Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

A Culinary Journey in India


  • Please log in to reply
136 replies to this topic

#121 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 23 June 2008 - 02:53 AM

Wow. That last meal looks just amazing. Ok well all the meals look amazing. I can imagine you are now spoiled and it will take awhile to adjust to the "indian" food available in the States? Then again I remember you living in NY? So maybe not...

A little OT but I think Jaipur is where the movie Kama Sutra was filmed. It looks oddly familiar. I loved that movie btw. I think it was one of the few bollywood movies I've seen without the dancing and interesting *cough* music?  :raz:

View Post


I am spoiled! Shortly after my return, my wife and I went to one of our favorite local Indian restaurants that specializes in Southern Indian cooking and I found the food to be barely edible. I do live in NY, but upstate. If I live in NYC, it would be much less of an issue.

With the exception of special products like sagri, the difference comes not so much from a lack of availability of ingredients, but the quality of ingredients, especially spices and products that are originally from India. They simply aren't the same here.

The real test for me will be to go back to a restaurant like Devi in NYC and see if it is still as good to me as it was prior to my trip.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#122 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 23 June 2008 - 03:23 AM

continued....

The remainder of the day I took it easy until the time came for our farewell dinner. One couple stayed in their particularly glorious room, but the rest of our now abbreviated group convened. I still wasn’t feeling great, but since this was the finale, I decided to attend anyway.

Unfortunately, I did not realize that this would involve a one-hour bus-ride to a cheesy, tourist trap destination, the name of which I choose to forget. Though I regretted going, the group made the best of it. We wandered a bit through the grounds as Julie tried to get her bearings and find someone who could help us out. During our wanderings we saw dancers, musicians, palmists, camels for riding and sundry other side-shows. Julie’s initial thought was to take us to a section of this theme park for authentic Rajasthan Village cooking in an authentic Rajasthan village setting. That this meant sitting low on the dusty floor made me and others reject this notion, so we went to a more conventional restaurant setting. The food was actually decent, especially a Chinese dish that we sampled of chicken with garlic sauce, which was actually one of the best renditions of this dish that I have had anywhere. The tandoor chicken and kebabs were also very good. Had I been hungrier, I might have enjoyed the experience more. The most interesting aspect of the meal, however, was the wine experience. Two people ordered a bottle of wine, that finally arrived after we were well into our meal. Once they had the opportunity to taste it (it had simply been poured for them), they realized that the wine was bad. It had been cooked. When they tried to return it, they were met with staunch refusal, saying that the bottle had been opened. They attempted to have one of the staff taste it for themselves only to discover that no one working there “takes” wine or alcohol! Finally, they managed to track down a staff member who did taste it and agreed that the wine was bad. The staff learned something about wine, while we had an interesting India experience. I slept through much of the return bus ride.

Edited by docsconz, 23 June 2008 - 05:36 PM.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#123 Shelby

Shelby
  • society donor
  • 2,581 posts

Posted 23 June 2008 - 05:38 AM

So sad about the daughter. I take it this was several years ago since her daughter is now grown. Has that part of the Indian culture changed/relaxed any? I'll be googling to find out where that "custom" originated. I can't imagine being blamed for an early death like that.

The food in your last pictures seems to be a bit more "western". Was that because you all were touring, or is that how they always eat?

#124 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 23 June 2008 - 05:59 AM

So sad about the daughter.  I take it this was several years ago since her daughter is now grown.  Has that part of the Indian culture changed/relaxed any?  I'll be googling to find out where that "custom" originated.  I can't imagine being blamed for an early death like that.

The food in your last pictures seems to be a bit more "western".  Was that because you all were touring, or is that how they always eat?

View Post


My understanding is that this cultural norm may be relaxing a bit in the larger urban areas, but still predominates through most of the country. What prevented the same fate for Anu Mathew in Kerala was that she bore a son prior to her husband's death.

