Tag Archives: Food

Wheat world

I was 14 years old when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In and out of hospitals. Pain. More pain. Diet: rice, fish, water. Cooked veggies if I was feeling really in top form. Baby food. (Seriously.) A lifetime later and I’m generally okay, though as anyone with a colon disease knows: it is never that far away. UC is always in my thoughts, in my actions. It’s my friend, my dear, dear friend who has seen me through a lot and taught me deep lessons about myself and life. The thing about this friend is that I never know when another lesson is coming. And, to some extent, I feel like if I can show UC that I’ve got things under control, that I don’t need to be taught anything from her, then she’ll continue to lay low, showing up in manageable forms.

Diet for me is (supposed to be) no wheat, light on dairy, no spicy, no corn, tomatoes, fibrous things, no apple peels, and others that I’ve forgotten. The no wheat plays the biggest role in whether I get sick.

Challenge: India. The land of wheatie goodness. Well, it is the land of many things actually – camels, saries, channa, sugar (take that, Thailand! No, who am I kidding: Thailand is the king of sugar), cows, rickshaws, rolling hills, the sea, religious fervor, drama, culture, widow burnings, caste systems, masala chai, and, yes, wheat products. I’m talking about chapatis, parotta, naan, cheesy naan, cheesy garlic naan. On their own or slurped up with curries, masalas and sauces. These bring me to my knees.

I normally have almost no issue with relegating wheat to the no-fly-zone of my dietary world. My first trip to India was a wheat-free success. But this trip. This trip. This trip is trouble. Chapatis call my name. Really, they do. Naan cries out eeeeeeeeat meeeeeeeee!!! Who am I to resist the feeble begging of gluten gluttony?

Oddly, it started with a crepe. Yes, a French crepe. With bananas. Did I mention the honey? Crave. Spotted on the menu Monday, it was mine all mine on Tuesday. Of course, crepes are not food for the gluten-intolerant. After that I was sunk. Wheat items came to me in dreams, hallucinations, deleriums. I tried to funk up my rice routine by mixing geera, coconut, vegetable into the playlist. All good, very good. But coconut rice doesn’t hold an incense to cheesy garlic naan; any respectable Indian would agree.

For two weeks, I’ve eaten my fill of breaded goodness down south here with the palms and the naans.  My colon is corrupting and I know I either go back to my wheat-free-wheeling ways or there’ll be trouble. I feel like a teenager getting caught sneaking in past curfew. To live in a wheat world is to live in a wild world where naan and chapati reign over kingdoms of parotta fields where the citizens frolick freely.

Goodbye, cruel wheat. May we meet again in another life.

***

Disclaimer:

After writing this, I have proceeded to eat parottas. I am powerless to the parotta.

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Veg Uthappam

“Every morning at 11am, all I can think is ‘veg uthappam, veg uthappam’. Trust me, it’s amazing.” I don’t know whether I can trust my friend’s judgment on this particular matter. She is currently undergoing some sort of ayurvedic cleanse that seems to consist primarily of massages, eating special food twice daily, and donning a special outfit: a hilarious kelly green fifties-style bathrobe paired with an orange bathing cap-meets-yarmulka; a requisite tikka on her forehead and similar mud-dot on her neck. Of course, this description betrays my ignorance of ayurvedic treatments and there might very well be meaningful reasons behind the interesting get-up. Regardless, to me the whole ensemble leaves her looking like a slightly deranged soap star wandering the green guesthouse grounds waiting to be called to set. It’s a tribute to her natural beauty (and perhaps the cleanse?) that she manages to look totally radiant in spite of this. Still, I’m wary of her praise of the uthappam. It might very well be warranted or it may simply be the effects of whatever radiation is surely seeping out from that green robe.

Venturing down to the Lonely Planet restaurant – yes, that is the actual name – I choose one of the many available red and white checkered cloth tables positioned near the lili-padded pond. Through the low lime green fence between the me and the water I can see catfish swimming around catching the latest bits of food that the kitchen staff has tossed their way. I order the uthappam in the silent restaurant and dive into my book while I wait, happy to be here during low-season with the place to myself. Quiet.

Arriving on a thali-style silver dish, a rice pancake housing orange and green veggies inside lies flat in front of four recesses filled, respectively, with carrot chutney, sambar and korma. I immediately chuck aside the unnecessary cutlery and rip into the hot pancake with both hands. The light rice dough (green-light for the gluten intolerant, three cheers!) filled with small sauteed pieces of peppers, carrots and onions is subtle in taste, a sturdy vehicle for piling on the sauces. Mix and match yellow, orange and white as you please and get messy. Food finger-painting at its finest, making edible creations. Eat your work.

For sensitive tummies, this Kerala breakfast food is a light way to go authentically Indian first thing in the morning. From my solitary morning with the finger food, I conclude two things. One, I still want another pancake to paint with. Two, while it appears that my friend’s odd attire has had little affect on her culinary taste, it serves to encourage my suspicions of any health-care routine that requires such a look.

Veg Biryani

A huge mound of rice appears on the plate in front of me. It glitters with oil, speckled with spots of burgundy  marigold and olive green. Neglecting to eat with my left hand like the locals do, I grab the big metal spoon and dive into the edible hill before me. The seasoned rice is not left without comrades; chunks of sauteed vegetables like potato, carrots and onions abound in the middle. Sparks of saffron, coriander and mint dance together, mingling with the guest of honour, biryani masala. Mildly spicy, the dish is devoured quickly, my spoon digging in until I’m wholly sated with hearty home-cooking. This traditional, authentic Kerala dish of heaping proportion is served fresh everyday for 60R (less than 2USD) at Joy’s blue alley-side restaurant in Kovalam.