Saturday, January 9, 2016

My lunch is your lunch and your lunch is my lunch

A typical restaurant visit in London for Indiadam and me would usually go as follows: menu arrives we both take a look. I ask: "What are you having?" To which Adam let's say replies "pizza x". My reaction would almost certainly be "That's great so I can have pasta and we can share". 

Why is it relevant how we used to spend dinners in restaurants? The point is that I love trying new food and sharing food. It always felt like such a shame to me only being able to try one item on the menu when there is so much to choose from. So what I liked best was to always order lots of things with everyone and then try a little bit of everything. Turns out not everyone shares that feeling and on various occasions indiadam's answer to my sharing suggestion would be: "But I have chosen this ONE dish and I want the whole dish to myself rather than share". I also suffer from extreme food envy, I very embarrassingly always stare at other peoples plates in restaurants wondering whether I should change my order again and have what they are having... What people find more annoying though is that I am a little food thief. At work (and much to the annoyance of my colleague base), I could rarely restrain myself from picking a chip straight from someone's plate or eating the afternoon snack on their desk. Or if I had finished my dinner but indiadam had some left on his plate, I would just grab another spoonful of his.

Many of you just be thinking that I am rude, annoying and embarrassing (all of which might be true to some extent). But I have moved to India and here I'm just like everyone else!!

In my first week at work, I was quite shocked to see how everyone picks of other people's lunch during the lunch break. People would literally (sometimes without asking) put their spoon into someone's dish, taste it and then compliment them on how good it was. The thing is a lot of people bring home made lunch, either from their wife or cook so there is a real variety of food at the lunch table. Cuisines also really differ across the country so depending on where people are from, the type of meals they bring in is very different. I like to think of it as a small restaurant menu - especially as everyone brings in various small tins with bread, chutneys, salads and curries...

The first times people offered me to try their lunch I politely declined, remembering the angry looks of my UK team when I once again had stolen a chip from someone's plate (they soon realised drenching them in vinegar was a good strategy to keep me away from them). 

But after a while I realised that is it quite normal and started trying bits and pieces. And I love it - I have tried so much home made Indian food and people seem genuinely pleased when you try their food and compliment them on it. Usually no food goes to waste as even if someone doesn't finish what they brought in, someone will chip in to finish it. 

Talking about food, Indians have the impressive skill to be able to eat a proper meal standing up. This might sound trivial and quite easy but when you try it, it actually is quite hard. Of course you can't use a knife and fork but you use your spoon or your hand. When there is a lunch buffet at work, no one will sit down but people stand around chatting and eating. The first couple of times I naturally moved to the closest table, sat down and started eating only to realise that no one ever came and joined me (which could also be due to reasons unrelated to food). So then I decided I'd stand up just like everyone else which required lots of concentration and carefully moving things around on the plate to avoid it going all over me or on the floor. 

By now, I'm proud to say that I have mastered the standing up eating and have enjoyed trying other people's lunches. I'm also not surprised anymore that food disappears from my desk as the office pretty much works on a "what's lying around you can eat" policy. Although I don't bring in my own lunch and can only offer the canteen food to share, I have brought in some German sweets and cookies which everyone seemed to enjoy (although some would not believe me that wine gums really didn't have any alcohol in them).

So as much as the culture here is very different and there are a few things I struggle to adjust to, it's fair to say that now I know that I'm not weird trying and stealing people's food - I was just living in the wrong country. In German there is a saying that "Liebe geht durch den Magen" meaning "love goes through the stomach" (poetic, I know). So my love song to India after the first few months is definitely "your lunch is my lunch and my lunch is your lunch" - sorry Whitney. 

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