A Week of Indian Food: Day 7 – McDonald’s

And on the seventh day, we took a break from Indian food. On our last night in Delhi, T-bone was craving a Big Mac, and no amount of naan would pacify him. We headed over to the McDonald’s in Connaught Place (Delhi’s central shopping area), where we discovered that half of Delhi had the same idea. This meant that we’d be waiting forever, because Indians simply do not line up – they shove their way to the front at all times and in all places. Depending on your perspective, this can be really fun or really irritating. The best thing to do is to shove back, or follow the advice of my friend Jenny and bark “Mind the queue!” I sometimes got into a good shoving spirit, but Todd found it frustrating at all times.

The McDonald’s line had its usually cheery effect on Todd, but when he finally made his way to the cashier, he had an even worse shock: McDonald’s in India serves neither beef NOR pork. No Big Mac, and no bacon to make the chicken burgers palatable.

Instead, you can enjoy a large crowd with a side of anger!

This way, they avoid offending Hindus (holy cows) AND Muslims (unholy ham). Not sure where this leaves Brahmins (no meat and no garlic) or Jains (no meat, no garlic, no onion, and no root vegetables), but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere. Instead, McDonald’s offers chicken, paneer (soft cheese) and egg options. We both went with the chicken.

They do not lie – the McSpicy chicken was plenty spicy

Todd’s “burger” was the usual mound of compressed chicken bits. Mine actually contained real meat, but instead of the widely advertised breast meat that North American McDonald’s uses, this one trumpeted its THIGH meat. So this is where all the non-busty bits go to die!

It’s enough to make a grown man cry

It was a pretty sad experience overall. We clearly didn’t learn our lesson, though, because the next day, I tried to purchase a coke at the airport McDonald’s. After shoving my way to the cashier, I asked for a coke. He informed me (and I am not joking), that McDonald’s does not sell fountain drinks that are not part of their combos. I asked if I could buy a canned drink instead, and sadly, those too were off limits. So strange…

Lesson learned: always eat curry instead of McDonald’s. Curry will never let you down.

It may, in fact, make you feel very “up”

A Week of Indian Food: Day 5 – Trekking grub

When we were in Jaisalmer (our first destination, after Delhi), T-bone and I had the opportunity to go on an overnight camel trek. I’d gone on one years ago, and the romance of it was still emblazoned on my brain. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how painful it was (like riding a horse x 10), and we spent the trip gimping around bow-leg style. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful trip, and included some interesting food.

No, not these camels. Wouldn’t eat these garbage sacks if I was starving to death.

We were served 4 meals on the trip – two breakfasts, one lunch, and one dinner. The breakfasts were identical, and the lunch and dinner were variations on a theme. Our first breakfast was served in our camel driver’s hut.

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The second was served in the dunes.

Feelin’ a little groggy before the massive sugar hit kicked in.

Anything tastes good when you’re out in the cold, but I have to confess that the breakfast combo was a little biased towards the carbohydrate end of the spectrum. On both days, we received no less than an entire loaf of toasted white bread, a package of cookies, fruit, fake jam, and sugar-bomb chai. Oh, and cracked-wheat porridge. Good thing I’m a pretty lazy soul to begin with, or this combo would have had me bouncing off the walls/dunes.

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Bam!

Lunch included chappatis, a cauliflower/cabbage curry, and pickle (a spicy chutney).

This was the first plate. Our camel driver apparently forgot that he only had two clients, and cooked enough to feed six people. He force-fed us the leftovers.

Dinner was a beefed up (oops – shouldn’t mention beef and India in the same sentence) version of lunch. We had chappatis, vegetable curry, dhal, rice, and pickle. Our camel drivers cooked the meal over an open fire, where we all huddled against the cold.

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Todd demonstrating a facial huddle.

The camels also had some tasty treats, including a sack of grain, twigs, and, when their buddies got too close, camel butt. Apparently, there’s nothing like a mouth full of filthy hair and faeces.

Camel butt? Where?!

When we left the dessert, protein was the first thing on the agenda.

Christmas Dinner(s)

It seems necessary to update you all on what we ate for our actual Christmas dinner. The pictures won’t do it justice, but if you really want to experience it with us, rub a mixture of oil, dirt, and curry powder on your hands, scent the air with a mixture of camel and kerosene, play a recording of cows grunting and digesting, and hunker down for a feed. Anyway, let’s start with breakfast:

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Toast, masala omlettes, and endless cups of chai on the roof of our ancient guesthouse.

