Post # 25 Travels Abroad #1

July 27, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

You may be aware if you’ve read this blog for any length of time that I was incredibly fortunate to be able to travel all over the world for my job.  I’ve been to all the continents except Antarctica, and so many countries I don’t remember them all.  Some of those countries and cities, I worked at; some of them, I visited or passed through.  Regardless of the length of time I spent in each place, I was able to get a real sense of the food, and food’s place in the culture.  I recently reconnected with a friend that I hadn’t talked to in over 25 years and she asked me a very thought provoking question.  What was my favorite country or city?  I liked them all (well, except one, but that’s another story) and I liked them for different reasons.  This post is about one of those places.

I visited Sri Lanka back in the late ’90s.  For those who don’t know, Sri Lanka is south and east off the tip of India and is deep in the Indian Ocean.  It’s a place of deep cultural roots, and civil struggle that continues sporadically even today although “peace” has been declared.  The people are friendly, polite, and smile big smiles that seem to wrap around their faces.  They are influenced quite heavily by India and its culture, but still maintains a unique vibe that resonates throughout their lives.

It was amazingly hot when we arrived.  The country is close to the equator so heat is a fact of life.  I was there nearly 14 years ago, but people still wear clothes designed for the heat, saris for the women and sarongs for the men.  There was a lot of hope and high expectation for the future while I was there.  There was a lot of building going on, urban renewal, that kind of thing, and the hotel we were staying at boasted the first indoor modern shopping mall and food court.  We did a lot of the touristy kind of stuff, and at one point we visited an elephant orphanage, a tea plantation, and a famous statue of a smiling buddha.  One evening, I was walking along the sea wall with one of my coworkers and two little boys asked if we were the Back Street Boys who were touring in Asia at the time.  I had to explain to my coworker who they were and I couldn’t tell what bothered me more: the fact that at nearly 40 I knew who the Back Street Boys were, or that I knew their touring schedule well enough to understand the little boys’ confusion.  Chalk it up to very few televsion options beyong MTV.

The food was excellent, as food anywhere usually is.  There was a tremendous Indian influence since we were so close.  Curry dominated, a very spicy, hotly flavored curry that was delicious.  It was always served over a bed of rice and it was the fluffiest, best prepared rice I’d ever had up to that point.  After a few days, though, I got a little tired of my mouth being on fire, so I started asking for sandwiches.  The cafeteria at our workplace was very accomodating, so I was able to get lettuce, tomato, and cheese on toast every day.  It was good, too.

One of my coworkers and I decided to go to a “fancy” restaurant one Saturday and walked into the hotel’s fanciest place in our shorts and t-shirts.  They were very happy to see us and sat us promptly.  There was a minor scuffle as they put our napkins in our laps.  My coworker was less than a year out of the marines and didn’t know what they were reaching for.  We both had some un-named meat which was probably beef but better not to ask, and was meticulously prepared and tasted wonderful!  It was tender and succulent, and expensive!!!  However, curry did not feature in the dish at all and we were both happy for that.

The funniest thing happened after we’d been there about a month.  My coworker, the ex-marine, just had enough of curry and wanted something from home.  He asked if anyone was up for pizza at the mall’s food court, but I was the only taker.  We discovered that the pizza place only sold pizza by the slice.  We finally managed to convince the guy that if he made the whole pizza, we’d buy every slice.  My coworker, however, was insistent that he wanted sausage pizza.  I was happy with plain cheese or pepperoni, but he wanted sausage.  I wasn’t very optomistic about his chances, but let him argue the point until finally the bewildered young man at the counter said, “Sauce?”  My coworker was delighted, thinking he’d finally got through the language barrier.  After a few more minutes we sat and waited and waited and waited.  Finally, the pizza was ready, sliced, and packed into individual slice-sized boxes.  We took them all back to our table with our drinks and happily opened our first box.  We took identical huge bites and sat back in horror.  Rather than use pizza sauce, they had heard “sauce” which they translated as curry sauce.  Curry sauce with cheese on pizza dough.  My coworker almost cried.  But he ate every bite, complaining bitterly with each mouthful.

I wonder if they put curry pizza on the menu after that.



  1. I’ll never forget one of my trips to London…one night I was kind of hungry, and wandered around High Kensington looking for some food. I saw a place called “Alabama Pizza and Pasta”. The place was run by (what I assume were) Middle Eastern people.
    I commented to the guy at the counter that Alabama wasn’t exactly known for their pizza….I’ve never seen a more BLANK stare in my life ever since…And, yes…the pizza wasn’t that great…..

  2. Visitor recommendations…

    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]……

    • Hope it meets your expectations. Let me know if there’s any questions you have.

  3. Have you ever tried cooking basmati the Persian way? In Persian cuisine, cooking rice so that each grain falls separately from the serving spoon is a talent for which some prospective mothers-in-law in Iran still search. The rice is boiled only very briefly, and then it is steamed until done. There is also a fabulous crunchy base layer, which is my favorite part, white rice not really being my preferred food.

    • No, not yet. I’ve eaten it that way many times and have enjoyed that crunch as well. I remember the first time I had it was at Mina and Ali’s apartment way back in college. I’ll have to google it.

  4. I’m not a fan of curry myself. Enjoy the story especially describing the culture of the country. I will be looking forward to reading other tales of your adventure.

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