Memoirs of Food in Besi Sahar

The Egg Salad Sandwich.  A simple lunchtime staple… we love the Boots meal deal for when we are travelling in the UK. It is not really a food we think about having to make while on home assignment. It is just something we eat. Here in the Himalayas, it lives in a different category altogether! This is fine dining… British-style foreign cuisine.

So what goes into an egg-salad sandwich?

-Eggs!  We have those here. All I have too do is buy, boil and peel them! [easy enough].

-Mayonnaise: Not available locally. I could try and whip up some eggs and oil… bit of a salmonella risk to add to all the other food-poisoning risks though. This shortage confounded my early attempts at having egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Special thanks to the Parnells for sending out Mayonnaise with the visiting Equip team!

-Pepper: available locally, but only in whole peppercorns.  I Thought about buying a load of it and trying my hand at the grindstone. (see pic below). Eventually remembered to buy some in Kathmandu and bring it back with us. (Now we have a state of the art pepper mill, imported from England, thanks to my mother-in-law).

-Bread: Though there are several “bakeries” here, the bread which is sold locally is more cake-like than what I think of as bread.  Imagine eggs between slices of a stale, dry sponge cake.  We do, however have an oven (assuming the power stays on), and flour is locally available, (though you have to be sure to sift it and throw the weevils and moths out the window). The only hold-up is the yeast, which has to be imported from Kathmandu.

-Lettuce: You could say this is an optional ingredient. Fair enough. But it does improve the look and quality and nutritional value of the sandwich. Lettuce, however is not available in the local veg market, and it is tricky to import, as it withers quickly. We do, however, have a small garden. So starting the seeeds indoors during monsoon, (so they don’t wash away, or become contaminated by cyclospora), and then planting them out, with careful watering, and regular re-seeding, we can have lettuce for 4-5 months in the fall/winter!  (Though this year I lost half of my harvest to intestinal juices from the Dashain goat slaughter… someone decided to throw them on my section of the field… perhaps not identifying what was growing there as edible food). Fresh harvested leaves will still need to be briefly soaked in iodine water to be safe.

So there you have it. This is the true story of successfully making and consuming an Egg-salad sandwich. (Which Simon will tell me is called an Egg-Mayo sandwich in the UK).



The phone rang…. it was Wendy

“Can you pick up some veg, including ½ kg ginger and ½ kg garlic on the way home. Oh and some soft-drinks for those coming round tonight. If you get a chance, can you quickly ask the electrician when he’s free to fix the outlets?”

A pretty typical list for life in a small Nepali town. Yet, the process of shopping is never simple, or the same two days in a row.

It involves searching the different veg shops for the ones with the best looking vegetables. It means haggling over the price and avoiding the shops that have ripped-you off previously. It means explaining to each shopkeeper where you are from or what you are doing, or why your daughter doesn’t wear a winter hat in 70 degree weather. Or if they already know, it means explaining to the customers listening in. It involves waiting for the guy to go out back and pull the ginger out of his garden. It involves the shop not having enough change and offering you Indian currency instead. It involves saying no to the Indian currency and taking your change in the form of phone credit and sweets instead. It involves buying a jumbo Sprite, because there’s no small ones available, and talking to the electrician’s wife to discover her husband is off in a village at the top of a hill and will return tomorrow.

It involves the 150 step climb back up the hill to our house. And the realisation that you forgot the garlic after all!


The grindstone at our house, and my pepper mill.