As for the meal being more "western", that was true on two counts. The presence of the cole slaw is probably a remnant from the British. This particular family seemed to be well connected to the British with photos of family members with British royalty including Prince Charles scattered throughout the house. The other aspect was the presence of corn with the spinach. Although prepared in Indian fashion, corn is a vegetable that seems to be becoming more popular in India despite its foreign origins. The rest was classic Rajasthani cooking.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#125 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 23 June 2008 - 05:59 PM

DAY THIRTEEN: Friday March 14

Posted Image


I felt much better the following morning and woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Since the light was so beautiful, I roamed the grounds of the hotel taking photos. The day would be on our own. I spent the bulk of the morning packing before we had to check out of the room. Our flight would not be until the evening.

Posted Image


A few of us went into town where I wound up buying some shoes and having two silk shirts made. Afterwards, I got up the courage to wander into the Pink City on my own. Though I had my camera with me, I did not take a single photo. It was not for lack of compelling subjects. It was more a case of feeling intimidated by how much I already stood out in this forbidding culture. I felt somewhat exhilarated by the experience as I meandered through the dusty, filthy but oddly beautiful streets adhering closely to my map and avoiding side streets , hawkers and beggars. After awhile and not finding my objective, a special savory and sweet stand that is well known, I returned to the hotel. On my way back, a young Muslim student from Dubai who was vacationing in Jaipur while studying in Mumbai, struck up a conversation with me in broken English. He explained that he is studying English and that his father is a cardiologist in Dubai. We parted ways as I arrived back at the hotel.

Our departure time was pushed back, so we had more time to kill, a good part of which I spent waiting for my shirts to be delivered. They finally came with little time to spare before we boarded the bus. The sunset was beautiful as we headed through the newly developed area approaching the airport.

Once at the airport, I had a samosa, something that I expected to eat much of, but had had only once prior during the trip. The reason for this is that samosas are considered snacks and primarily available as street food. We did not sample any street food as a group, though a few brave souls did so regularly. I was just not that brave, especially for something as starchy as a samosa in a hot climate. Others had tried airport snack bar samosas previously without a problem and in general these had the imprimatur of Julie so I bought one for 30 rupees or about $0.08.

We checked in for our flight and discovered that it would be a half hour or so late. I started to become concerned, but not overly so. Once we boarded the short Kingfisher airline flight, I realized that we would be cutting things pretty close. Things became even more urgent as we had a long bus ride to the arrival terminal, waited for our baggage and packed up the bus that would take us to the International terminal. I figured that the International terminal, though a different building, would at least still be within the same airport. I figured wrong. Not only was it a completely different airport, we had to wade through slow, heavy traffic to get to it. By the time we were able to get our bags from the bus and rush through the entrance to the terminal (no mean feet given the airport security), three of us, who were all to be on the same Continental flight to Newark, discovered that the Continental check-in was closed and that we would not be on our flight. Our initial shock led to more aggravation as we had to wait and wait some more for a Continental representative to come and help us as well as a number of other passengers who missed the flight because of major difficulties getting to the airport. In the meantime, I called Julie, who was with her family in Delhi, to inform her of our plight as well as to seek her advice. Though there wasn’t much that she could do for us directly, her advice was useful.

Once the Continental agents came, we could leave the terminal. The Delhi airport security is such that once one enters the departures terminal one can not simply walk out of it. One needs an airline representative‘s assistance to do so, thus the presence of the Continental reps was doubly necessary. The terminal itself, inside and out, was chaos, with little apparent order, so it was helpful for each of us to have the others company and share our misfortune. Once we got outside the terminal we had to go to the Continental office to make new flight arrangements. As with every other aspect of this ordeal, this was not as easy as it sounds. We had to wade through masses of people all the while pushing our luggage carts, a process strangely reminiscent of driving through Delhi itself. The airline office happened to be on the level below, however, the elevator was not operating. Given our luggage, the three of us determined that I would collect all of our passports and make the arrangements for all while they stayed with the baggage. I was not the first in line, however, and I became quite concerned as the other passengers were being told that the next flight was already oversold with only first-come, first served standby tickets available. In addition, Continental would not place us on another carrier as it was not their fault that we missed the flight. Fortunately for me, since I was traveling first-class, they were able to confirm my travel for the Saturday night flight with a first class ticket. My two friends, however, could only be booked standby. With the incredible assistance of a fellow traveler, an Indian from Delhi by birth named Privat, who now lives and owns restaurants in Atlantic City, we got a taxi from the pre-pay area to take us to the Radisson Hotel near the airport. We were fortunate to find three rooms. Once there, I showered and crashed.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#126 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:22 AM

