Yesterday I told you about the problems that tourists have with water in India and I added that you do not have to worry about water if you stay at our Ashram because we provide bottled mineral water to all guests. It is not only the quality of the water that you need to take care of in India, it is also the quality of your food.
Just like with the water, you will get a lot of advice on eating in India whenever you make plans to travel there. Everybody who has informed himself even a bit about India gets to know that a lot of travellers start the first days of their stay with diarrhea and other digestion problems. Most of those problems can be avoided with some simple tips to follow.
Maybe the most popular – and most important – advice is not to eat food sold by street vendors. In India you will find little street vendors at every corner, frying, roasting and cooking different kinds of bread, snacks and sweets served with vegetables, chutneys and sauces. These vendors have their little carts and they stand wherever they believe is a good place for business. Those places are mostly busy roads with lots of traffic and thus a lot of pollution and ways where a lot of people walk by and whirl up a lot of dust. You probably already get the idea and why you should not eat what they prepare unless you want to take a risk or you are very sure that you have a very strong stomach.
Apart from the question where you eat however there is the question where this food came from and which quality it has. In my opinion this is a very important question. We at the Ashram take good care of what we eat and this quality of course also comes at a certain prize. Our kids, our staff, our guests and we ourselves all eat food of the same, good quality and when we ask someone to cover his expenses at the Ashram, it obviously includes the expenses for their food, too. We provide three complete meals of very good quality. Some people have told us that they would rather take a hotel room and then have cheaper food outside on the road. You are welcome to do so but I would like you to be aware of the risks that you take when you eat cheap food.
There are not only street vendors where you can get cheap food. Many small restaurants have a kitchen in the back and a front room where you can sit and eat. They sell inexpensive food but again there is the question of its quality. If you go and eat food somewhere in a restaurant, I would never suggest you to choose a cheap restaurant. In Vrindavan and in any other town you can usually also find some good restaurants that may be a bit more expensive but which give you really good food, prepared in a clean kitchen and using quality ingredients.
In India you can have a full meal in 20 Rupees but you can also spend 500 Rupees to fill your stomach. It is the quality of the vegetables, the flour, the oil and the spices used. It is the cleanliness of kitchen and cook, too. 20 Rupees are about 40 Cent while 500 Rupees are approximately 10 Dollars. You can imagine what the quality of the 20 Rupee food will be. You can definitely eat that food and it might not taste too bad for you when you eat it but your body may respond in a very unpleasant way. I use to say that I would rather spend 10 Dollar on my food first than paying 500 Dollar to my doctor later.
We have made this experience with people who stayed at the Ashram and were fully fine with the food here. They went out for a trip of a few days, ate outside and did not take too much care about where they ate and they came back with diarrhea. The digestive system of a western tourist is just not used to all the bacteria that are normal for those Indian people who eat that food.
We have had very few cases of diarrhea at the Ashram. Of course I cannot say that it doesn’t happen. Even with the most care of the food quality, your system has to change from your usual nutrition to Indian food. There are different spices and different ingredients used which your body often does not know yet or is not used to digest. So even with fully clean and good quality food, it happens to some people that they experience diarrhea, especially in the first two days of their stay in India. We call this situation India’s welcome disease. But as soon as your body adjusts to the different cooking style and the spices, you will not have any difficulty with the food at the Ashram because we take care of its quality.
There have recently been several food scandals in India which I want to write about tomorrow. Another reason to take care of what you eat.
Is good food not worth paying for when you stay at our Ashram?