The opposite of devour

A common complaint from people who’ve read my posts here is ‘This is making me really hungry for food that I can’t get here’ and ‘You suck. I’m so jealous’ so this time I’m talking about a few times when it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows and roses and I either had a terrible experience or the things that I was excited about did not live up to what I’d built them up to be.

The first major one of these I remember was about 7 years ago when I was an exchange student in Germany, experiencing my first European ‘winter’ and already losing my shit in October on a trip to Berlin. Cold, hungry and grumpy, my friend and I made our way into a Dunkin Donuts where after spending an age in the line I ordered a bagel that looked halfway decent and a coffee. Two bites in, I knew something was wrong. There was something rubbery and weird tasting in here. I made that go down with a lot of difficulty and my growling tummy made me persevere on. Suddenly, as I braced myself for yet another bite it hit me. I opened it to confirm the sinking feeling in my heart. The idiot person behind the counter had given me a bagel with salami instead of the vegetarian one I’d ordered. It was bad enough to have to lose my meat virginity to a comparatively funky meat, having lost it to shitty fast food chain funky meat on an empty stomach in the bitter cold of a foreign country had a far reaching consequence on my traumatized mind. This experience is one of the reasons why despite the best efforts of my gourmand friends, I remain staunchly vegetarian

In 2014 I was in Dubai for about 6 months and I’d scour TimeOut all the time looking out for interesting food that fit my budget. An entry for a restaurant called MamaTani that served a traditional Emirati bread called Khameer caught my eye. I hunted down the best route to get there and made my way over on my free day. I went through the menu multiple times, contemplating which to order until zeroing down to one filled with labneh,basil,walnuts and olives. When it arrived however, it was just….meh. The labneh didn’t taste fresh or zesty, there weren’t any flavours coming through and though I liked the crunch of the walnuts, there were too few of them to salvage my mood now. I could not believe I’d gotten excited about this and I left the place feeling glum.

While in Innsbruck in March 2015, I came across a place that advertised itself as having the largest variety of strudels in the city and couldn’t control my glee. Now THIS was a true Austrian cliche I was only too happy to embrace. I resolved to pick up a sweet and savoury the following day on my way to the train station to go to Salzburg. Now, on this trip I’d been gotten very excited at having been able to speak German fluently after 3 years without practice. Therefore it was with a certain amount of smugness that I went to order my strudels, thinking that I had understood all that had been written about the fillings. Alas! pride comes before fall and I realised only too late that my broccoli and gorgonzola strudel had pieces of ham in it. I ignored the bile rising in my throat and forced myself to swallow the offending bite as I threw the rest of the strudel into the bin, feeling very very very stupid and miserable as I cursed pig meat for having it in for me.

While in London last summer, one day I got a sudden craving for kathi rolls. Yes, I knew I was embodying every ‘Indian person abroad’ cliche by wanting to eat Indian food while in London but I couldn’t shake the craving off and decided to visit The Kati Roll Company which had a very high rating on Zomato and was recommended on Buzzfeed. Aloo unda roll and Achari Paneer roll were my selections for that evening. Too bad that neither fulfilled the taste buds. For something called ‘aachari paneer roll’ (aachar=pickle in Hindi), that one especially was disappointingly bland. The zing I’ve grown so accustomed to in the Kathi rolls I usually came only from dousing it in the chatni I had to order separately. Where was the spice and kick of flavour I’d read about on the reviews? On my way back itself I skype called my mum to bitch about the crushing blow I’d just suffered and about how these guys were selling tiny pots of chatni for the amount I pay for an entire roll back home. Rip off!

I’d wanted to explore Latin American food for a long time and finally got a chance to in London while I was at Camden Market. I ordered myself an arepa filled with avocado, beans and salsa. I expected it to fill my mouth with exotic flavours that came together seamlessly in my mouth and exploded. It tasted like uttapam which I’ve eaten at South Indian eateries more times than I can count. An uttapam with exotic ingredients, which to be honest felt really REALLY weird, but an uttapam nonetheless. Quite a downer on my expectations!

I’m sure its not just me and that the pursuit of exciting food has left behind a literal bad taste in the mouth occasionally for many more of you. Tell me about your stories in the space below

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Originally published at pestostainedpassport.wordpress.com on February 17, 2016.

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