India, I have heard is one of those countries that either takes your breath away and leaves you profoundly changed, or a person has no desire to visit. I would say to the latter, give it a chance and you may surprise yourself.
My husband has always loved spicy food. I have never been able to tolerate the heat, even though I can appreciate flavor.
I grew up in the U.K. and our takeaway on a Friday night was always from the local Indian restaurant. I would consume many poppadum’s while waiting for our order. Mine was always a mild chicken Korma and rice with an onion bhaji to start. This is what I thought Indian food was.
I was fortunate to visit India as part of a group of sales managers chosen to meet the team that would be escorting our clients on the first of many journeys around India.
Culture shock was the only way I could describe my first 24 hours in Delhi.
But in a good way. I came with no expectation and only my primitive knowledge of Indian food to go on.
The food surprised me and the rest of the group with the variety of dishes on offer and how they were tailored to what our taste buds could tolerate. I fell in love with ‘Black Lentil Dhaal’. It was a choice on the menu not only for dinner but also at the breakfast buffet along with eggs, pancakes and sausages among other north American breakfast items. Most hotels generally, also provided the safety of familiar western foods if we chose.
The generosity of the people and their hospitality was overwhelming. Nothing was too much trouble. Their attention to detail was astounding. Every hotel I stayed in had strategically placed incense or some diffuser with a beautiful (but not overpowering) scent in the hallway as you walked to your room. In the rooms, the scent continued. Some of the properties were converted palaces and were luxurious without being over the top.
Throughout my stay in India, I found myself preferring to indulge in Indian flavors – I still ate poppadums but also delighted in the taste of freshly baked naan bread, aromatic rice, and I found a new love for Masala tea. We call it Chai tea, but the process to make it there is very different. A former colleague of mine gave me a recipe and occasionally, I still take the time to make it.
Recently, at work, I was asked to write my ‘Why’: Why do I do the job that I do. There needs to be more fulfillment than the usual ‘because I need a job’. My ‘Why’ was that it’s important to me to work for a company that shows guests more than just the tourist attractions. We immerse our guests in the culture, introducing them to local people and through the food that we introduce them to. This journey will always be my favorite because I came back changed. I was introduced to experiences that opened my mind and my palate.
I still can’t tolerate heat, but I look for more options now on a menu than just Chicken Korma.
Heidi Schnitker, is a Sales Manager located in our Canada office. She traveled to India with Insight Vacations.