Moving on from the global cuisine of London, intrepid contributor C.C. finds herself in an old outpost of the British Empire: McLeod Ganj, India, home of the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile. She eats, prays she won’t develop a stomach virus, and loves much of what she finds—especially the chocolate desserts.
In a particularly efficient way of checking major experiences off life’s to-do list, C.C. has fulfilled two lifelong goals simultaneously by going to McLeod Ganj, India to do a yoga teacher training course. It’s a rigorous program with early morning meditation, classes in anatomy, philosophy, ayurveda, yoga ethics/business, and four hours of asana practice a day, which makes a girl hungry and justified to eat whatever she wants, even typically taboo foods like crepes, cupcakes, and pizza.
This is a good thing, since 14 of the 16 people on the course become predictably ill as will happen to western travelers to India, thus requiring a paranoid girl like C.C. to beef up her attempts to avoid parasites, amoebas, bacterias, giardia, hepatitis, and all other manner of unsavory stowaway germs lurking in the hill town’s water supply and on any cooking or cutting surface. She assiduously avoids anything that may have been grown in manure like fresh vegetables, things with absorbent qualities like tofu, and all meat—not a big deal for C.C. and really appropriate in mostly veg-India anyway, not to mention yogic.
This means restricting her diet to very cooked and safe foods like bread (C.C. has no appreciation for rice, which she considers a useless carb. Sorry, Asia.); omelets (thankfully McLeod Ganj isn’t that vegetarian); “curd,” which is the most relentlessly watery yogurt known to humankind and may quite possibly be crying as you eat it, such is the endless seepage of water that spews forth; pizza; and the occasional curry when feeling daring.
Despite such restrictions, C.C. did fall in love with, or at least develop a fully trusting relationship with, a few places in town that she would like to share with you in the spirit of comfort food should you ever find yourself near the Dalai Lama’s residence in exile in search of safely Westernized fare. Here C.C. boldly admits her attitude is terribly germophobic and unadventurously American—judge her as you like, but she knows Liz Lemon would understand how this trip is like one gigantic “away-from-home bathroom experience.”
Best place to stop en route to or from the Dalai Lama’s temple. This café could be in San Francisco and it would still be C.C.’s favorite. There’s wi-fi, great music, cool guys who must be the equivalent of Tibetan hipsters, and the most decadent omelets. The menu says “three eggs,” but C.C. insists there are six eggs unless they come from some monster high-altitude chickens.
There is dense Tibetan toast, killer cupcakes, and chocolate cakes, all that C.C. sampled without spoiling her yoga butt due to the four hours of asana, not to mention the 300+ steps up from her guesthouse up to town. Whew! And Om mani padme hum!
Great cappuccinos with a frothy little heart, French toast, and banana chocolate cake. There are handsome waiters, books to read, and a street view where you can watch cows stray into the Buddhist monastery across the street and monkeys cross on the wires overhead.
At Khana Nirvana, the menu reads, “All salad greens are soaked in iodine for 20 minutes. Safe to eat.” And even paranoid C.C. ate them, at first with trepidation, and then without fear. To eat salad greens after being denied them for three weeks is akin to being out at sea for days with nary a drop of water to drink—your body simply soaks it up.
Other delicious choices included the Tofu BLT, Macho Burrito (with refried beans even! Just like home!), and House Chai. And it’s run by super nice Tibetan guys whom you can teach conversational English to if you have a spare hour in the afternoon. Also en route to the Dalai Temple and located just above the contemporary Peak Art Gallery, where C.C. bought some cool watercolors by a local artist.
Super cool upstairs hangout lounge with a view and a wood-burning pizza stove. All of the food is great: pastas, curries, pizzas. Bananoffee pie was the decadent dessert choice. With nice waiters and chill music, Carpe Diem became home base for the yogis in training.
Dokebi, aka “The Korean,” was hailed as “the most sophisticated place in McCleod” by a masseur from Portland. The tuna roll and bibimbap were great, but the real reason to come here? The chocolate mousse! Best in town.
And just how did C.C. fare with her Westernized diet? Well, in the end, she did require a trip to the local hospital, which astounded her with the concept of free medical care in India, not to mention low-cost meds.
And what was the diagnosis? E.coli? Typhoid? Malaria? Hep? Nope, none of the above: it was strep throat! Despite her diet of mostly baked and packaged foods, C.C. could not avoid the ole “everybody gets sick in India” adage. Ah, well. C’est la vie and Om shanti!