India: Oct 18: Even More Udaipur

Even though we'd exhausted the few major sights in Udaipur, we decided to spend a goodly amount of time there simply because we liked the feel of the place. Thus, this day we didn't do much except run errands, see some minor sights, and take a cooking class! The few pictures I took this day are mainly from the cooking class.

First, we got up. J negotiated to get a suit tailor-made. We had breakfast, then stopped by a travel agency to price various possibilities for how to continue our trip. We then retreated to the hotel for a time, walked across a bridge we'd been eyeing, and caught a rickshaw to some gardens (Saheliyon-ki-Bari).

The gardens were okay. Within them was a science museum with a random assortment of exhibits such as minerals, tangrams, sand, and the atomic structure of hydrogen.

We left the garden and began walking the perimeter, intending to make our way to a lake. It was unpleasantly hot, however, and we were getting hungry, so instead we got someone to point us to a place to eat. (It wasn't a very commercial neighborhood, so eateries were hard to come by.) The place, Chetan, in the back of a small open-air market/convenience store, turned out to be South Indian. Yet, despite us being in North India, my masala dosa was the best I've ever had.

After lunch, we took a rickshaw to the lake (Fateh Sagar) and strolled along it for ten minutes, then continued with the rickshaw back to our hotel. Interestingly, the rickshaw's motor was so weak that it had trouble going up hills--going up to the dam required tacking. Also about the rickshaw ride: this rickshaw driver didn't use his horn. It was awesome! He had as much opportunity as most drivers to use it, yet did not.

We thought we were returning to the hotel to take a cooking class. The instructor (the wife of the owner of the hotel), however, wasn't feeling well. We had also tried to take the class the previous day, but there was a power outage so it was canceled. I guess we were fated not to take her class. Instead, we returned to the woman we'd met two days earlier and convinced her to offer a cooking class for us at the last minute. (We didn't want to leave Udaipur, a town with so many Indian cooking classes, without managing to take one.) She agreed! We were to return in the evening.

We returned to what we now thought of as our cafe (simply because we visited it many times) to kill some time before class. We ordered a fresh lime soda and it was done right, coming with one vial of lime, one vial of sugar-water, and one empty glass. In contrast, many other times we ordered lime soda, we got only two glasses, and the larger one wouldn't fit all the liquid. If we wanted to make a balanced drink, we'd have to pour out some of the liquids before mixing them. (If we mixed them directly, we'd end up with a full glass but not enough of one ingredient in it to balance the flavors. I suppose we could mix everything by pouring back and forth between the glasses, but that does bad things to the carbonation.)

Anyway, while in the coffeeshop, we met again the couple we saw a different evening coming out of the cooking class we were now signed up for. (Yes, they raved about the class.) Or, well, we ran into the wife. The husband was off taking pictures of policemen who were supposed to be on alert but were actually sitting on a bridge, playing cards, and watching the sunset. She said he'll sell the pictures to a newspaper.

We also ran into Raf again.

After sitting in the cafe, we killed some time by chatting again with the tailor. He works in five shops. He said he used to work in a coffeeshop, but that required talking too much and he got tired of it.

Then it was finally time for the cooking class! The class was great: hanging out in a charming Indian's house and learning about her life and food. It was a modest house, consisting of a kitchen and a room that doubled as a living room and bedroom. The latter is where we ate, sitting on the couch after finishing cooking. The house has a small, cunning, almost-pet mouse. It skittered across the kitchen twice while we cooked.

As she taught, our instructor elaborated more on her life than we learned earlier. She's approximately 38. Why approximately? Because she doesn't know when she was born, not even the season. Also, she acts as a second/first mother to the kid who lives next door; his mother died of yellow fever.

Being Brahmin, she is vegetarian (almost vegan), so we only learned to cook vegetarian food. But, as she has a restaurant, she told us stories about having to learn how to cook non-vegetarian food. For instance, the first time she tried to cook an omelet, she dropped the eggs, partially because she was surprised by and disliked the smell. She had trouble flipping omelettes, breaking many in the process.

She also mentioned a neat tidbit: people get flour (atta) in India by buying grain, taking it to a grinder, and paying two rupees per kilogram. No one buys flour directly.

We learned how to make a lot of dishes: masala chai tea, coriander chutney, potato & onion pakora, aubergine (eggplant) and tomato masala curry, vegetable palau (a.k.a. vegetable biryani), naan with cheese and tomato, chapati, parantha, potato parantha, and sweet parantha. As you can tell, we spent quite a while learning how to deal with dough. She give us a detailed printed sheet of recipes on which I took many additional notes. This sheet had recipes for a few more dishes that we didn't learn how to cook.

Given the length of the list of items we learned to cook, it's no surprise we made too much food. Although she kept asking us to eat, and joking with N in Hindi, we left with many leftovers. When we got back to our hotel, it turned out the owner stayed up late to wait for us.

Later addendum: Even though we spent three days in Udaipur, there are other sights that might be worth seeing should I ever return: Lake Palace (hotel/restaurants) (they don't allow non-guests to visit the island), the crystal gallery, and the sound and light show. Also, in the general vicinity of Udaipur: Mount Abu (only hill station in Rajasthan), Chittorgarh Fort, the temple in Nagda, and the Jagat temple.

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