Looking for Chicken in All the Wrong Places
As far as food goes, India was a difficult place for my husband and myself to travel. I have a very low tolerance level for hot spices and my husband doesn’t know what to do without meat (especially beef) at every meal. We went there in May 2010 for the wedding of two close friends. Parvathy’s family was incredibly generous and they cooked for us every day. They tried very hard to make the food less spicy so that we Americans could tolerate it, but I still couldn’t handle most of the food. I was living off of mostly chapati, dosai, and naan (all types of bread). And it was all vegetarian, so my hubby was going crazy for meat.
At the end of the week of wedding festivities, our group of about 25 American guests was on a bus headed back to her parent’s house after a final celebration on her grandmother’s spice plantation. We passed a billboard for KFC and several of us were positively drooling over the thought of food that wasn’t Indian.
OK, STOP! I know you’re thinking all kinds of thoughts about how that’s not authentic and we’re supposed to experience the local culture while we can and blah blah blah from the travel books. We’d had as authentic an experience as was possible, because we were living and eating with an Indian family for a week, during all the traditional wedding activities. I have traveled to 15 countries and at some point in every trip you just get tired of trying the new things and want a taste of home. ESPECIALLY in India, where, for me, eating was literally painful (and again later, if you catch my drift.) In America, McDonald’s is my LAST choice. We have to be starving and in a remote area where no other fast food places exist. But I’ve eaten at McDonald’s in Egypt, Italy, South Africa, and India (where they sold no beef or pork products) because it was the only thing I recognized and I needed something familiar and easy. The point of my rant is a travel tip: Go easy on yourself when you travel and know it might not always be 100% brand new experiences, which is still ok. Enjoy yourself in whatever you do and don’t feel pressure about the ‘rules’. /end tangent
Back to the story. So, we passed by this billboard and could barely make out the words. We wrote down all the details we could decipher and decided that we would find this oasis of fried chicken that night, for our final dinner in town. The family was officially done with their hosting obligations to us, so it was fine for us to find our own dinner (another tip is always make sure you’re not offending your hosts). Once we got back to the house we were staying at, we realized that we weren’t the only ones craving fried chicken. There were 12 other travelers who wanted in on the yumfest, including the bride and groom. Now our chicken mission was critical!
My husband and I set out with Danica and Dan, determined to find KFC. The sun was just starting to set. We waved down a tuk-tuk and asked the driver if he knew where KFC was. We gave him the street name we’d written down and he said he knew it, so we stuffed ourselves in and took off. We wound through traffic for about 20 minutes, stopping periodically to confer with other drivers, to what seemed to be the other side of town. It’s typical for drivers to say they know where they’re going even though they don’t, to get your fare. This is true in India and most of Southern Africa, too, so we weren’t surprised he was asking around. We arrived at the end of long street (not named what we got from the sign), past several bakeries and small shops, in front of a large, fancy hotel. There were no signs for KFC in sight, but sometimes those hotels have several restaurants inside, so we asked the driver to wait and went in to scope it out.
There was no KFC inside the hotel, but there was a very nice concierge who tried to assist us. He first tried to get us to eat in the hotel restaurant, but our group was waiting for fried chicken and we could not abort the mission (and it was just more Indian food, so we weren’t really interested). He wasn’t familiar with KFC, but after discussing it with several other employees, he came out to give the driver directions for us. We thanked him profusely, jumped back into our chariot, and zoomed off to discover chicken nirvana. Another 15 minutes wiggling through traffic and we were back closer to the part of town where we started out.
We were on a residential street and there were no KFC signs or restaurants around, so we were a bit confused when we stopped. At this point, it was completely dark outside. The driver waved over another driver, who he was discussing directions with (at least we think so- we didn’t understand a word) and then we got back on the road. At this point we were pretty hungry and starting to doubt our chances for dinner. We drove for 10 more minutes and stopped in front of a place called Zam Zam. Zam Zam is obviously not KFC, but it had a huge window of rotisserie chickens, so we decided that it was the closest we were ever going to get. We asked the driver to wait, but at this point, he was tired of our wild chicken chase and just asked us to pay him so he could leave.
Zam Zam actually had fried chicken (Hallelulah!), so we bought enough for a small army, along with some rotisserie chicken, French fries, and any other sides we could find. It took about 20 more minutes for them to fill our order, so we were desperately hungry at that point. We just had to get back with the chicken intact. Tuk-tuks don’t hang around at Zam Zam, so we had to dash across a major street (always a life-risking job in India) and wait several more minutes for a tuk-tuk to come and take us home. Finally, we found one and returned triumphantly to the cheers of our adoring fans, with quite an adventurous tale to tell. Maybe I was delirious after a week of bread, but that was certainly some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten.
We eventually found out that the billboard was for a KFC in another town, over 100 miles away. I guess they were just very proud of it and figured that people would know the street name was not local. We were blinded by the idea of delicious chicken and missed that crucial detail. When a KFC did finally open in Trivandrum, a year and a half later, Parvathy’s cousin made sure we got an official notice.
So, how far will you go for a tasty meal?
Raven Chitalo believes in the healing magic of laughter and the power of women to make great changes in our own lives and therefore in the world. At Discovering Your Dance, she guides women across the bridge from stuck to fabulous, by reminding you of your own inner worth and power, especially when you’re going through dramatic life transitions, such as divorce/breakups, relocations, and career changes. She will help you to reclaim the joy and passion that you still have deep within to release your inner fabulosity.