5 Things I Hate About Travel

No, no, no, no, no, I don’t hate travel. I love the guts out of travel. However, there most certainly are some things I hate about travel. Even the things we love aren’t peachy and rosy all the time.

Moving Between Point A and B

I just want to be at point B. Is that so terrible? I know some people get all googly-eyed over enjoying the journey. Blah, blah, blah. I like the destination. I don’t like carrying all my bags, haggling taxi prices, and sitting on sweaty buses for hours and hours and hours. Sometimes I reach a lovely zen place while sitting on buses or planes, where I think about abstract concepts and life in general. Most of the time though, I’m frazzled and sweating my face off.

How Much Cash Do I Budget For The Last Day in Country?

I usually either end up with too much money at the end of a trip or just barely enough to the point that I’m begging taxi drivers to take me to the airport. I still have $20 worth of Nepali rupees in my purse that I would really like to get in American dollars.

Hearing Generalizations About Americans

I can’t tell you how sick I get of hearing people say negative things about Americans, like I am supposed to either defend or apologize for my heritage. I really don’t care to hear what people think of Americans and I don’t appreciate being lumped in with some mass generalization.

Face Sweat

I may have just mentioned something about sweating my face off, but I have not gone into the extent of these sweat issues. Ninety per cent of the sweat I produce comes out of my face, which looks real great in those memorable photographs in front of memorable monuments and what not. Hot weather makes me hot and walking around in hot weather makes me sweat…out my face. Maybe I’m the only one with this issue, but it’s definitely a top 5 annoyance.

Getting Sick

Getting sick happens, it’s part of the experience, part of the story, and it’s still awful. Being up til all hours of the night with an array of stomach issues can wear one down. The stress of finding medicine in an unknown place of deciding if a doctor’s visit is in order is not my idea of a good time. Neither is crying in the middle of a train station in India because I feel like throwing up and want my mommy.

{Seattle Scenes} Pike Place Farmers Market, Original Starbucks, Tully’s and Le Pichet

One sunny day (one of maybe 3 since I’ve been back in the PNW) my sister and I drove the three hours from Portland to Seattle to enjoy an afternoon in the Emerald City. We spent the afternoon wandering through Pike place market, smelling flowers, watching fish fly, drinking lots of coffee and lounging in the park. We also stopped by a French style cafe called Le Pichet, which was crammed with people and turned out to have some really tasty food.

I spent the entire time in Seattle fumbling around with my mom’s fancy camera trying to take fancy photographs. My sister found this greatly embarassing and declared, “I feel like a tourist and I used to live here!” Hopefully, her embarassment was not for nothing and you enjoy some of these Seattle scenes.

A Father’s Day Celebration

Yesterday marked the first holiday that I have been able to spend with my family in the States in the last two and a half years. We made the most of our time together with a feast of food, gift opening on the porch with a magnum of champaign, an impromptu photo shoot with flowers from the garden, bike riding and movie going. It sure is good to be home.

10 Indian Foods I Tried

While on my 5 week sojourn in India, I tried a few Indian foods. Ok, I tried lots and lots of Indian foods. Sometimes I stuck to the same ol’ favorites, like sag paneer and sometimes I branched out to things like goat (not so bad). And there were plenty of times that I skipped the Indian food and dove straight into some hummus. Apparently, an abundance of Isreali travelers in India means an abundance of hummus along the tourist trail. Fist pumps in the air.

During the entirety of the trip I took pictures of the new foods I tried. God bless, PZ for bearing with me on this one. Most of the time she was accommodating as I rearranged the table setting seven times and demanded that she not start eating until I’d taken three pictures of her food. And other times the hunger made her impatient. Can’t blame her there.

So here are a few of the foods I tried…

Masala Dosa

I’m just gonna go ahead and start with a favorite. I still get excited about masala dosas whenever I see a picture. The dosa is a fried bread made of rice flour. On the inside there are potatoes mashed a bit and mixed with spices (masala).

Masala dosas are commonly available in Southern India where rice grows more abundantly. Once we moved up north the dosas became a rare sight.

Another thing about masala dosas: they are a breakfast food. I would usually crave one around dinner time. After multiple nights of asking restaurants if I could get a masala dosa and receiving looks like I had just asked to eat pancakes for dinner (I’m ok with this too), I gave up and ate them for breakfast instead, even though a big bite of masala is not my idea of an awesome breakfast.

Lime Soda

This became another favorite on the trip. A lime soda = lime juice + soda water + sugar. This is the single most refreshing drink on a hot day in India and I’m not even a fan of carbonation. This drink is seriously good.

Warning: if you order a lime soda, the server might assume you want a salty lime soda. While it might be fun to say that you have tried a salty lime soda they taste like you’re eating a lime while swimming in the ocean. Gag.

