As you all know by now, I am very passionate about travel. By travel, I mean global travel. If you consider Overseas British, American, French and Indian Territories, then I have 72 stamps in my passport. My bucket list is 100 but I can easily see that going to 125. So, part of my travel routine, I go to India very often. We have an office in Pune, which is in the State of Maharashtra and I visit there about 4 times a year.
I was in Pune last month. While packing for this trip, I made sure that I packed all my meal requirements like Protein Bars, Muesli, Sparkling Water, Melba Crackers and Low-Calorie Salad Dressing. I also carried my coffee. I usually stay at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, where the staff knows me very well by now. The chef at their lobby restaurant helps me with all my dietary needs, may that be egg whites for breakfast or a house salad with grilled chicken or fish which they pack as a lunch take away. So, all in all, my trips to Pune are sorted as far as food is concerned.
This trip was a little different than usual as I had a few dinners planned with business colleagues. They usually pick the places and I simply show up. One such place I visited happened to be a popular Thali Restaurant. For those of you, who don’t know what a Thali is, let me explain. Thali or Thaali refers to a metal plate that a meal is to be served on. The idea behind a Thali is to offer all the 6 different flavors of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single plate. Technically the last two are forms of chemesthesis i.e. sensation to the skin, rather than true flavours. As per Indian food traditions, a meal should be a balance of all these 6 flavours. Thali’s usually consist of an all vegetarian option, but I have heard of non-vegetarian versions as well. Food served in a Thali vary from region to region within India and are usually served in small bowls, called katori. These ‘katoris’ are placed along the edge of the round metal thali. Typical dishes include Rice, Dal (lentils), Curried Vegetables, Roti (flat bread), Papad (round thin crackers made from black gram flour), Dahi (yogurt), small quantity of Chutney or Pickle, and a Dessert. Rice or Roti is the usual main dish which occupies the central place on the Thali, while the side dishes are lined circularly along the round Thali. There are multiple versions of Vegetables and Dal on a Thali. So, that is a Thali. A thali is to be eaten by one person. So, if 6 friends go to a Thali Restaurant, each gets their own Thali. Another important thing about Thali’s is that you can also opt for an ‘all you can eat’ version, just like ‘all you an eat Sushi’ or ‘all you can eat wings’, options we see in North America. The restaurant we went to featured an All you can eat Thali.
We entered the restaurant and were seated at a nice table in a quieter section of the restaurant. All my colleagues ordered the popular Thali. The server then came to take my order and I told him, there was no way I could finish this Thali, so how about a small salad instead? He told me they don’t have a salad. I told him, you have a salad in your Thali, so if you could just give me the salad from that. He looked at me weird and before he could say his next sentence, I told him, I will pay for the Thali but I only want the salad. If you can make the salad ‘unlimited’, I will appreciate it. He has a smile on his face, took my order and left. My colleagues were obviously perplexed as well but I simply could not break my diet regime. They told me to make it a cheat day. I said that was an excellent idea and I called the server back and requested him to get me a glass of white wine. Salad and White Wine is what I had that evening.
My colleagues dropped me back to the hotel after dinner. First thing I did was open my laptop to check how many calories make up a Thali. From all the research I did, a thali is anywhere between 2000 and 3000 calories, while unlimited versions can be more than that. The general rule of the thumb, as far as daily calorie recommendation goes, is 1900 calories for women and 2100 calories for men. This certainly was not the only meal of the day today for my colleagues. I am glad to have cheated with a glass of wine, but some day, I will go back to this very restaurant and enjoy their Unlimited Thali. It looked delicious, but I simply could not justify the calories at this stage of my body transformation process. I have circled the salad I ate from the Thali in the picture below.