Sunday, June 03, 2007

India

I just got back from India a couple of weeks ago. This wasn't a vacation; it was a business trip, but I still have lots to say about it (assuming I can get back into writing).

First thing you need to know about India is that they have this stuff they call "pickle". It isn't anything like an American pickle. It isn't even pickled (that is, preserved in vinegar). It's just a mishmash of peppers, spices, salt, and (in the case of mango pickle) diced mango. This stuff is really, really good. You spread a small amount (the word "small" is significant here) on these Indian cracker-like things or mix a small amount (note repetition of "small") with a bit of rice and eat it.

Indian pickle is spicy, but not so you would notice it once you've been eating Indian food for a week. Just yesterday I tried some homemade chili from a friend and a few minutes after I ate it, he told me that it has habanero peppers in it. I said, "Really, you must not have used very much because habanero's are really hot and the chili wasn't spicy." He looked at me like I'd suddenly grown a third eye. So, I tried some more and paid attention this time. And, by golly, that chili was pretty spicy. You just stop noticing it after a lot of exposure.

So it was the same with the Indian pickle. The flavor is really tremendous, so when I sat down in my hotel restaurant and they put a jar of mango pickle and some of those cracker thingies on my table, I just went to town on it. After all, why did they give me a whole jar if I'm only supposed to have a small spoon full? So, I ended up eating half a jar of the stuff in addition to a lot of other spicy food that meal.

Now, you might recall earlier that I noted the significance of "small amount" when describing how one is to consume mango pickle. The significance of this term is that mango acts as a gentle but forceful laxative and peppers act as a not so gentle laxative. The combination is ... well ... impressive.

I think I should skip further details except to note that the hotel staff asked me to fill out an evaluation of the hotel to help them improve their service, and I took the opportunity to complain bitterly about their miserly rolls of toilet paper. Seriously, Indian toilet paper rolls have about a fourth (rough estimate) of the paper of normal American rolls, and they only gave me two rolls. After half a jar of mango pickle, this is really not adequate coverage.

After that experience, my stomach was so sensitive to spicy food that I had to avoid Indian cuisine for the remainder of my trip, a real disappointment because I love Indian food. And their interpretation of American food leaves something to be desired.

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