Warning #2: Sometimes adding sugar to the soda water makes the drink explode and turns into a huge mess on the table and in the lap. Solution: add sugar with care or get someone who knows what they’re doing to add the sugar for you.

Thali

This is basically an all-can-eat platter of whatever is in the kitchen. Thalis are commonly eaten for lunch and come with a heaping helping of rice (mine had yet to arrive when I took the picture). The sides usually include a curry or two, dhal, a yogurt dish and a dessert. Also, this simply must be eaten with the hands. There’s really no other way.

Idly

Here’s another dish that is commonly eaten in the south. Idlies are made with the same rice flour batter as dosas, however idlies are steamed instead of fried. These idlies came with sides of a watery curry and a yogurt mixture. This is another food that is eaten more around breakfast and lunch time.

My honest opinion of idlies: too spongy. They do taste pretty good with the sides though.

Lassi

Mango lassi, banana lassi, coconut lassi, mmmm…I like lassies. These drinks are basically a blend of yogurt and fruit. A mango lassi during the peak of mango season is one of my all time favorite drinks.

Warning: lassies are typically served warm. So if you’re expecting a cool refreshing drink to escape the heat, this might not be it.

Gulab Jamun

I like to describe these as fried pancake balls covered in syrup. I think they’re mighty fine, though I can only eat a few because they are oh so sweet.

I for one like to watch people go nuts over gulab jamun, whether it’s observing the bustle around a vendor or a little girl asking her mom for more, more, more. These are clearly a popular dessert option.

Chai

Ok, I cannot lie, this is not really a picture of chai. It’s a picture of coffee. How I made it through 5 weeks in India and 700 cups of chai without taking a single picture is beyond me. It just fell through the cracks somehow.

Chai is black tea (typically Assam black tea) made with milk, masala (spices) and a whole lot of sugar. This stuff is available everywhere and we were often offered cups by complete strangers, which we usually accepted.

The best cup of chai I had was in Jaisalmer while I was visiting a family. The mother made the chai from scratch with extra black pepper and hardly any sugar. So good.

Since I brought up coffee earlier, I’ll go ahead and describe it: very sweet and very creamy. Not my favorite.

Aloo Tamatar Masala

Breakdown: aloo tamatar masala = spiced potatoes and tomatoes. This was one of my go-to dishes in India, because I love potatoes and tomatoes. Throw in some seasonings and I am a happy girl. Sometimes this dish came very spicy and other times it wasn’t spicy at all. This one tastes good with rice or chapati.

Egg Burgi

Here’s an example of a dish that I randomly pointed to on the menu. Sometimes that’s just what you gotta do when you want to try new things. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but I’m a glutton for eggs.

Basically this dish is scrambled eggs with spices. It’s fun to wrap the eggs in the chapati (similar to a wheat tortilla), take a big bite and then lick all the juices off your fingers. Maybe that’s just me.

Ker Sangri Curry and Gatta Curry

 This is a meal of desert dishes we enjoyed while overlooking the desert view in Jaisalmer. We asked our waiter to bring us dishes specific to the region and here’s what we got. Plus, we ordered a side salad for some crunch, not a dish native to the desert.

Ker Sangri is a type of long bean that grows in Jaisalmer. Our server brought us the ker sangri cooked in a sweet and spicy yellow curry. Gatta curry is curry with dumplings made of chickpeas inside. The chickpea balls added an interesting taste and texture to the dish. I was sad that we waited until our last day in the desert to try these dishes. Now, I must live off of this one fond eating experience until I return again.

Mutton Saagwala

Mutton (goat) was on the menu at virtually every non-vegetarian, Indian place we ate. Being that PZ and I are recovering vegetarians we were always a little hesitant to branch out in our repertoire of meat eating experiences. One day in Agra we grew brave and decided to finally try mutton.

This dish is mutton prepared in a spinach and potato gravy. We both love spinach and hoped that the addition of a different meat in something we already like would make the process go smoothly. And for the most part, it did. The mutton wasn’t too bad. It reminded us a little of beef with lots of fatty pieces attached. It was fun to try something new, but I don’t think we finished this dish. I still prefer vegetables.

What’s your favorite Indian food?

5 Best Places to Visit in India

I’ve been home from my two month India/Nepal trip for about three weeks now and the reminiscing is in full effect. There are so many places we stopped by and so many people we met. Here’s a list of the top 5 places in India my mind keeps drifting back to.

Udaipur

This is a fairytale city if I’ve ever seen one. I want to eat Indian food at cozy rooftop restaurants and watch the sun set over the lake every night for the rest of my life. If you know someone who invents a machine that could do this, let me know.

