We have eaten at Indian restaurants in New York and Portland. A sustaining memory from those visits is hot and spicy. Carol was even convinced that eating veggie was spicier than eating meat. I'm not sure that is the case, but that was her theory. Since she cannot endure spicy food, she was convinced that she would live for our entire trip on a diet of rice and more rice. I on the other hand like moderately spicy food, but not so hot that I feel my mouth on fire. I was also under the apparently false impression that the farther south you go the hotter the food gets. However as we are traveling primarily in the south, everyone tells us that the food is hotter in the north.
Since most people who visit India get sick at one point, we have been scrupulous in observing certain rules. 1. Only drink bottled water, even for brushing teeth and cleaning tooth brushes. Take care not to take in water when showering or swimming. 2. Do not eat vegetables or fruit unless peeled. 3. Do not eat street food, which by the way often looks delicious. Because many though not all Hindus are vegetarians (and Jains refrain from foods grown in the ground such as potatoes) all restaurants indicate whether they are veg or not and those that are not still indicate which foods contain no animal product. That makes life simpler for us. Since kosher meat is not available, we only eat veggie.
Well, we have been eating up a storm. Carol and I both hoped to return home having lost weight. Nice try...Breakfast is included at virtually all hotels. That means eating buffet style. We begin with various things simmering in chaffing dishes, various India wheat products, juice, watermelon and fabulous papaya. Then the kitchen prepares eggs or omelets. Coffee, tea and bottled water always offered. Buffets are never good for loosing weight.
On the road we learned early on that Indians eat thali for lunch. On an open banana leaf, about a dozen offerings come in small dishes and then a heap of rice is plopped in the middle. Occasionally peanut powder is put on the rice and drowned in ghee (clarified butter). Waiters come around filling up some of the options and adding additional mountains of rice. The offerings are various kinds of mixed cooked vegetables, some spicy, some less so. They always add a yogurt and a sweet concoction. If you are going to do it as an Indian, you wash your hands and then eat with your right hand only mixing the veggies in the rice and stuffing it in your mouth. No left hands allowed. That's reserved for something else...Aliens can request fork and spoon.
Dinner is like breakfast only many more offerings. You can eat from the buffet that includes soup and desert or order a la carte. A la carte offerings are invariably large. We have become fond of vegetable concoctions with paneer, which they translate as cottage cheese, but it's like no cottage cheese I am familiar with. It more resembles tofu. In addition to bottled water I often order a beer with dinner. A friend is convinced that beer kills some of the germs that might be hiding in the food. A good excuse for additional protection. Indians are not good with desserts. Baked things and chocolate are a waste of calories. Fruit is great and ice cream is not bad.
Yesterday we had a great time with elephants. It's a two hour kick. First they give you a ride. You sit on a rubber pad on the elephant, legs stretched as wide as possible. These are broad animals. These is rod for your feet and something to hold on too. As soon as Carol got on, she wanted off. It just didn't feel good. I, on the other hand, went for the ride. You feel really tall sitting up there. I thoughts I was in one of those early fifties movies.
After the ride we headed over to feed one of the elephants. We were given wedges of acorn squash, rind and seeds included. You stick it right in their mouths and discover something strange: they have a tongue that is anchored a the front of their mouths, so the tongue pushes the food back. It's unexpected. And they watch you with that one eye that they can see you with, because you are standing next to them.
Then it's off to a bath. A huge elephant lays down in a large pool of water. We then get in sans shoes and socks and rolling our pants up. We were given brushes and begin to scrub. The elephant is so relaxed she looks almost as if she is falling asleep. Carol and I were scrubbing along with a woman who was there for the 6 hour program. The elephant then sat on its hind legs and as instructed the women climbed up on the elephant's back and then on command lifted its trunk and soaked her. Although unexpected she was a good sport. The elephant soaked her a good four or five times more.
I can only hope these amazing creatures are well treated. We have all read about the elephant poaching threatening their very survival. What a treat.
Next stop Cochin...