The waiter laid out this round tray on my table, and I just stared at the hodge-podge of selections despite the hunger that already numbed my senses. It’s the result of just pointing to the first item that seemed attractive from the menu.
I learned that hunger makes you cross-eyed and I only realized I ordered total “strangers” when the waiter set it on our table.
By strangers, I ordered the Tamilnadu meals for 225 rupees—let me copy the whole thing here: sweet, kadappa, koottu (vegetable), poriyal (vegetable), pachadi, sambar, rasam, special rice, special kuzhambu, curd, appalam, pickles—served with one small bowl of rice and one poori.
All strange words for me, except for the rice, that is.
I don’t even know how or where to start eating, so I just stared at it. For someone who grew up pushing garlic and onions around and around my plates, I just had a feeling by looking at every little bowl that they were all unfamiliar and extra super spicy.
My buddy and I were craving for were the familiar crisp crunchy pieces of fried chicken from KFC, or a ready to bite on hamburger from McDonalds. Unfortunately, it was a holiday in New Delhi and everything was closed for the day. We had been driving around and around and the only place open in the past hundred blocks or so is this restaurant serving Southern Indian cuisine.
Some of you may start salivating and having foodgasms just thinking of the variety of dips and flavors in those cute little metal bowls, but for an ignorant palate like mine, it worked differently. My tolerance for spicy food is below sea level. I was simply overwhelmed.
I feel that I have to get to know each ingredient and flavor really intensively first and maybe fall in love with them gradually.
The waiters were surreptitiously looking at me and one asked how my food was, or if I wanted anything else.
Anyways, back to my order. We were in a real hurry and I am embarrassed to say I only ate the poori—that crunchy deep-fried bread, four spoonfuls of rice and nothing else. Give me another chance—one flavor at a time, and a longer time?
If you got picky taste buds and you are in a different country, it won’t hurt to slip in packets of crackers or instant snacks in your purse. They can save your life, ulcer or sanity.