- Bettina Applewhite
Corona Chronicles: Trip to India
India was my first international trip. I went there and knew that it wouldn't be my last trip abroad. I'm glad that it was my first trip abroad because I fell in love. The people, the colors, the flavors were mesmerizing.
My first trip to India was as an international exchange student through a BBQ festival. That's right. BBQ sent me to India. It's really an international month-long festival called the Memphis in May Festival. Each year they salute a country but what the festival is best known for is the BBQ competition weekend. People from all over the country come to show off their skills and be crowned the best BBQ in the land. The year I went to India, it was the festival's country of the year.
I believe the first time I tried Indian food was in preparation for the trip. I can't remember but we either visited an Indian family and they prepared a meal for us or we met at an Indian restaurant. I'm glad I enjoyed what I had because it was all I would be eating for a couple of weeks while I was away.
Indian food is very fragrant with spices. There's lots of fenugreek, garlic, onions, and ginger. Most of the spices are toasted or roasted before even grinding to make sure there is an abundance of flavor in every bite. Roasting the spices makes the flavors deeper and when you add them to dishes you are cooking, it brings on layers of flavors without being in the kitchen forever.
Indian curries are known to be spicy. Many Indian dishes are known to use lots of spicy peppers like cayenne and red kashmiri chili spice. Red kashmiri chili spice is a specialty spice in U.S. markets. It's not commonly found in your average neighborhood grocery store. It's not as spicy as cayenne but it gives dishes a bright red color like you'll find in butter chicken or masala dishes. It's made from dried and ground red kashmiri chilies. These chilies are mild in heat so if you want a more spicy punch to your dish, you can add in cayenne or other fresh chilies like serrano or Thai green chilies.
For my Indian feast as a trip during corona my menu included:
Palak (Spinach Curry)
Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)
Lobia Masala (Black Eyed Peas Curry)
One of my favorite memories when I first went to India and one of the house helpers duties were to make bread for the day. Can you imagine fresh bread daily? She didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Hindi. We couldn't talk to each other but we were able to make bread together. Lately I've been trying my best to recreate those delicious paratha breads, and I have not been successful. I have looked up recipes and watched videos and still can't get those soft, flaky layers. Any tips? I've been making naan bread which has come easier to me. Garlic naan is so delicious and easy to make if you follow the basic naan recipe. All you have to do after making the basic naan is brush your bread in garlic butter. I've been using a naan recipe that uses yogurt in the dough. I've been seeing some other unique recipes out there that don't use yogurt and even some that don't use yeast. I don't know what it is about paratha but I can't seem to get it right. Please help!
Indian food is comforting to me. When I was first starting my career, there were often stressful days. Many people will look for pizza or ice cream. I would crave palak panner. Maybe this would be comforting to me because it reminded me of a simpler time. A time when all I had to do was focus on learning and living. A time when I was unfiltered and mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the unknown.
These are the reasons that traveling is so much fun. I get to explore new lands and even see familiar places in new ways. I've traveled to India a couple of times and the second trip was not like the first. I met new friends the first time and brought family with me the second time. The first time I was protected by a school group and the second time I was able to experience what it's like to be a foreign woman in India. Even though the trips were very different, they were both amazing and memorable in their own ways.