Some things I learned about food in India
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Living in a different culture and experiencing their eating habits was enlightening to me. By getting outside of America, I was able to have a fresh perspective on American eating habits.
I stayed in India in an orphanage for 4 months. The things I learned had a lot more to do with the fact that I was staying in a poor orphanage and a lot less with the fact that I was in India. Without further ado, here goes.
What We Ate
Breakfast: Brown, whole wheat bread with cream. Wheat porridge made with milk and sugar. Chai tea (with milk and sugar). Once a week we got peanut butter. At the beginning of each fruit season, we got jam for a few days until it ran out.
Lunch: Rice with "curry". The curry is basically a soup/stew. The "broth" of the curry was always the same, seasoned with garlic and onion, and different things inside of it. Unlike America, it is uncommon to mix vegetables. We would have curry with peas and potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, soy patties, pinto beans, or chickpeas. On the side, sometimes we would have cucumbers or carrot sticks. In the summer, milk is cheaper so in the summer we got plain yogurt. On good days, we had chutney to add to the food.
Dinner: Subjee. Vegetables cooked in oil and Indian seasonings, served with chapatti, which is basically a whole wheat tortilla. We had either zucchini, squash, potato, cabbage, cauliflower or okra.
Treats: For tea time (10:00 and 4:00) everyone got chai and treats. We had buns with jam, cookies, pekoras (fried vegetables), pancakes, or fruit. There was also a little shop across the street that we (and the older children) could walk to and buy sweets, chocolates, chips, soda, etc. the children got 50 rupees per month for allowance. For reference, a bag of chips or a chocolate bar is 10 rupees. I gave myself the same budget as the children.
What I Learned
1. Variety isn't necessary. In America, we take for granted the fact that we can get any food at any time. When I was in India, there was little choice. We could only get fruits and vegetables when they were in season. We could only buy chicken on the days that the chicken-walla came to town. Because I was staying in the orphanage, I never got to choose my own meals, but ate what the kitchen made. There was very little variety, but when we did get something different, it was exciting. In America, I would think, "I had a salad for lunch, so I can't have a salad for yesterday," or "I ate chicken yesterday, so I don't want chicken today". In India, we ate cabbage Subjee three days in a row. And that was it- no different seasonings. It was the exact same meal. I learned that I could live eating the same same foods, and that it was okay.
2. Vegetables can be a main dish. I always saw vegetables as something that needed carbs or meat to make it feel like a meal. Even if I had vegetable stir fry, I needed to serve it with rice to make it feel like a real meal. For dinner, all we had was vegetables. Each person got 2 chipatti to eat. So it was a lot of vegetables.
3. Everything doesn't need cheese. Man, I put cheese in everything at home. In India, there is no cheese! I tried to buy cheese there, but it just wasn't good. At all. No sharp cheddar, no creamy ricotta, no fresh mozzarella... Yeah. But I learned how to flavor things and enjoy things that didn't have cheese.
4. Treats should be treats. With my 50 rupees a month, I was able to buy one treat a week. When I did get an extra treat, man, I loved it and treasured it and enjoyed every second of it. But I also learned that I was satisfied with it when I had less of it. When you aren't used to indulging every day or every meal, a little bit goes a long way.
I'm sure I learns more than that, but those are the things that stick out to me right now. I started making Indian food since I've been home. The food that we ate was nothing like you eat in an Indian restaurant in america. I did eat food like that, but only at parties. It's like if someone from India went to Olive Garden or a steakhouse and assumed that Americans eat like that all the time, everyday! I ate normal, humble Indian food. It was a great experience and I think that the things I learned will help me as I continue to build a healthy lifestyle.