Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

That’s my mantra these days. It is like a prayer I say each time I am looking for food, to ward off evil and bring down blessings on the places I eventually end up having lunch or dinner at. I say it in fear of the higher powers that native food might have on my digestion and in respect of the unknown in every meal.

Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

In its essence it is actually one of the basic advices given to people who travel to foreign countries with a lower hygienic standard than their own. It suggests to buy and eat only things that either have been well cooked or fried, or that can be unpacked, unwrapped or peeled. This way you avoid being too soon exposed to too many germs and bacteria.

Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

However, it doesn’t take away the psychological edge of living and eating in an environment where you can witness bad hygiene first hand. I live in Bandra, a district in Mumbai renowned for its high amount on expat inhabitants. My apartment is located on the ocean side half way up a hill grown over by tall tropical trees and even taller buildings, each with hundreds of living quarters. The rooms themselves are simple but sufficiently equipped, with air conditioning, a separate kitchen and bathroom and enough space for everything I have in my luggage and more. I stay as a paying guest, at least officially. The owner swings by on Sundays to do some paperwork and his parents supposedly come once a month to stay for a couple of days, but aside from that I have the flat to myself. That also means, though, that everything is in a quite untended state: Dust and dirt on almost all the surfaces, unwashed utensils, neither Wifi nor cable, and barely any warm water access. I even have a small lizard and at least one cockroach attending me in the kitchen.

Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

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Of course, any hassle with living arrangements is bad news at first. But there’s an upside to it as well: I was worried to have Mumbai’s authenticity spoiled by a too luxurious and westernized surrounding, but even though I live in an expat area, quite the opposite is true. The streets are dirty and badly paved, there are beggers all around the place, traffic is dense in every alley, and it feels like there are at least twenty Indians for every foreigner living here. So for now I am ok with this arrangement. If everything goes well, I should be well settled in in a few weeks. In the meantime:

Cook it, peel it, or forget it.

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