I love to eat. I have a board on pinterest called “The Opposite of a Picky Eater,” because that’s what I am. I will try everything once (or twice) and there is almost nothing I dislike because most everything is agreeable to me. My categories are more or less: 1. this is delicious or 2. this is not delicious, but I will still eat it. Of course, that’s one of the reasons I don’t blog about food very much: I don’t have the most discerning palate.
I still manage to be something of a foodie though, because I’m always on the look-out for food experiences that fall into the delicious category. As a result, when I emailed my mother on my second day in India, she messaged me back, “how is the food?” That was her only question about India.
And the answer was… fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple excellent meals, but most of what I ate was “good, but not great.” Before you ask, yes, I do like Indian food. I eat Indian food in the US with some regularity. And before you say it, I know that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve eaten Indian food, it’s means I’ve eaten the U.S. version of Indian food. However, most of the Indian food I ate in India tasted a lot like the Indian food I’ve eaten in the United States (and the UK).
There are plenty of possible reasons for why much of the food I ate was “good, but not great.” Maybe I didn’t know what to order. Maybe I didn’t eat at the “right” places. Maybe I don’t like Indian food as much as I think I do.
I’d say the number one reason I was underwhelmed by Indian food, though, has to do with my priorities. Food safety was number one, and that was new for me. Usually my goal is to eat the tastiest food possible but, in India, my first priority had to be staying healthy, relegating flavor to number two. And honestly, worrying if what I ate was going to make me sick made eating less enjoyable.
After getting sick, a couple of people on my tour just stopped eating Indian food, opting for prepackaged snacks (chips, candy) and whatever non-Indian cuisine was on the menu. In Northwestern India, many restaurants offer Italian food (pizza, pasta) and Chinese food (fried rice, soup) in addition to the standard curries, biryanis, etc. We often purposely ate at restaurants that had these options because they catered to tourists and, as a result, used safe food practices such as making fresh juices and smoothies with filtered water.
There are a few food safety rules for people traveling to countries like India:
- Don’t drink the tap water (this includes brushing your teeth)
- Don’t drink anything with ice cubes in it (unless the ice cubes are made of filtered water)
- Only eat cooked vegetables (unless raw vegetables are washed with filtered water)
- Only eat fruits with thick peels, like oranges (the filtered water caveat applies, yet again)
- Only eat street food that is cooked in front of you so you know it’s fresh
These rules aren’t necessarily hard to follow. I had no issues when I visited Morocco in 2010, and I also loved the food I ate there. In India, the food was fine with one glaring exception — when I got sick. Now, getting sick was totally my fault because I broke the rules I just outlined above, and it happened on my second full day in India, so, unfortunately, it did color the rest of my experience in the country.
Getting sick also made for one of my best India stories. And by best, I actually mean worst. Best in a tragic, self-deprecating kind of way.
It was samosas that did me in…
Tune in next week for a thrilling tale of stomach sickness on an overnight train! (That last sentence should be read in an old-timey radio voice.)
Have you been to India? What did you think of the food? Has a meal ever made you sick while traveling?