I’m not a very adventurous eater.
Part of that is because I’m Autistic and there are lots of problematic sensory issues around the smell, taste and texture of food.
Given the choice of food to eat I tend to stick to well worn favourites such as chips, fish fingers, chicken, lamb, peas, broccoli and the like. The roast dinner, the good old pie! British staples…though not of the metallic kind!.
So when I travel I usually get by on eggs, omelettes, chips (everywhere does chips) and Chinese food (everywhere does Chinese food) plus some sort of chocolate desert or ice cream (everywhere does a chocolate desert and ice cream).
So it may surprise you to know that the image above shows the single most impressive meal I have ever eaten.
And it’s not a pie. Or chips. It’s not even a burger.
Eating at The Bangala took on an almost religious obsession for me when I booked our South Indian jaunt. I knew nothing about the place other than it’s reputation as one of the finest hotel/eateries in South India and the fact that my meal would be served on a banana leaf! ..saves on washing up I suppose?!.
My mouth still waters as I reminisce about that meal. Sweet mango chutney, fiery chicken, cool onion heavy coleslaw, a potato dish with an ingredient that gave it a salty crunch (probably salt!), fragrant rice, cool yoghurt and some fish that was so fresh I half expected it to leap off the leaf and swim away.
And I don’t like rice. I eat potato sparingly. I don’t like coleslaw. I’m really not into yoghurt and unless fish has a name that rhymes with ‘sod’ or ‘paddock’, I’m usually going to avoid it. Yet here was I tucking in like it was my last meal.
And there was seconds!. Seconds. And thirds. I wanted to swim in the chutney and rub myself all over with the coleslaw before sleeping amidst the rice!. It was so so good.
And I still don’t know why.
I don’t enjoy Indian food. I don’t like spice and heat and how long it takes my brain to work out which flavours I like or not when they’re all fighting in my mouth!. I don’t like curry and anything hot makes my mouth go ouch and then it cries…and I dribble! ..
But this…this was glorious. A carefully crafted meal of balanced flavours, hard, soft, sweet, a little sour, a little crunchy and so so fresh.
And perhaps that was partly the case. This wasn’t a pre-packaged meal but something lovingly prepared by a skilled chef for us. It hadn’t come out of a tin or a box or plastic wrap but had been grown and picked and caught and diced with love and care to represent a regional dish and to live up to a highly prized reputation.
If anybody asks me I’ll still say I don’t like Indian food but that meal…that meal…is the finest meal I’ve ever had and four years after eating it nothing’s come close to it since.