Anything could have brought it on. I had been up since 6AM that day and hadn't eaten. It could have been all the walking in the hills around Heidelberg all day. Or it could have been that Dasain was two days away, and for the first time in my life, I was by myself.
Whatever the reason, I was headed back to Strasbourg and I was aching, literally, for dal bhat and tarkari. Before coming to France, I daydreamed about the cheeses, the pastries, the coffees, and everything in between. But today, for the first time, I had this deep yearning for Nepali food. It was my stomach's way of telling me that I was homesick.
Something had to be done, this craving was not going to be shaken. I could easily get all the produce to make Nepali food, it was the spices that worried me. Where would I get cumin, cilantro, ginger, turmeric and chilies? There were no Nepalis I knew in this city of 700,000, the seat of the European Parliament.
With was 48 hours to Dasain, I started out on a personal quest to find the raw materials for a Nepali meal to celebrate the festival. I searched the net to get any sort of lead: looking for South Asian stores, restaurants and businesses. Two Indian restaurants were listed.
Then I remembered-on my first night here I ate at a pizzeria run by Punjabis in the Chez Michel area. The next day I headed to the pizzeria, the staff told me to go to an Indian store two streets away. The store had a giant green sign: 'Indian Store'. The familiar, pungent smells of incense and South Asian spices filled my nose. They had everything: yellow dal, cumin, cilantro, turmeric, fenugreek seeds and vegetables.
The next night, I spent two hours cooking the trinity of Nepali cuisine: dal, rice and vegetables. I only had two pots so it took longer, but it was entirely worth it. It took me less than 10 minutes to gobble up what I had cooked.
I wasn't with my family. There was no red tika on my forehead. I was flat broke. It wasn't a masterpiece of cooking. But I was eating the food I've known since childhood, and in that moment it felt like home.
Rachana Dixit in Strasbourg