Real food adventure and real faces of India. Shaun Casey shares his latest travels…
Getting involved in culture and customs of India
Having been in the travel industry for more than 30 years, I have never lost the passion for travel in my private life. This year I took off on a Real Food Adventure through India. The itinerary included all of the usual sights of Rajasthan, a visit to Delhi and Mumbai (including a chance to see a Bollywood movie) with a final few days in Goa. The twist was that the whole programme was centred on the theme of food – street food, cooking lessons, master-classes at spice plantations with a total immersion into the culture and customs of every day India.
The scene was set in Delhi when we were invited to a communal lunch with 10,000 worshippers at a Sikh temple in the centre of old Delhi. Preparation and service were on an industrial scale with volunteers throwing handfuls of rice from a bucket onto each person’s plate. Potentially a new servicing style for the next dinner party I thought! Following lunch, the most unpleasant part of which was trying to sit cross-legged for an hour and eat a meal which was being thrown at you in different stages, we had time to get to know how to make and enjoy Masala Chai, India’s ubiquitous drink and try a few local savouries. I’m not sure if I was more captivated by the faces of the vendors full of character or the amazing displays of everything sweet. I couldn’t really believe the sign that there was a sugar-free option though, as my blood sugar levels were soaring by the minute.
Tasting different local foods and meeting new people
After a few days I decided to rename the trip “Real Food Adventure and Real Faces of India”. The warmth of its people coupled with the diversity of tastes was really compelling stuff and my camera focused on these two elements of the trip almost exclusively. At every corner there was someone with a face full of character, full of experiences, full of intrigue. Most of my friends back home thought that I was mad and strongly recommended that I stocked up with every type of medication I could find before leaving the UK. Whilst I heeded their advice, I fortunately didn’t need to use any of it. In fact, I ended up putting on weight through too many Onion Bhajis and Aloo Parathas. I’m delighted that I didn’t have to participate in any optional activity to the pharmacy in Udaipur as some of my travel companions did!
We met a vast array of people, from market vendors to street food merchants. Street food was surprisingly delicious and prepared with care and passion by the various guises of chef that we met. I was particularly struck by the colourful displays, the quality of the food and the pride of the vendors presenting their creations to a bunch of timid looking tourists unsure as to whether they should even try the colourful creations and what the repercussions were going to be.