The majority of our life here is spent around food. If we aren’t cooking, we are doing dishes. If we aren’t cooking or doing dishes, it’s only because we have run out of food and a trip to the store is required. Shopping here is a little different as well.
First, you have to take into account power outages. There is no rhyme or reason to them, except that they come when you least expect it, at the worst possible time, and feel as though they are personally trying to break you. Our power is out for about 4 hours most days. Some days it is closer to 10-12. Some days it goes out 10-20 times, some times for 2 minutes, some for 20. The frig isn’t as cold as you would hope to begin with, so unpredictable power outages make it difficult to keep food in the frig for any length of time. Beyond butter, we don’t consistently use any dairy products. Milk is sold in boxes on shelves with an unnerving shelf life, and there aren’t many other dairy or refrigerated items to be had.
Then you have the store situation. We go to one store for most of our dry goods and yogurt. Though this is an Indian version of Wal-Mart, the differences are great. This is an aisle completed devoted to lentils and chickpeas. There is another aisle for rice in all of its varieties.
Another store for our chicken, [here produce is sold in prepacked bags, because it is unthickable to buy merely 1-2 onions or potatoes or cucumbers. Green chilies come by the pound. We always get a laugh when we ask for 2-3; no, not 2-3 pounds, 2-3 chilies.]
and yet another for store for our produce and eggs. This is not really a “store” as you would think, but more of a produce stand on the side of the road.
The only store that carries what is close to an American banana is the first one. If you want any sort of imported or specialty item, well let’s be honest, we have given up on getting these to save us time and money! Evan went to our chicken store earlier this week for chicken only to find that they were out of chicken breast with no idea when they would get more. This is another part of cooking and eating in India. If you venture beyond the staples found in every Indian meal, the ingredients come and go from the store shelves as unpredictably as our electricity.
What we have learned from cooking and eating in India is that we will never complain of not having time to cook a weeknight meal in America again. We also have learned to value fresh food and somewhat dread the idea of the seeming unavoidability of processed and preserved foods in America. We are also dreading the price of produce. A bag of produce here, and eggs, for the week costs about $2-3. That can be the price of an avocado in winter in America. One of the greatest blessing of India has been being forced to eat nothing but truly homemade food. We feel the effects of processed food when we eat it now, so we just don’t eat it. It’s easy to avoid here, even if it means an untold number of hours in the kitchen each week. I’m hoping the ease of food in America does not tempt me to forget the benefit of healthy food I have learned here.