There was time when I would travel through Asia eating bowls of chilli. I would slurp chilli soup for breakfast. The steaming bowl of fire would fizzle my nose hairs and make me weep. I was in my own little burning hot heaven.
More recently I have developed a digestive sensitivity that has changed my eating habits. I still test the boundaries but often regret it later, “whoa, Fajita-repeater!!”
The list of foods that my body tells me to avoid grows… spicy foods, fried foods – pretty obvious so far but then add, pepper, oranges, salt, some meats, capsicum, onion, garlic…
On a recent trip to Indonesia I realised that my burning-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travelling days are numbered. This change to my eating habits may have a significant impact on my travelling style of mixing with the locals over a shared plate.
Gone are the days of Chinese Miscellaneous Animal-product Soup in a village where you are clearly the minority. Each spoonful was a game of “what part of a chicken is that?!”.
Gone are the days of plates piled high with stir-fried chillies in an alley restaurant. I recall a dish described to me as “corn with chilli” where the corn kernels were used as the garnish.
It’s pushing 40 degrees in this little café off a dirty street in Indonesia. The humidity isn’t high today; there isn’t enough moisture in the air to settle the dust churned up by passing scooters. My order of ‘grilled chicken with vegetables’ is served to me as pepper crusted chicken pieces, with a side of mostly raw capsicum, garlic and onion. There is a garnish, a slice of carrot cut into the shape of a flower sits on the side of the plate. I poke at the carrot that has been recycled from the previous diner’s plate wondering statistically how many people may have handled this piece of carrot and if they washed their hands. I pick at the chicken to try to extract some of the inner pepper-less meat.
My husband scoffs down his lovely looking lemongrass and chilli curry. He’s telling me how wonderful it is. Sweat is dripping off his cheeks. I’m hungry. I start fantasising about a bowl of pasta. I think about a trip to Italy where I could eat salads without fear.
It has become clear to me, I’m not what I used to be. It’s time I was put out to pasta.
In another time, I look around the room searching for clues and then back to my Miscellaneous Soup. The bustling people around us have the benefit of knowing the local language. I look down at my spoon, “…maybe that’s not even a part of a chicken…”