Posts Tagged ‘food’

the Nepali diet

Friday, November 13th, 2009

This one is even simpler than in the Congo! It’s dal bhat! That’s rice and dal (a usually very runny lentil soup – more run than lentil), a potato and veggie curry (radishes and cauliflower commonly accompany the potato), and some chutney (the one made out of marijuana seeds – yes – was one of the best; and no, it has no funny side effects). On occasion, some greens come too (they look and taste like kale or mustard greens, but are called spinach).  I was partial to this addition…

So this is what many Nepalis eat, once or twice a day, nearly every day. And this is what I ate, often twice a day, nearly every day, for the entire two weeks I was in the West.

After day two, I wasn’t sure I could do it. It’s not that dal bhat is not yummy. It actually can be quite good. I am just so accustomed to variety being an essential part of a well-rounded diet. And I am used to more fruits and fresh veg. I was surprised, however, that the hungrier I was – especially as our trek got under way – the more the dish made for a great start and a lovely finish. There’s no skimping on the rice, and seconds of the sides are plentiful, so the whole thing is really filling.

Bina and I rated them as we moved from Juphal, in the Dolpo region, to our trek from Jumla onto Rara Lake. I think my favorite was in Bulbale (pronounced bull-boo-lay), our third night’s stopping point. There the 20-year-old son of our guesthouse owner was chef. His dal was uncommonly thick with beans. It was delicious! Plus, he made a fresh-mint chutney that, had it not been so spicy, I might have licked off the plate! But, alas, my mouth was seriously on fire. So my manners took over, and I held back, only spooning small samplings of it onto my rice.

We did sometimes get chapatti with homemade honey in the morning and once even wheat pancakes! In Naurighat, where we passed our second night, the guesthouse had only ramen noodles to serve in the morning. But with some scrambled egg thrown in, it was a good start before that day’s early and steep hour-and-a-half climb.

Needless to say, these last couple of weeks have been heavy on the starches and carbs. Thus, even as I have honestly enjoyed the dal bat, I will be eager for a fresh, cold salad as soon as I can get my hands on one back home.

The Congo diet

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

So here’s the thing about trying to eat in Bukavu – you really need to plan ahead. Especially if you ‘re working and trying to get tons done in one week and don’t really have a lot of time to stop moving… I’ve been trying to use every minute productively and would say I’ve been more successful than not. But, my well-balanced NYC diet has suffered…

It’s not so easy to run out and grab a bite and eat on the run… yes, there are lots of bananas and bread and such by the side of the road, but a full meal, you know, with protein and all, requires a restaurant and some down time. I didn’t have a lot of that this week! Below is a sampling of what I ate. It was all pretty good, just many hours in between meals. That’s why Victoria, a woman I met at the guesthouse, calls it the “Congo Diet” – eat whenever you can! Lunch at 3pm? Cool, it’s now or never. Her daughters joke that if she’s here for one week, she loses one dress size, two weeks, two dress sizes, etc.

Must say, that though I am surely not eating as much (or as often) as at home, I don’t think I’m experiencing quite the same weight-loss phenomenon…

Day one – no breakfast and the day started at about 7:30 am; some water, butter cookies and a banana for lunch at about 1pm; then yummy dinner of soup and pizza at the Coco Lodge.

Day two – yogurt, juice for breakfast at 7 am; power bar for snack and lunch – spread from 11 am – 1 pm; fried fish, spinach and potatoes at the guest house for dinner. Victoria, whipped up a nice salad of avocado, tomatoes and carrots with fresh lemon and salt on top. Delicious! Made by one of the women who works here.

Day three – bread and a piece of fake cheese wrapped up with the cow on front and juice for breakfast; little sandwich for lunch about six hours later; dinner – sardines … not my favorite … I did try one though. But I was happier with the spinach, potatoes, and avocado with bananas and pineapple for dessert. Again, made by a woman from the guesthouse.

Day four – bread, cheese and juice again to start – getting an idea of what I had lying around? Soup for lunch at Coco Lodge – sitting down here for a real meal during the day was bliss. I also got a bit of writing done, bonus! P.s. this only happened once. Dinner at Gerda’s (of a 1996 NYT article fame) – scrumptious Tilapia, soup and beer! Oh, and the beer here is served in huge bottles – one is good for about three glasses and I’m a cheap date! Too bad I was paying for myself…

Day five – bread and banana and juice, then a super busy non-stop day of interviews and lunch at 3 :30 pm in 20 minutes! I had french fries and sombe, a dish made of kasava leaves that’s a little bit like the African version of collard greens. Then more interviews, until 8 pm, and a dinner party with some of Victoria’s expat friends. She brought over a meat curry and rice made by another member of the guesthouse staff. It was the best meal yet, especially as it was shared among a super interesting group of NGO workers on the porch overlooking Bukavu near the Pakistani MONUC headquarters. (For those who don’t know, MONUC is the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world and it’s here in the Congo).

Day six – bread, pineapple and water for breakfast; small pizza and samosas for lunch scarfed down while working with my translator on a telephone interview. But dinner? Not sure that’s going to happen. Have some late reporting to do, so eating will be a gamble… No worries, my guess is that by the time I get home, I’ll be too tired to care.

More soon! I hope!