Posted in food as therapy...

Think twice before ordering milk dessert from Indian restaurants.

No, it is NOT The Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


My uncle was telling me how when he went with his friends to Kodai, a surgeon friend of his got food poisoned. They were MMC alumni who were staying in a five star hotel in Kodaikanal. All were retired men and there were a few ladies. Since many had health issues, generally bland food was preferred. A particular surgeon thought he would play safe sticking to mere dahi chawal or curd rice. Finally he was the one who got food poisoned at the age of 65. His holiday turned into a nightmare with him getting admitted to a hospital in the hill station for a week. He had to be admitted to ICU as his condition deteriorated before he recuperated. Apparently the culprit was the curd that had been refrigerated for long as there weren’t many takers. Sometimes when you go out, its prudent to eat the hot food that might be heated up lately. That way you can avoid stale food consumption unknowingly. Any fungus in the food may be ruled out. In my case, I have had stomach upsets whenever I consumed milk based desserts in Indian restaurants. Having to share my time between two countries India and Qatar, my body has grown gentle and delicate over years as the food quality standards followed in Qatar are too good. So whenever I am in India, even though I may want to believe that I am immune to the Indian heat and dust and adulterated water, food and environment, I am still affected a little when I try to have my fill whenever I am carried over by the air of festivities. The allure of sweets is too much in India. YOu just cannot say no. As freezers face problems in Indian heat conditions with erratic power supply, the vegetables used in restaurants have to be dipped for a longer time in vinegar to keep them fresh from rotting. For my gentlest stomach therefore eating out regularly means food poisoning sooner or later. A big bout of food poison happened to me at no place other than the Club Mahindra five star restaurant at Coorg. This was unbelievable. I am vegetarian and whenever I am outstation, I pay attention to what i eat. Still some ten years back, I was confined to bed in the resort for a day, having dined on seemingly innocuous vegetarian dish. My family who gorged both on veggie and non veg fare were fine. I investigated the matter with my niece who is a gynecologist presently. She concluded that the vinegar soaking of vegetables must have rumbled my stomach. I started taking note of my restaurant visits after that. I found that the milk based panneer (cottage cheese) proved havoc to me after vegetables. Milk based desserts served in restaurants could do maximum damage. After this Kodaikanal episode of the doctor that can be traced back to the five star kitchen, we can see how preserving food for a longer time extending their shelf life by the restaurants can have a worse effect on our health. I had rabdi, a milky dessert, last evening. Rabdi can be easily put up together I know. Not a big seller. Restaurants here maintain very high hygienic standards. Food inspection is pretty regular in middle eastern countries where even the walking space between tables is regulated so that the restaurants are not cramped. Yet I had food poisoning last night and I threw up everything I ate. What started at 2 am went on until early morning 6 am. I avoid normally the desserts in our restaurants but still went for it when friends ordered. Interestingly and as usual, I was the only one affected. Others got away. Ice creams are fine from fast moving stalls and ice cream counters but again never from restaurants that don’t see consistent orders. Some of us would want to settle for the simple and easily digestible curd rice whenever we go outstation. This post is for them. Hot food is always recommended in restaurants and as far as possible curd rice and any milk based dish must be avoided as the age of the curd or the milk in question cannot be ascertained. There is a risk component. If the curd rice is from a busy popular mess that has no leftovers from previous day, then it is fine. Otherwise we must think twice about ordering milk based dishes and desserts from restaurants. Those with gentle stomach like mine who cannot tolerate vinegar soaked vegetables in gravies, must stick to hot rice menu as far as possible and minimize the subzis if not totally avoid them. For me personally, most restaurants in Doha are fine. Now I am so used to having unadulterated food here that whenever I visit India, it takes time for me to adapt. I do eventually but I play it safe going for steamed food such as idli in that case. Two or three days of continuous restaurant food can totally debilitate me. I still travel a lot within India and in foreign countries. Balancing the food intake is a big challenge for me.

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