DAY FOURTEEN: Saturday March 15

I should be home now, but instead I am sitting in the lounge of the hotel sipping Assam tea and updating this journal while awaiting my return to the airport and the trials to be had there. The morning was uneventful, as I had a decent breakfast and was able to hold the room until 2PM. We are scheduled to return to the airport around 5:30PM for our 10:55PM flight. That should be plenty of time (I hope). Our good karma has certainly been tested. In the meantime, one of my friends was able to purchase an upgrade of her ticket to first class confirming her seat, while the other purchased a new ticket to assure his place.

We arrived at the airport early, so early that they wouldn't let us in! We waited outside for about an hour before they let us through the initial security. From there we had to check-in at the Continental counter and go through immigration before we were able to wait in the business class lounge for our departure. We were able to relax with one last Kingfisher on Indian soil.

The time finally arrived for us to go through security, which occurred without incident, but once we started to board the plane, we discovered another layer of more intense security. Fortunately, this, too, occurred without incident and I finally made it on the plane. What a sense of relief! One friend was in a seat in the row to the right of me, while the other was well behind us in the boarding process. We explained our plight to the flight attendant and described him to her. To all of our delight, just before take-off, she managed to up-grade him as well! The remainder of the flight, though long, was unremarkable. The food was nothing better than edible. I did manage to sleep a little though.

Edited by docsconz, 24 June 2008 - 08:09 AM.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#127 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 24 June 2008 - 08:08 AM

DAY 15: Sunday March 16

Our flight arrived on time at 4:55 AM, happy for the recent time change pushing the hour back. Coming off first class, I made it through immigration quickly, collected my bags and breezed through customs, re-depositing my bags for my connecting flight to Albany. Since I had plenty of time before that flight, I waited awhile before calling my sister, who kindly came to rescue me from the airport. We went back to her apartment where I was able to shower, have some laundry done and enjoy some bacon and eggs before heading back to Newark for my flight.

I arrived back at Newark in plenty of time, made my way through security and set up at Continental's President's Club to await my flight, which was listed as "on-time." As the time inched closer, I rechecked the board to see a 25 minute delay. A bit later, it changed to a two hour delay. While I continued to wait, the time approached. I looked back at the monitor to now discover that my flight was no longer delayed. It was canceled! I was in shock, but quickly made my way to the Club desk to check on my alternatives. The choices were few. Initially, they would have me leave that night, but I managed to get a seat on the 4:30PM flight, although that would be delayed as well. One possibility would be to drive back in a rental car, but I was exhausted. I decided to wait for the flight, delay and all. Ultimately, Continental found another plane, so the 4:30 flight would leave on-time after all! By the time I discovered this and made my way to the plane it was boarding. When I gave the attendant my boarding pass, she said that she could not find my name on the manifest. It had been entered then removed! I was about to scream, but I held my cool and she was able to put me into the last seat on the plane. I finally made it back to Albany where I so, so gladly saw my wife, who met me shortly after my arrival. Though I arrived, I had no doubt that my bags would not. Once I realized that somehow they screwed up my booking, there would be no way that my baggage would have been on that plane. I wasn't wrong. I made my claim and we departed the airport for home. It was truly wonderful to be back. I am happy to say that my baggage was delivered mostly intact the following day. I went to bed early, ready to take my first call the next day.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#128 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:05 PM

My report on my experiences in India is now concluded, For those who may be interested, I have put together my favorite photos from the trip in an album located here.. Though a number of the photos posted here are also there, there are many there (non-food related) that are not posted here. Namaste!
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#129 Shelby

Shelby
  • society donor
  • 2,581 posts

Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:47 PM

Thanks for taking the time to show us your extraordinary trip. I enjoyed every bit of it.

#130 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:50 PM

Thanks for taking the time to show us your extraordinary trip.  I enjoyed every bit of it.

View Post


Thanks for reading!
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#131 jeffj

jeffj
  • participating member
  • 72 posts

Posted 24 June 2008 - 11:48 PM

Thanks Doc for this wonderful thread. It's a true labor of love and it's much appreciated. I’ll be visiting India this fall and I can only hope that my journey is half as fulfilling as yours.