Goa

Sort of a wasteland of hippie travelers, but that’s what makes it fun. The beach is nice and the people are friendly. I have so many fun memories of sitting around with new friends and sipping lime sodas under the sun.

Mumbai

There is so much going on here. There’s great food options for the homesick traveler as well as the adventurous eater. Not to mention, you can work for Bollywood.

The Backwaters in Kerella

The way the rivers and canals flow through the landscape of these villages is beautiful. I loved disappearing into our village home stay, where I could swim in the river, walk through the rice fields and eat guavas from the trees.

The Taj

I’ll be honest, I hated Agra. The Taj, however, is worth the stop. I expected the site to be anticlimactic due to the thousands of photos I’ve seen of it in my lifetime. Sort of like being shocked by how small the Mona Lisa painting actually is. This didn’t happen. Screw anticlimactic, I was blown away. No photo I’ve seen has done the Taj justice. Nothing managed to capture how much it shines and how delicate it appears. It’s awesome.

5 Food Blogs to Make You Hungry

Ever since I’ve come back to the States cooking has become my religion, the kitchen my sanctuary and these food blogs my bible:

  • La Tartine Gourmande: This food stylist and photographer makes food look too pretty to eat.
  • Seven Spoons: The combination of anecdotes and recipes are a treat to read.
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks: I think I bookmarked 95% of her recipes to try when I returned from Peace Corps. Sometimes I scroll through her posts as fast as I can so that the photos appear like a movie. You’ll get what I mean when you click on the link.
  • Steamy Kitchen: I could plan out meals for a month with this blog. There is enough variety and inspiration to keep me scrolling through recipe after recipe.
  • smitten kitchen: This blogger will make an asparagus salad look fancy and fun to make.

Also worth checking out: The Kitchen Sink, the kitchen generation, Sunday Suppers, Sprouted Kitchen, pictures and pancakes, Picky Palate, honey & jam, delicious: days, eat live run

Nepali Food: Dhal Bhat and Beyond

I had this same conversation with Nepali friends about 17 times.

“What are some good Nepali foods I should try?

“Dhal bhat.”

“Ok, and what else?”

“Just dhal bhat.”

“You only eat dhal bhat?”

“Mmmm yeah.”

My investigations, however, revealed this to not be entirely true. There’s more than just dhal bhat to the food in Nepal.

First things first, what is dhal bhat?

Dhal bhat is a platter of food centered around a heaping helping of rice (the bhat). The platter includes a vegetable, such as spinach, usually some curried potatoes and a pickled item. Oh yeah, and there’s dhal (lentil soup) which often comes in a bowl on the side. Once you have your platter, stick your hand in there, mix it all up and start shoveling it in you mouth. Trust me, you’re weird if you don’t do this.

Sometimes the sides do change. Somethimes there’s bitter cucumber instead of spinach or chicken instead of potatoes. Extra sides, such as an egg or some buffalo (yes buffalo), can usually be ordered as well.

Ok, so the dhal bhat changes up sometimes, but do people ever eat something other than dhal bhat?

Yes.

Dhal bhat is commonly eaten around 9 in the morning and around 9 at night. This leaves plenty of time for some snacking. Breakfast is not a major meal. Why would it be, when lunch is at 9 AM? If my Nepali friends did eat breakfast, which many did, it was usually a cup of milk tea or milk coffee with some bread or cookies.

There’s also some snacking that goes on during that long stretch between lunch and dinner. Really, who doesn’t want to eat between 9AM and 9PM? While we were trekking, PZ and I passed a school when the children were on snack break. They left the school grounds to fill up on snacks from the local shops. These snacks were the sorts of things you’d expect kids to pick out. Some candies, chips and ice cream.

Some of my Nepali friends liked to snack on momos and thukpa. These are Tibetian dishes that are readily availible throughout the cities in Nepal. Momos are dumplings filled with veggies and meat, like buffalo. Tuk pah is a noodle soup with a sort of sweet and sour taste to it. Can’t decide which to eat? Try a mixed tuk pah. It comes with noodles and momos in the soup.

Two More Foods to Try in Nepal

Roxi, a millet wine that tastes like hard liquor but is real nice on cold nights when it’s heated up.

Yak cheese. Actually, it’s nak cheese since yaks are male, but it’s stilled called yak cheese because who know’s what the heck a nak is? Side note: I googled the word for female yak and came up with nak, dri and nuk. Could someone please agree on a word for a female yak and get back to me on that? Thanks. Anywho, the cheese isn’t much to write home about (even though I am). It’s not terrible, a little on the salty and oily side, but jazzes up a piece of plain bread. Mostly, it’s something you eat so that you can go home and tell everyone you ate yak cheese, I mean nak cheese.