“So, you must like Indian food a lot? Why don’t we get Indian food for lunch?”
It’s question I’ve learned to dread.
It’s sort of a fair question since we lived there for two years. But usually what people don’t realize is that in India, Indian food is the main cuisine for every meal. In the States, we feel bored if we eat the same type of food three days in a row.
And, it’s either spicy, really spicy or even spicier, depending on which part of the country you’re in. We lived in the “really spicy to even spicier” part of the country.
Modern wisdom might say it’s a good idea to consider the cuisine of the place you’re planning to live. Is it something you like? Is it something you could eat day in and day out?
The adventurous part of my personality — the part I didn’t really know existed before we moved to India — said, Just go. It’s India. How cool is that?
I’ve never really liked spicy food. And, that (tiny) adventurous part of my personality doesn’t extend to food preferences. I’m pretty content with pizza and fried chicken tenders and ice cream most of the time. Yes, I’m from the South, and yes, I explore the world of vegetables and teriyaki from time to time, and yes, I’m in my 30s, which means my metabolism has slowed down.
I’m working out what it means to be a Southerner by birth who doesn’t want to die of heart disease, but still likes to eat carbs and fatty meats and desserts after every meal (well, just lunch and dinner). I’ll get back to you on that.
So, living in India was a shock to my system. Not that Indian food is without fat or carbs. It’s not. It’s just not the kind I was used to.
We all have mountains of various sizes in our lives. I’m learning that food is one of mine. Comforting, familiar food that I could control was almost nonexistent in India. Even in my home.
I watched a lot of expats try to recreate familiar American flavors like candy corn and marshmallows — and, of course, Chick-fil-A. This also was of no interest to me since there were other challenges to life that made cooking less-than-my-favorite thing to do.
It took me a year of living in India to admit to a few close friends that I don’t like Indian food. I dove into life there with a willingness to learn to like it, a longing to be hospitable. And, I learned to be hospitable in uncomfortable circumstances. Bits of personality that I can’t change don’t limit me from being hospitable. And, some things do change.
My new tolerance for spicy food continues to surprise me today. I don’t have to avoid spicy food anymore.
I hate saying I don’t like Indian food because it feels like I’m saying I don’t like India, but I just don’t like the food — unless you’re suggesting cheese dosas and in that case I’m in. Or homemade dinner in a friend’s home. Mmm.
I love Indian people because of all my friends there taught me about hospitality and welcoming outsiders (like me!). I especially love Indian chai because of what the flavors remind me of and what it represents. Love and friendship in a tiny cup.
So if you invite me to eat Indian food with you, I’m probably not going to go, but not because I don’t like you. And not because I don’t appreciate the effort.