View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:

FineDiningPhotos.com



#132 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:09 AM

Thanks Doc for this wonderful thread.  It's a true labor of love and it's much appreciated.  I’ll be visiting India this fall and I can only hope that my journey is half as fulfilling as yours.

View Post


I'm sure that it will be an intense, incredible and unique experience. Will you be going to any of the same areas? Is the trip food oriented? The slogan that they use for tourism is Incredible India, which is quite true.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#133 docsconz

docsconz
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,806 posts
  • Location:Upstate NY

Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:11 AM

Thanks Doc for this wonderful thread.  It's a true labor of love and it's much appreciated.  I’ll be visiting India this fall and I can only hope that my journey is half as fulfilling as yours.

View Post


I'm sure that it will be an intense, incredible and unique experience. Will you be going to any of the same areas? Is the trip food oriented? The slogan that they use for tourism is Incredible India, which is quite true.

View Post


If you have a choice of airlines flying over there, I would suggest Jet Airways if the price differential isn't too great. The food and the service are amazing.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#134 sanrensho

sanrensho
  • participating member
  • 1,647 posts
  • Location:North Vancouver, BC

Posted 25 June 2008 - 09:17 AM

Outstanding. I enjoyed this travelogue immensely. Thanks.
Baker of "impaired" cakes...

#135 BBhasin

BBhasin
  • participating member
  • 480 posts

Posted 17 August 2008 - 05:36 AM

My day is screwed. Why did I open this thread. Now I am behind in everything today.

FANTASTIC! Thank you, I really enjoyed your ducumentation.

The visit to the Culinary School was a special treat as I graduated from there 34 years ago. The bakery class looks exactly the same and the next time I visit Delhi I have to have a chat with the instructor who is telling these kids to put potatoes and onions on the skewers so the tandoori chicken will not slip.

To all who enjoyed this, I would suggest searching for Episure's piece on Kashmir ans Kashmiri cuisine.
Bombay Curry Company
3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club
Arlington, Virginia

#136 Bonnie Deahl

Bonnie Deahl
  • participating member
  • 15 posts
  • Location:Sterling, VA

Posted 23 January 2011 - 08:06 AM

John, I recently discovered your travel journal of your trip to India. What a wonderful trip and account of your day by day activities. It is a dream of mine to take such a trip to India some day. I travelled there back in the 80's when I was a flight attendant so had a taste of the culture that has made me want to go back ever since. Will bookmark and read about your trip more slowly. Your photos are just beautiful.
Thanks for sharing and inspiring! Bonnie

Bonnie

'Variety is the spice of life'

#137 v. gautam

v. gautam
  • participating member
  • 631 posts

Posted 24 January 2011 - 01:10 PM

Bonnie,

India is compressing >3 centuries of change in <40 years, and the pace grows exponentially. The result is the extinction of genuine foodways, the practitioners, the rural base, forest, & traditional crops species, and most importantly the genuine practitioners of the nuanced arts & their genuine patrons [for the most part]. Instead, we have the poseurs, and a whole flight of restaurant and hotel chefs who try & sometimes make some effort to resurrect the myriad styles of community foodways. But the scene can be likened to a mosaic of rich habitat in an equatorial region, subjected to clear-cutting, the latter being the willed homogenization of tastes as India becomes more closely knit together by common cultural artifacts. Just like the bagel & pizza were relatively unknown in the USA as a whole 60-70 years ago but now are deemed indispensable to everyone's sense of identity & well-being here, so too in India, relatively strange "new" pan-Indian foods rapidly have displaced skills and tastes for traditional items.

Tandoori chicken is not Indian, but strangely enough tandoors have been part of the Indian culinary scene at least as long as the Pathan invaders have been present, which may pre-date Islam! I found this out in remote village river ports of West Bengal with heavy Muslim presence, where there were NO tandoori chickens ever, but an ancient tandoor culture of extraordinary breads, pre-dating the Punjabi influx into Delhi during 1947 by centuries! ONLY in these ports, ONLY during the weekly market days! Gradually, these places, too, have become co-opted into the pan-Indian Punjabi & coarse dhaba styles of cooking, losing their specific preparations, cooked without spices, tomatoes or any trace of chilies.