unfortunately a medium pizza with extra sauce was not going to mail very well.
Yes I’m homesick and I’m constantly on the prowl for my favorite foods in India which makes no sense and doesn’t show any attempt to fit into my new culture, but I think it’s funny. I’m laughing about it and I think that’s how I’m going to get through the frustrations of this year and the frustrations of India. I don’t expect to find the pizza I’m imagining until I get home. But the ironic thing is that I know when I get home, I’m not going to be able to find the Indian food that is so plentiful here.