Smoked Meat & Curry
Spud was relaxing on a bed of aluminum foil under the hot summer Arizona sun one day when the telephone woke him from his slumber.
The caller was a representative from the India Tourism board and they invited the potato to come visit their country. Spud pulled out his globe and spun it around to find that India was on the other side of the earth from his home in Arizona. Calculating what the airfare would be to a place that was so far away, especially with today's fuel charges, a trip like that would have completely blown the tater's budget, so he respectfully declined the offer.
The caller continued to say that India needed to attract more visitors and foreign investment, and that a positive word or two from an influential traveler such as Spud would do more than any advertising campaign ever could. As such, they were offering to pick up the cost of his trip and fly him to India's capital: the northern city of Delhi. Needless to say, a free trip offer was all it took to convince the potato to pack his bags.
During the long flight over, Spud dreamed what India would be like. He figured that it must be a gastronomic paradise if they named their capital city after an eatery.
When the plane landed, the tater was famished and ready to sample the culinary flavours of the region. His mouth watered as he tried to decide what deli specially he would indulge in...succulent cold cuts...savoury smoked meats...spicy pepperoni sticks...kielbasa on a bun...
Spud ran into the first restaurant he could see and opened up a menu. As he scanned down the list, the side dish saw nothing he recognized or had dreamed of. Instead, practically everything on the menu was a curry of some sort. Most alarmingly, he didn't see any beef on the menu. What's a potato without a side of beef? Well this restaurant certainly wouldn't do, so the potato jumped into a taxi and sped off to another eatery nearby.
At his next stop, the potato saw more of the same, and once again, the absence of beef. Restaurant after restaurant, Spud kept seeing the same results. As the tato jumped back in the taxi he looked into the streets of the bustling metropolis and saw numerous cows sauntering up and down the busy roadways. How can one place have so many cows but none on the menu? His driver informed Spud that cows are regarded as sacred by the Indian people and therefore, were off limits as entrees.
His hunger pangs finally won over and Spud found himself ordering up a curry dish. He had curry once before and knew that it could be a bit spicy, but nothing prepared him for the intense nastiness that a true Indian curry can have. One mouthful and the tater had a 4 alarm blaze happening in his mouth! The concoction of lethal spices set his esophagus ablaze and the carbohydrate searched frantically for a tall glass of water to extinguish the flames.
Fortunately he found a glass on the countertop, filled it with tap water and then swallowed it down. In his haste for pain relief, the tato didn't notice the peculiar colour of the water he had just gulped. Instantly, as soon as the water reached his belly, his stomach realized that something just wasn't right. India's water is some of the nastiest on the planet and is filled with pollutants and faecal bacteria, and Spud's tummy was not going to house any of it. As a result, the potato's flood gates opened and the stomach expelled its contents in a torrent of revulsion.
The dazed potato collapsed in a heap. He couldn't drink the water and couldn't eat the curry. The thought of going this whole trip without eating meat churned Spud's insides.
After his second day in India, the urge was overwhelming and he grabbed a fork and set off to hunt down his prey. It wasn't long before the tuber spotted a holy heifer wandering down a busy street in Old Delhi. The tater carefully stalked the animal, keeping just out of its sight. Spud watched its every move as it diverged off the roadway and into an empty lot, filled with piles of refuse that simmered slowly in the searing heat and humidity of the Indian monsoon. The cow then proceeded to have its fill of discarded newsprint, rotten vegetables and a myriad of unrecognizable rubbish. Strangely enough, Spud found himself not as interested in beef as he initially thought, and tossed his fork into the landfill.
Trying to keep his mind off food, it was time to get out and explore the land he had come so far to see.
Delhi is one of the world's most populous places, boasting a population of a whopping 15.3 million and the tater must have had almost every single one of them approach him at one time or another with an offer to sell something, take him for a 'tour', or 'help' him book hotel or train reservations. While he certainly couldn't take all of them up on their offers, the tato did hire one fellow to show him some of the sights in the ancient city.
The history books state that Delhi was first settled about 5000 B.C. Judging from when it looked like his hotel linens were last changed, Spud didn't dispute the accuracy of that date. Over the centuries the city had been the seat of power for many different Empires. Throughout the Delhi area, there are more than a staggering 60000 recognized monuments that had been built over several millennia. It was certainly tough to decide which ones to see.
The first stop on his tour was the India Gate, a massive 42 metre (138 foot) archway erected in memory of the 90000 Indian soldiers that perished in the Afghan war and World War I.
Next up was the enormous Red Fort (Lal Qila). Constructed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who coincidentally also built the famed Taj Mahal, the red sandstone complex was built to be the stronghold for the Mughal Empire, taking the place of Agra to the South. The emperor had renamed the city of Delhi to Shahjahanabad after himself and apparently was on quite the power trip. His inflated ego was deflated shortly after construction began in 1638 when his son Aurangzeb, deposed him and threw his father in prison in Agra. Talk about an ungrateful kid!
Spud wanted to get a really good view of the city, and his guide knew of a prime spot to take him. The Jama Masjid was an immense mosque with two tall minarets which could be climbed to provide unparalleled panoramas of the city.
In order to enter the mosque complex, Spud had to remove his shoes as a sign of respect. The red sandstone and white marble mosque was a very holy place where tens of thousands would come to worship each day. Thankfully, it was also one of the few places in Delhi where one could go and not be constantly bombarded with 'salesmen' and persistent touts.
After leaving the mosque, the air was filled with the aroma of food emanating from the makeshift portable kitchens of various street vendors. The smell wasn't that of curry though, and Spud went over to investigate.
Once again, the potato wasn't able to recognize any of the concotions being whipped together, but the smells did seem more appealing. One particular vendor was cooking up some naan, an Indian bread that looked quite good. Next to his stall was a small basket which Spud assumed had some freshly made product inside staying warm. He opened the lid to grab a piece. Unfortunately, bread was not what was inside the basket. Instead, he found himself holding onto the head of a 3 metre (10 foot) King Cobra - who was none too pleased to have a pint sized potato poking him in the eye.
Spud screeched at the top of his lungs when he realized his mistake, dropping hold of the dangerous viper. The snake rose up and spread his ribs, exposing its hood in annoyance. It then opened its jaws revealing the business end of its dangerous fangs, saturated with enough poisonous venom to kill an elephant.
The potato turned and ran as fast as his plastic inanimate feet would carry him. It was time to get out of Dodge...err, Delhi!
Click here for part 2 of the Indian adventure!