Friday, October 29, 2004

The curse of the culinarily inattentive traveller

Reading through the old travel diary I wrote when I was in India (many years ago), it strikes me that I’d spent quite a bit of writing effort in describing what I ate, how much it cost and how delicious it was. You know, I’m one of the few people I know who actually gained weight in India. Not so lucky was Sarah P, who was in my tour group; she got sick after her first dinner in Bombay, and over the remainder of the three week trip she never got to ingest anything more than chai and moderate amounts of plain, white rice.

It’s not as though I have an iron digestive system though, because I’ve succumbed to variations of Delhi Belly/Bali Belly/Montezuma’s Revenge/[enter your euphemism here] all over the world:

1. Right after I graduated from university, I went to China with my brother and my mother. It was only for nine days; I got sick right after a particularly delicious vegetarian lunch and for the next week I couldn’t go anywhere near food without going a nice Kermit-green.

2. I went to Paris with my brother and stayed in at a mate’s place. Our thank-you to the friend was a pot of homemade won tons in soup, created from ingredients at a local Asian supermarket. Not used to central heating (it was mid-winter), I didn’t realise that it would be extremely foolhardy to reheat and eat the leftovers which had been sitting on the stove for three days. This was on the last day of my stay before returning to Edinburgh; I was so sick and miserable that when my male flatmate got home I rushed out to meet him and garner some sympathy, in my underwear. Also, I missed Hogmanay, which I have always regretted.

3. Before I went on the Inca Trail, I was told that water boils at a lower temperature at altitude. Boiling water therefore isn’t sufficient to kill all the germs that make a person hug her toilet bowl. I ignored this piece of information because I didn’t get around to buying purification tablets. While I didn’t get really sick this time, I did have a queasy four days.

4. Back at home, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve made myself sick with inadequately thawed beef and four-day old milk-and-sugar sweets which I bought from an Indian stall in a fit of nostalgia (yes, that was only this last week).

Meanwhile, Rough Guide has been a little harsh about various bits of New Zealand. I think the author's view is fair though, and I'm inclined to agree with him/her about Auckland and Wellington.

8 comments:

Ian said...

It sounds like you need to stay away from Asian food...

Tara said...

I want to hear more about your travels in India! Lee and I are going for a month this spring.

I'd appreciate any tips or advice.

Violet said...

Tara: I went about ten years ago, so anything I tell you could well be a bunch of lies by now. But if pressed, I would say this -
(i) Keep your feet covered, and dont wear new open sandals; this is asking for open wounds and infections.
(ii) The best vegetarian food is in the South of India
(iii) the Rajasthani area is the easiest place for travellers since everyone speaks English and there is a solid tourist infrastructure. On the other hand, it's bound to be heaps more touristy.
(iv)Get a Lonely Planet. It'll be your bible.
Hope you keep up your blog when it becomes "Tara and Lee in India"

J.B. : You might be right. Since I am Asian myself, this presents a few difficulties. However, the boy is English and already does most of the cooking. He must have figured it out for himself...

Ista said...

I think Indian food can often be the solution to a dodgy stomach. Once, when I was in Fiji, and my mum had eaten something that hadn't agreed with her, we all decided to go to this amazing South Indian restuarant. My mum tried to be good and not eat anything but ended up polishing off the spiciest curry in the place .. and I think it killed off whatever it was in her stomach because she was right as rain after that.

Violet said...

I've always heard that a really spicy curry will do wonders for snot-clogged cold-sufferer, but I never considered that it could be the remedy to food-poisoning...

I do know for sure that alcohol doesn't work.

Pickwick said...

The solution is simple: next time you go somewhere exotic for a holiday, invite me along as your culinary guide. Not only will I monitor what you put in your mouth, I will analyse (silently) what I'm eating to recreate on the return home!

Note: This isn't fool-proof. I made myself disgustingly sick my last night in Seoul, but that may have also had something to do with alcohol...

Violet said...

I didn't know you were in Seoul. You should have a look at Jonny Angel blog - he's dead keen on Korean food and writes about food all the time.

I'll keep your offer in mind, though I reckon my next overseas trip will be a long way in the future...

EB said...

I didn't know those Indian sweets could go off so quickly! To think I bought a tonne of them from the Diwali festival ...