“Hands down it’s the food!” That was the immediate response when we asked Jacqueline Donaldson, Intrepid Copywriter, what was her favourite thing about travelling in India…
“Everyone I’ve met who’s fallen in love with India talks about its spirituality, people, history and colour, but for me all of this is encompassed in the delectable cuisine that is found in every city and every village.
My first meal in India was in a small hole-in-the-wall diner opposite our accommodation in Mumbai. It consisted of a narrow, half-open room with worn tables and booths, a dirty floor, blackened stovetops and a group of all-male patrons who openly stared. Trying not to be too concerned at my somewhat uncomfortable surroundings, I instead concentrated on the aromas coming from the kitchen and the excitement of a menu that was completely vegetarian.
Then from the back came a grey-haired woman with a huge smile on her face. She barked a few words out into the restaurant and all eyes suddenly dropped. She asked us a few questions, took our order – my unadventurous dal fry and garlic naan – and left us with a “you’re very welcome here”. While we waited for our food, we watched as this astonishing woman bustled around, chatted to her patrons, took orders and waved away men who stopped to stare. It was obvious she did not tolerate nonsense.
Then our meals arrived and I can honestly say I still dream of mine today. The dal was perfection – creamy, aromatic and lightly spiced – and it is beyond me how someone could make the humble lentil taste so incredibly good. And the naan… oh the naan. After we raved about it ad nauseum, our beaming host led us to the kitchen where a small, blackened tandoor oven lay in the middle of the kitchen (it was like a hole in the ground) that incredibly had been creating breads and tandoor dishes for well over forty years. We met her cook, her daughter and even a few of the staring men who all seemed pleased at how much we enjoyed eating at this restaurant.
And no matter where we ate over the next few weeks, meals like this continued to amaze me. I stopped judging the décor and became enamoured with how eating in India is not only about delighting the tastebuds but is a way of connecting with traditions, gaining an insight into everyday life and meeting people at their very best – when they’re happily nourished by good food.”
Tour India and many other great foodie destinations on Intrepid’s tasty Food Adventures.
* photo by Leigh Foster – Intrepid Photography Competition