At some point in the past few months, some person asked me what my comfort foods are. What, they asked me, are the foods you crave when you’re sick? You know, from your childhood?
I couldn’t give them a decent answer. I thought over the foods my mother made when I was a child – delicious foods, foods which I will forever enjoy eating – but I wouldn’t call these comfort foods, except for the single ingredient of celery leaves. I thought over foods I’ve relied on while sick, and I’m sorry, overly wet and overly boiled white rice may be digestible but it is not comforting.
Then, with the occurrence of some peculiar 36-hour fever to celebrate my official registration as a foreigner living in India (2-offices 3-signatures 4-stamps!), I had an unparalleled opportunity to figure out the answer. For my hungering tum, an unprecedented feeling; the fiery-spices and oily-crunches of Indian food would not do.
That strange impression of Indian food tasting sub-sublime only lasted one meal. Before meal 2, however, I realized what I was craving : tamale, tortilla, atol. My staples throughout the past 6 months. It didn’t occur to my once-upon-a-recent-time questioner, or to me, that comfort foods could come from any comfortable juncture. I propose that they can. This means, reassuringly, that I should only have to wait a little while longer until some miraculous concoction sweeps through my tastebuds in India to substitute for chamomile tea, which is nowhere to be found.
On the walk home from my tea excursion, I did find something I’ve been looking for over a week. On no particular schedule that I can figure out, small-but-loud processions to worship Ganesh have been winding through Hyderabad since August 23, the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. In the afternoon, I’ve caught glimpses outside autorickshaw windows, and late at night, listened to pipes and percussion someplace outside bedroom windows. As I wandered down a quiet street carrying green tea and tissues in my backpack I saw or heard a band of musicians until they were hushed and parted by an autorickshaw who also wanted to use the street, and then I saw (and probably heard) a bannered and beribboned truck trundling along behind the musicians, who started up playing again.
In the back of the truck a handful of people were sitting with an idol of Ganesha looming amicably on the cab-end, and little bowls of paste lined up on the tailgate, perpendicular to the concise line of people forming to be blessed behind the truck. A boy who spotted the procession at the same moment as I did ran to collect two of his friends down the street, all three came skidding breathlessly up to join the line, and I walked the rest of the way home.