Before I went to India, one of my friends remarked that he didn’t like the Subcontinent’s cuisine because, to paraphrase him, “it’s basically just a bunch of vegetables and lentils boiled down to texture-less mush.” I’d disagreed with him then, and after eating my way across Rajasthan for a week, that feeling intensified by about a thousand. I know that I only tasted the barest fraction of the delicious food the region had to offer, but what I did eat was some of the best food I’ve encountered anywhere in the world. And I ate as much of it as I could. About halfway through our trip, one of my friends had remarked, “I think we’ve all learned at this point that you’re willing to try anything. ‘Well haven’t had a bite of that one yet…’”
As I’m never one to skip an opportunity to making a ranked list, here are the eleven best foods I ate while in India, in no particular order. Don’t read this while you’re hungry.
1.) Navratan Korma – It’s not exactly a secret that India is home to some truly bangin’ curry, and I did my best to taste as many delicious varieties as I could. Of all of those, navratan korma was probably my favorite. In Hindi, it translates to “nine jewels,” which refers to the variety of vegetables, nuts, and fruits used in the dish. Mine had cashews, paneer, carrots, green beans, carrots, and potatoes in it, to name just a few ingredients. There was hardly any oil in it, unlike a lot of the other curries I’d eaten, and the cashews added a huge amount of creaminess. The thing that made navratan korma stick out to me was the inclusion of pineapple. It made for a surprising note of sweetness in what would have otherwise been a pretty mild (and even bland) curry.
My first love may be the mountains, but I’ll never turn down a bit of sea air when I’ve got the chance…especially if I can breathe it in Saint-Malo, the small walled city that I tacked on as a short day trip after visiting Mont Saint Michel. In the past, Saint-Malo was the base of corsairs, and its walls were constructed against the threat of British attacks. Nowadays, Saint-Malo is a beautiful seaside locale…the perfect place to work up an appetite by walking along the beach and then eat a dozen (or two) fresh oysters, still briny from the sea, washed down with a glass (or two) of cider.
I’m not usually a huge fan of pink, but for Jaipur, also known as “the Pink City,” I made an exception. Jaipur was our second stop in India, and despite the fact that it has only six million people – compared with Delhi’s sixteen million – it still seemed just as chaotic, if not more so. I think any extended time spent dealing with traffic in India would either give me a serious case of road rage or make me the most patient person ever. I’d rather not find out which one of those extremes would apply.
In 1876, Prince Albert and Queen Elizabeth II of Britain visited Jaipur, and the Indian ruler decided that all of the buildings in Jaipur should be adorned in pink in their honor. It was supposed to mimic the red sandstone shades of other Mughal buildings, like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. Ever since then, “Pink City” stuck as its nickname, even though most of that rosy hue has faded away over the years. Continue reading Shades of Pink and Amber in Jaipur→
Today I leave for India and Nepal, and my heart is in my throat. My body feels like a roiling storm of adrenaline and stress hormones, and no matter how much I try to quiet it down, it refuses to be still. My pulse is racing, and I cannot help but count down the hours until I can board my plane from Narita.
If you were watching me closely, you might see how my knee is jiggling and how my fingers are trembling. I catch myself smiling and though I try to compose my expression, my mouth refuses to stay in a neutral straight line. It’s been like this for several weeks. I’ve been stealing glances at the calendar, willing the days to pass by more quickly. To look at me, you would think that this is my first trip abroad, my first time on a plane, my first time using my passport. You’d think that it was a whole host of “firsts” for me. (Or maybe you just think I’m a little bit hyperactive, and maybe you’d be right.) Continue reading I Will Always Be a Rookie→
Homecoming. It’s something that so many of us look forward to, especially when we’ve been away for an extended period of time. But how do we come home to a place that has inevitably changed while we were gone? How do we come home when we’re no longer the person we were when we left?
I came home to Pittsburgh for two weeks this year after having been away for 512 days. And it wasn’t until I threw myself in the arms of my best friend at the airport, relieved sobs wracking my body, that I realized just how much that time, both in terms of the number of actual days and the magnitude of the separation, had affected me. For some people, a year and a half away may be nothing. I thought I was like that. My tears proved me wrong. Continue reading How to Come Home→
As I write this, I am sitting at Gate 41 in Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport, and it is all I can do to keep from vibrating out of my skin in excitement. In a few hours, I’ll board a plane bound for Washington, DC via Chicago. It will be the first time I’ve been home in almost a year and a half, and though my emotions are bordering on ecstasy because of the reunions that are just over the horizon, a good portion of my happiness comes from the fact that I’m in an airport at all.
See, airports are my happy place. I’m in love with them. I’m the woman who shows up at least three hours before her flight – international or domestic, it doesn’t matter – just to spend a bit of extra time in the terminal. I could spend the entire day there and wouldn’t get bored once. Continue reading Airports Are My Happy Place→
When I published my post What a Life of Travel Does to You, an editor from Matador, an online travel magazine, got in touch with me about possibly writing some travel essays for them. This piece was born out of that, and I’m pretty proud to see my writing appear on a site dedicated exclusively to my greatest love. A slightly shorter version also appears here on Matador.
Thirteen months ago, I uprooted my life. Freshly minted college graduate, bright-eyed, eager to take on the world, insert your choice “ready to start my adult life” adjective here. I shipped off to Aomori, Japan to become an ALT – Assistant Language Teacher – at the prestigious Aomori Prefectural High School. The past year has been a whirlwind of many unbelievable heights, a few foxhole-esque trenches, and countless “oh sweet Powers That Be, I live in Japan!” surreal moments. Yet as I looked back over my first year in Japan, I realized that I didn’t have anything to show for it, at least in documented form. Nothing that I’d be able to read in five years to reminisce about, aside from loads o’ short, succinct tweets. Continue reading Better Late Than Never→