But, before we even left the town of Jhabhua, the team suggested a smoothie at their favourite roadside stall to send us on our way fully refreshed. Satisfying my mango addiction, I ordered a mango smoothie – mango blended with crushed ice – served in a glass handled tankard. We sat in the shade as the others gossiped with the locals and I gently perspired in the 45degree (in the shade) heat.
Armed with more bottled water, and the team fully refreshed, we set off onto the dusty roads, bouncing in the jeep with all the windows down. No air conditioning here... just natural ventilation. About half way through the trip in a remote but lively town, we stopped for more refreshments (on account of how much we were sweating – more than I thought was ever possible!) and of course some snacks.
Something I have learnt living in India so far is that Indians love to eat. They are all foodies – in the sense like me, they love to eat and are constantly thinking about what to eat next - I was in good company. So heading to the special vendor selling fried bread snacks – not gluten free – these were kept on the dashboard until we reached the other side of town. Apparently, they could not be eaten without the complimentary besan (chickpea flour) coated chillies, which were gluten free!
The next morning for breakfast I ordered masala chai (spiced tea made with rich whole milk from the Holy Cow) and an omelette which strangely came wrapped around 2 slices of toast. Doh! A non gluten free omelette? That is a first! So, filling up on full fat masala chai instead, we head off this time into the countryside for a Tribal Wedding. A local employee of Real Medicine Foundation in Jhabhua was to be married and the team and I had been invited to celebrate.
Western girls eating tribal food gave the villagers a great photo opportunity (taking pictures with their very snazzy mobile phones). Cait and I tucked in not wanting to appear rude to the chefs and more importantly not to waste precious food in an area rife with malnutrition. But it was good. Really good! Big pieces of fire roasted goat and sticky rice we could eat with our fingers. Risking the hygiene levels and rustic kitchen approach was really worth it - and no sign of Delhi Belly thankfully.
On the train we secured the last of the supper trays – a paltry thin vegetable and lentil soup – but enough to last me till breakfast of an omelette and masala chai – without the bread this time.
So, the lessons that all this unknown food taught me is how rich India is in gluten free food and when you eat like a local you eat really well, even if you don’t know what it is.