Friday, March 26, 2010

“Yes, We are less dirty...”

As a backpacker in India, I can't help but feel that I am constantly dirty! From riding in dirty buses and trains, to cities and towns clogged in a haze of pollution, I no longer cringe when I step on cow poop, and I am re-wearing my clothes more times before laundering them. So it seems almost ironic that a restaurant should have a sign proclaiming “Yes, We are less dirty...”!

Snaking through narrow alleyways teeming with shops near the Dasaswamedh Ghat in Varanasi, I was with a group of Israeli and Polish travelers I met earlier in the day at the Guest House we were staying at. It was late, and we decided to have dinner at the Apsara Restaurant, after our initial recommended restaurant (a German Bakery directly across the alley) was fully seated, and the wait for a table was going to be longer than any of us could bear.

When the first entrée was brought out – a pasta in a white sauce, there, laying on its back, with its legs spread out in full glory was a dead bug! From my angle at the end of the table, it looked like a giant fly. Others claim was more likely a cockroach or a beetle. Since I seem to have a thing going with food and bugs lately, I made sure to dig through my pasta when it arrived looking for any “additional ingredients”. While I found none, the thick tomato sauce with mushrooms and cheese over macaroni can be apt at concealing any critters involved. And those crunchy bits I taste in my pasta? I force myself to think of it perhaps as bits of nuts, or fresh celery...pushing any thoughts of crushing exoskeletons as a case of an overactive imagination and silly paranoia.

I am happy to report that as far as I am aware, none of us got sick eating at Apsara Restaurant. Our minds must have been clouded by our growling stomachs when we somehow interpreted the sign “Yes, We are less dirty...” to mean: “Hey, they are less dirty than the other restaurants around here, or possibly less dirty than before...which is a good thing!” The second indication that something was amiss was the fact that the entire restaurant was completely empty, even though it is listed in the Lonely Planet Guidebook, when all other restaurants in the vicinity were full of diners. The main dining area looked well kept and there was nothing to indicate that this restaurant was any less hygienic than others in the area. However, the food was only average, and after an experience like this, I would not recommend Apsara to other travelers. After all, they are less dirty, but then again, thats all relative!


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