Eating India

Surjit Singh in Amritsar
Credit: C. Van Brunschot

Thanks to Karen Anderson for the shout-out on her Savour It All blog about my “Eating India” article in the newest issue of City Palate.  The article highlights my travels through northern India in late 2015 with Alberta Food Tours   a truly delicious adventure.

I’m happy to say I’ll be making a return trip with them in the fall – this time to Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, and the Cardamom Hills!

You can read Karen’s post here – and see my full article in blazing colour in the digital edition of City Palate here.

India – From the Flipside

Golden Temple smile
Golden Temple smile

It  WAS amazing.

Two intense weeks of indelible experiences:  weaving through the holiday crowds of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk bazaar; mingling with pilgrims at the Punjab’s incomparable Golden Temple; dodging motorbikes on a high-adrenalin tasting tour of Lucknow street-food.  We met and mentored with chefs in Delhi, Amritsar, and Narenda Nagar – and took our palates on a roller-coaster ride from the heat of a masala poriyal through the creaminess of a chicken malai tikka to the delicate nuances of a palak soup.  And under the gentle guidance of Jojo Brooks, we practiced an unforgettable yoga session on a sandbank of the Ganges River.

Chandni Chowk shopper
Chandni Chowk shopper

India has so many stories to tell.  Over the coming months, I hope to sort out and share some of them.

But after one week home, the impression of India that remains strongest with me is the warm and engaging demeanor of her people. From the first winning smile of the HI Travel rep who greeted me at Indira Gandhi International airport, to my final bear-hug with Luv Jawad (tour guide extraordinaire) in a Himalayan palace, the people I encountered throughout Northern India were amiable and interested and keen to connect.

Perhaps the young Sikh man I met enroute to his grandfather’s Punjabi home and the genial grandmother who was my seatmate on an Air India flight to Delhi were simply infused with the good cheer of Diwali.  The classical dance troupe at the Amrit Rao Peshwa haveli and the attentive staff at Ananda in the Himalayas might only have been demonstrating their dedication to service.  And maybe the rickshaw wallahs of Delhi and Varanasi were just gunning for a tip.

Sumeet Nair
Sumeet Nair

But there’s no denying the true generosity offered by Sumeet Nair, his wife, Gitanjali, and his daughter, Janaki, as they opened their home to us for a day of cooking and conversation beneath the huge ficus tree in their backyard.  Nor the hospitality and inclusiveness of Prem Syal and his family and friends as they welcomed us to their spectacular Diwali celebrations.  You invited us in to share your lives and your passions, and for that I will be ever grateful.

Kudos to Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours for the relationships she has nurtured over the years to offer these connections.  Consider the stories to come a small tribute to you all.

Text and photos © 2015 Catherine Van Brunschot

Incomparable India

In Rajasthan, India
Photo credit: Steve Dunk

Almost 12 years ago, I made my first trip to India, with a husband and two ‘tweens in tow.  Together, we explored the princely palaces of Rajasthan, braved the bazaars of Mumbai, and breathed the mists rolling off the tea plantations of Darjeeling.  We rode camels in the desert, spotted tigers in a nature preserve, watched the sunrise kiss Everest’s storied peak, and rocked-in the New Year in Delhi. Three weeks of sensory overload showed me only a sliver of all that is India, and I knew that I needed to return.

This month I’ll be back, sans children and husband (who are decidedly jealous).  Under the guidance of Calgary Food Tours‘ Karen Anderson, I’ll be sampling Wazwan cuisine in Delhi, and Awadhi cuisine in Lucknow; learning the secrets of Chettiyar cooking in a chef’s kitchen and serving pilgrims in a community kitchen in Amritsar.  We’ll explore Hinduism on the bank of the Ganges, Buddhism at Sarnath, Sikhism at the Punjab’s Golden Temple, and Islam in the architecture of the Mughals.  We’ll practice yoga on the ghats of Varanasi and near the ashrams of Rishikesh.  While we’re there, the whole country will explode with fireworks for Diwali – and we’re invited to the party.

It promises to be amazing.

Text © 2015 Catherine Van Brunschot