Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
I Nom, Yet I'm Aware Of The Ironic Ramifications Of My Nomming
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
My three tasks for today:
Am eating comfort food recently, viz., non-Indian food. At the moment I'm snacking on a "Space Food Stick," peanut-butter flavor, I bought at the Air & Space Museum gift shop when Leonard & I were in Washington, D.C. in October. Earlier today: Clif Bar. Yesterday for dinner I went to Pearl, a Thai/Chinese/Indian/other restaurant (also on the menu: stroganoff). In some sense I simultaneously went to a chicken place (separate menu) that shares Pearl's waiters and dining space (and possibly cooks?); the waiter gave us menus from both restaurants, and the fries I ordered from King Chicken ended up on the same bill as the tom yum, wontons, etc. that I ordered from Pearl. I feel as though I partook of a thought experiment on identity, like the story about the replacement of the timbers of a boat. Well, better that than Dining Philosophers.
I discovered that Pearl exists last week, when Mom and I went to the Pizza Hut across the street. (What does it say about me that baby corn as a pizza topping no longer sounds weird?) Mom didn't want me to go to Pearl alone (non-Kannada-speaking tourist heading to an unfamiliar part of Mysore after dark, understandable) so we enlisted the twentysomething accountant from across the street. His mom is friends with my mom; they and another neighbor hang out a little every night, which depending on your temperament you either find a lovely or bone-chilling idea.
When we got to Pearl, my chaperone suggested I order for both of us, since he'd never had Thai food before. I realized as we ate the tom yum that South Indian cooking doesn't really do standalone soups; my mom would see this and want to pair it with idli, or stir some rice in. Indeed, once I got home, my mom asked: what did you have?
"We had soup, battered and fried ladies' fingers, chili and potato, french fries, noodles, wontons -- those are like tempura, or pakoras -- I think that's it."
"OK, but did you have anything solid?"
"What?!" I came back from putting leftovers in the fridge (I'd ordered way too much) and came to her room to ensure I'd heard correctly. I had. She said soup was fine and all but had I had anything solid? Rice or bread?
"Mom, this is why South Indians get diabetes, because we think every meal has to have a lot of starch. I had plenty of solid food! [sigh] And I had noodles. Noodles are starch." I think she would have quieted at my ferocity nonetheless, but she nodded at the noodles. "OK."
Also at Pearl I saw a white guy with a non-Indian-Asian woman and frickin' went to their table to say hi just because I suddenly hoped they were American and wanted to hear an American voice. Jackpot! For context: I see on average four white people a week, excluding time I spend in museums and at other tourist attractions. In the rickshaw on the way to Pearl, I'd seen a white woman driving a van. I can't recall ever seeing someone white in a driver's seat here in India, and I immediately wanted to know her story. The white people I see are usually wearing some variant on local dress. These folks were wearing Western-style clothes! I may be imagining but I remember the guy wearing a black fleece like Scott Rosenberg's!
Oh, the thrill I felt when I heard the dude greet me with his Californian-accented "hi." I asked how their Kannada was coming along and he made some travesty of "illa" ("no" or "don't have") and I threw my head back and laughed. I guess I might count as a short-term expat?
While eating Thai soup and Chinese dishes and fries (nearly all of which my chaperone liked, yay), eating off china and drinking water from a glass instead of seeing my reflection in stainless steel thalis and tumblers, hearing random American pop, I felt consciously relaxed and at home. Then I cringed, cultural imperialist American, inflicting my homesickness on the native culture, wielding my money and insouciance like swords.
After dinner, we visited the Western-style supermarket downstairs and I got instant noodles, peanut butter, deodorant, and some magazines. Big selection, multiple cashiers, one of whom scanned barcodes to ring me up and gave me a computer-printout receipt. So normal-feeling that I didn't particularly feel happy or at peace; I just noticed, much later, how unremarkable everything had felt, how comfortable and myself I had felt.
I've spent enough time in my comfort zone today, writing this, reading Strange Horizons fiction. Time to get to those three TODOs.
09 Nov 2010, 11:13 a.m.
09 Nov 2010, 14:37 p.m.
09 Nov 2010, 21:22 p.m.