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Lunch: Paneer tikka, Chicken tikka, and naan. It wasn’t turkey, but it was a smoky slice of paradise. It haunts my dreams.

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And finally, dinner. Malai kofta, aloo gobhi, and more naan. My face expresses exactly what I was feeling at this moment. The meal may have been followed with an Indian sweet – the perfect sugar bomb chaser.

Food wise, the day was a winner. On another note, it was actually really neat to experience Christmas in the dessert – the ancient buildings, dusty streets, and livestock made it easier to picture what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. I cannot imagine giving birth to anything in Jaisalmer, let alone Jesus. A fresh perspective, in between all the naan.

Frigid Travels in the Curry Mothership

Well, T-bone and I made it to India. The trip has already been wonderful, horrible, and everything in between – par for the course in India. Anything other than dramatic extremes would be a disappointment. It had also been surprisingly frigid. After dusk, the temps hover at around 5-10 degrees Celsius, and we were not exactly well prepared.
Blog posts will be short’n’random for the next two weeks. Best Christmas wishes to you all!

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Todd exploring the Red Fort in Delhi

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Freezing my buns off/drinking chai on a frigid train ride.

Happy Ho-Ho-Ho-Holidays!

Last week, I was having a pity party because we won’t be home for the holidays. This week, I decided to do something about the melancholia: in fine North American style, I said to T-bone, “Schnookums, let’s celebrate Christmas early by opening the mountain of gifts that our families sent to us, and eating copious amounts of food.”* We are spending Christmas in India, so it seemed  necessary to open our gifts at least a week in advance – this way we have time to fully appreciate their wonderfulness. Basically, I couldn’t wait any longer and T-bone knows how to pick his battles. We started off with Christmas dinner.

I slaved all day in the kitchen to produce this.

We shut our blinds, lit candles, and put on Christmas music. Ahhh. Nothing like a little King’s College Choir and the cheapest bottle of red wine we could find. Thailand has introduced me to the concept of the “red blend.” We could almost pretend that we were in our drafty, aging house in our Canadian ‘hood. Minus the mice and the superfluous coal cellar. Just crank the AC and you have yourself a frosty Christmas.

Our meal concluded with a bowl of Christmas pudding that my mother made (and canned) in 1994. Wonder if my mother suspected that her daughter would be consuming that particular batch with her husband in Thailand in 2012. Maybe. Sometimes mothers just know.

18-years-old pudding covered in 5-minute-old bechamel/white sauce. Don’t ask me for my sauce recipe, because it was a little wonky.

Our families were simultaneously very generous and slightly bizarre. Here are a few of the gems that they sent us:

It just isn’t Christmas for a Dutch person without a chocolate letter and double salted (Dubbel Zout) black licorice. If you live in Big Tree and want to taste a strange and wondrous delicacy, drop by our room.

Feeling a spiritual connection to all my Dutch ancestors.

The best letter in the alphabet made from the best food in the world watches the sunrise from our balcony.

Apparently, this blog has reinforced the idea that Todd loves his birds, and both sides of la familia added to his swag:

Todd, your bird friends will always be there for you. No matter what.

Our mothers must have a psychic connection, because they were really on the same page this year. They decided that they would help us follow the romantic Asian trend of couples wearing matching clothes, and sent us not one but TWO sets of matching t-shirts.

Our matching lululemon running shirts made T-bone tear up. He is relieved that he will finally learn why so many females mortgage their lives to buy this gear.

Reading the inside of his new shirt “Drink fresh water and as much water as possible.” “Dang,” says Todd. “I was about to drink out of the canal, but now I will have to find a fresh water source because lululemon ordered me to.”

And one half of our second shirt duo, from International Justice Mission (IJM), one of our favourite NGOs.

And this wee gem. Now I can be a proper housewife and bake pies all day or whatever it is that good wives supposedly do.

Wow. What is it?

We ended up having a great evening with multiple sugar hits and our multiple matching shirts. Thanks very much to our generous families. Just a warning to all my blog world friends, though: don’t think that just because I’ve done a “Christmas dinner post” you will be spared the massive, massive curry-laden Christmas dinner that we will consume in India. It’s gonna happen. Just sayin’.

*Wow. That sounds pretty frivolous. Let me assure you all that we have not forgotten the “reason for the season,” and that our celebrating will be spiritual as well as materialistic.