Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nuts! ...for lunch

There is no such thing as a "low carb" lunch at my company's sprawling technology complex here in Bangalore.  For a price of 15 or 20 rupees (less than $3) you are served a stainless steel deep drawn plate about 1 foot in diameter, onto which 3 or 4 smaller bowls of approx 2.5 inches across are placed.  The little bowls get various sauces, veggies, or  meats, and the main bowl gets a heaping serving of rice into which you are expected to mix the individual contents of the smaller bowls, with your fingers, and eat them, again, bringing them to your mouth with your fingers (no forks, but a soup spoon can be found, if you really don't want to eat with sauce covered fingers).  My fellow colleagues, engineers, managers, everyone in Bangalore at the massive complex, all of them eat the cafeteria food - or bring food from home in small tins and mix it in a large 1 foot stainless deep drawn plate - in this manner.  Everyone eats / takes / shares from everyone elses' plate, some more than others giving or taking more than their neighboring co-worker. No beverage is taken, until after the meal ("It's bad to drink anything when eating" - more than one person has told me here).  It is an open-air cafeteria, and the fragrance of blooming lilac and other flowers gently wafts across the venue with the breeze.  There's 4 or 5 food service providers (to keep prices low) and everyone washes their hands following lunch, and then takes a glass of hot water "to wash the oils down so that they do not congeal in the throat and stomach" (I've been told).  Taking a chilled glass of water is frowned upon as bad for the digestion.

As Bangalore is in the southern half of India, there's really no "non spicy" food offered, so my first lunch with my colleagues last Monday, having been more than 2 years since my last visit here, and the first since I began avoiding carbs, was a tremendous shock to my system.  My nasal passages, mouth, throat, stomach, core, and autonomic nervous system kicked into turbo-mode, and I concentrated on calming yoga techniques for breathing and concentration, to soothe and subdue the negative wave of defense my body was mounting to this spiced assault of chilli, cuurries, peppers, marsalas, and curds.  I made it through the afternoon Monday without further incident, and then hatched a plan for the rest of the visit.

As General McAuliffe said to the Nazis in Bastogne Belgium in 1944 who were about to assault his paratroopers, "Nuts!" (link here) As I brought a large container of salted Spanish Marcona Almonds in my luggage, and I have the perpetual Planters 'mini-bar sized' 6.5 oz cocktail peanut container that is resealable, and no shortage of Fresh & Easy Earl Grey organic tea bags (and my insulated plastic travel mug the company gave out 5 or 6 years ago for reaching a safety milestone) on Tuesday I walked to lunch with my colleagues, mug and nut container in hand.  At first, they were confused... why would Joe not take local food with them for lunch?  But I explained the mechanism to which I reduced 20 kilos and 15 cm of waist belt size, and they accepted my American eccentricity.  February 2009 was the last time I was here, and there was ALOT more of me visiting at that time, and of the "more senior" colleagues who are still here and remember me from that time, they've each commented how I look much smaller and more healthy.

1 or 2 ounces of nuts and 4 or 5 ounces of tea at 130pm, and I am set for the rest of the afternoon, until dinner at 8 or 9pm.  Of course, this follows the hotel buffet style breakfast where I feast upon protein to the tune of 4 or 5 large, mostly white-ish but very well cooked strips of bacon, 4 or 5 scrambled eggs, 4 or 5 slices of gouda, swiss, and other artisan cheeses, a cup if black tea, and a Large heaping spoonful of sauteed mushrooms when they have them. One slice of meaty flavored papaya - choked down to help digest the pork - followed by two or three slices of freshly cut pineapple that have Zero HFCS or other any other sweetener saturating them (I've watched the 'fresh fruit chef' chopping the pineapples himself, there in an expansive fruit island at the entrance to the dining area, very nice touch).  It sure aint the nearly all organic fare I eat each day at home, but the fruit and protein are locally sourced.

My good friend Sundar with whom I've worked with for almost 5 years, noticed that I was no longer driven by hunger, not carrying 'emergency back up food bars' (granola, Kashi, South Beach, as I used to), and not being the first one to call everyone to lunch.  He and I discussed over a vegetarian dinner last Tuesday night that my life is no longer governed by "did you eat yet?" and when the next episode of carb intake was going to be. It's a positive, healthy change.

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