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07 January 2008

View from Bogota - Travails of a vegetarian

Being a vegetarian in Bogota is something like being a penguin in Antartica !!

The predominant food here, as in any Lat Am country is meat. Every time I mention that I am a vegetarian, 'askance' looks are exchanged, lines start appearing on the foreheads and the brains start getting confused signals. What could we give him?

The best option is to offer 'Salads'. Or Breads

I am fed up of the time when I have received offers of 'Salads' when I mentioned that I am a vegetarian. It is almost like a reflex action. For drinks the offer is limited to Fruit Juices and coffee.

In the last week, I have eaten so much of bread that I am starting to dream them. I have eaten white bread, oat bread, barn bread, Croissants, Cakes..... You name it and I have seen them all!

And finally, yesterday, I discovered Curd !!!

It took me a lot of explorations in various supermarkets and an intensive bout of learning Spanish language to finally land upon the 'Manna' of a South Indian Veg.

Bogotans go with a single term 'Yogurt' for anything associated with fermented milk. And in their experience, yogurt is a drink that one drinks for breakfast. Normal yogurt, as per a lay Bogotan is fermented milk added with fruit essence and sugar. For them, yogurt without sweet do not exist.

Yesterday, I went to a Super market. Whenever I go to Super market, I can be found near the yougurt / lactose counter, much like a fish in the aquarium which always comes near the glass, in the hope of catching a passing 'sweetless' yogurt. One good thing is that the yogurt is color coded with different colours for different fruits. I was looking at plain white packets.

Then I saw this packet which said, 'Yogurt Natural - Sin Dulce'. This is where my knowledge of Spanish language came handy. Extensive work in the past week had told me that 'Sin' in Spanish means 'Without'. The opposite is 'Con' (Isn't is funny? In English a 'Con' is one who commits some type of 'Sin'). Dulce as everyone knows means 'Sweet' (As in 'Dulcet' Voice meaning 'Sweet' Voice). I immediately knew that I had landed on a 'Gold Mine'. I purchased two packets of the best, along with a packet of Potato Chips ('Yogurt Sin Dulce con Patatas de Fritas') and immediately headed for my room.

Here again my knowledge of Spanish came handy. I ordered 'Arros Claro' which meant 'Plain Rice'. The time stood still as the room service took about half an hour to get me the plate of 'Arros'. Though my heart was beating wildly, I put in an air of non chalance as I patiently signed the bill and saw the waiter out of the room.

To say that I hogged will be wrong. The right way to say will be that I carassed the curd rice. Each morsel was inspected, smelled, mixed with chips and slowly and sadly (the food was getting reduced with each morsel) put away into the mouth and after staying there for a minute, was slowly gulped down...

Man, it was heaven!!!

The tip for any Vegetarian coming to Bogota: Bring pickles from home and be either a bread fan or a yogurt fan. Also you get plenty of fruits here. And better learn Spanish....

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