India: Delicious Delhi and Awe-Inspiring Agra

November 29th, 2011 · Lisa · Travel · Comments
I’m sitting in my borrowed bedroom in Bangkok, looking out at the sun rising over the city’s skyscrapers. From this perspective my days in Delhi already feel like a dream. It was all such a whirlwind of wonder.
Saturday I spent the day with a curious crowd at Nandita’s session on Reversing Diabetes. After nine hours in a meeting room we were ready for a quiet dinner at home. Mala and I picked up a few ingredients and compiled a quick raw feast of salads, slaws and sliced fruit. It was exactly the fuel I needed to keep up with the pace of my itinerary.
Sunday morning we were up early. We called a cab and took “the LONG way” around the Delhi half-marathon commotion. The street closures caused a delay for everyone heading to the India Habitat Centre for my event so we allowed a little extra time for people to navigate the race.
I did a talk and then a demo of eight recipes, including a raw fruit tart (I included the recipe at the end of the post). The audience was enthusiastic, had wonderful questions and hearty appetites. They devoured the food prepared by Chef Manish and his team – and decided to form a local group to continue their exploration of this cuisine with regular meet-ups and potlucks. So many people commented on how the class changed their entire perspective on raw food. I was thrilled by the excitement and praise for the fresh, vibrant flavours of my menu. I can’t really take much credit for the fact that plants taste fantastic – they just do.

This marked the end of my events in India. It was an incredible journey. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to meet and work with such wonderful people along the way. Shanna, Manyank and Chef Manish careful orchestrated every critical element. The food was presented brilliantly, the guests were treated with warmth and generosity and I had everything I needed handed to me even before I asked. Old World Hospitality has a very special team.

After saying our goodbyes and thank yous, Mala, Nandita and I took a few moments of reflective refuge in Lodi Gardens. We strolled passed families picnicking, children chasing cricket balls and couples lounging in the grass.
We had so enjoyed our raw feast on Saturday night that we decided to repeat the festivities. We pulled together a couple of great big salads, fresh summer rolls, and sliced fruit. For dessert we tucked into the leftover date squares from the demo. I went to bed early – in preparation for my Monday morning adventure.

At 3:30 am my alarm sounded, I pulled on my dress and waited downstairs for Mayank’s arrival. At 4 am we were on the road – heading south to Agra. Mayank and his team had packed up boxes of fruit and sandwiches for our trip and a cooler full of fresh juice. I slept and ate and let the excitement grow.

By 7:15 I was in a riksha riding up to the main entrance to the Taj Mahal. Mayank and I were shivering in the early morning chill, and the sun was just rising over the horizon when we walked infront of one of the world’s seven wonders. It took my breath away.

At that early morning hour, the crowd was thin so we enjoyed a peaceful stroll around the while marble structure, admired the in-laid floral designs and the exquisite architecture. It is so hard to believe this beauty was created at time with so few of the tools and equipment we rely on today. It took the investment of seventeen years to construct. The spectacular, symmetrical design creates a sense of grandeur that has not be rivalled. It feels very surreal to stand on those steps.

After refusing to take all the goofy tourist shots – pretending to hold on to the turret or the dome – we moved on to tour the Agra Fort. At all of the major tourist sites in India there are guides enthusiastically offering their services (often in large groups) to anyone who looks like they’re not of Indian descent. Mayank was wonderful at moving me through the onslaught – but I did say I’d be happy to have one of the naughty monkeys hanging out at the entrance as my guide. Mayank didn’t think they would offer up any reliable information so we took our own tour of the massive fort, reading about the violent Mughal history it had contained. I loved wandering under the scalloped archways trying to imagine being a part of the community that once thrived within those walls. There are a few spots on the Western side of the fort where you can look out upon the Taj Mahal in the distance. It is hard to capture with a point-and-shoot camera, but I’ll hold that image in my memory forever.

Finally, before returning to Delhi we visited Fatehpur Sikri the first planned Mughal city, providing a unique perspective on the evolution of the architecture and design this culture created. We explored with a guide who told us tales about Emperor Akbar, who created this city in honour of a Sufi saint who had foretold the fortuitous birth of Akbar’s son. It is another awesome site – free to visit and quite, quiet and serene.
Over the month I spent in India I got used to how freely people ask very personal questions. I decided it came from a place of curiosity and concern and have become accustomed to answering questions about my marital status, digestive regularity and religious affiliations. But on Monday I had to laugh as Mayank was asked again and again “are you her escort?”, “how did you two become friends?”, “Is she French or English? You two make a cute couple” by all of the ticket takers and guides we encountered. Although my travels in India do not contain the type of juicy romance the guards were hoping for, I have met made some incredible friends. Mayank woke up at 2:30 in the morning to take me on a tour of the Taj. How do you ever really say thank you for an act like that?
We started our trek back to Delhi just before noon, after stopping for a quick lunch we arrived home by 5:30. I finished packing, had a lovely dinner with Mala and turned out my light at 10.
At 1 am the alarm went off again, within a few minutes I was up, dressed and dragging my luggage down the flights of stairs to an awaiting taxi. We flew to the airport on the early morning streets, free of the usual traffic mess. A few hours later I walked through the customs line in Bangkok to begin my discovery of a whole new country.
I still have a lot to reflect on about my time in India. I promise there will be a post about the things I learned and the memories I will take away with me.
It was an amazing adventure. Thank you to everyone who read along and shared their comments. I hope you’ll continue to share in my ups and downs as I tread on through Asia.

I have a heart full of gratitude for the support of Nandita and her team at SHARAN who made all of the events such a success. I have no doubt we will continue to find ways to work together in the future.

In return for reading another post about me touring buildings on the other side of the world, let me share with you the recipe for the fresh fruit tart we enjoyed at my demo in Delhi. The picture was taken with my iPhone so it isn’t as appealing as I would like but I know one-bite in you’ll be full of appreciation (just like me).

Delicious Delhi Fruit Tart 
(serves 6-8)

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup large dates, pitted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Cream Ingredients:
1 cup cashews, soaked 2-4 hours and drained
1/4 cup water
1/4 date paste
2 TBSP lime juice

Topping:
2 cups sliced fruit
1. In a food processor pulse the almonds into a fine meal. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. Press firmly and evenly into a tart pan (8 or 9 inches in diameter)
2. In a food processor or blender combine the filling recipe. Blend until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust and distribute evenly.
3. Top the cream layer with fresh fruit. 
4. Slice and serve or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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