Kathmandu is a strange city in many ways. But something I found particularly curious was the food, which came across at first sight as an odd clash of cultures. The breakfast buffet, apparently, can have bhaji, chapati, chicken chow mien, cauliflower in white sauce and fried rice – all sitting there like a crazy mélange of cuisines. I found that amusing and kept asking for “authentic Nepali food”. The hotel only offered the famous “momos” (which, of course, are dumplings!) and something they called Thokpa. This also just seemed a bit too familiar: a noodle soup in a spicy broth. It was all very delicious but still it somehow wasn’t quite the food experience I was looking for.
As fate would have it, I found it in the strangest place. ‘Careful what you wish for’ is a lesson I never seem to learn. After an unfortunate brush with a careless motorcyclist there was no rock-climbing to be had but something had to be done with the vacation time. So, on the suggestion of a friend I decided to find a yoga retreat for some peace from the traffic, noise and dangerous amounts of air pollution in the city.
They don’t taste it while cooking. You must leave some of your food outside as an offering for a cow, crow or dog before you can have any yourself
I found it by chance, made by a lovely family in the village of Nagarkot, Bhaktapur, (32 km from the chaos of Kathmandu) that runs a homestay. As it is off season there aren’t many options, so taking the risk that this might be another fiasco, I arrived nervously to the little house. They do everything themselves in what seemed like a very basic setting (the yoga shala didn’t have windows, making both morning and evening practice both a test of your patience – with a hurt back as well as the imperative of not shivering to death). I was later to find out that it was only half complete because they had lost their home in the earthquake that shook the country in April 2015. Rajan, the charming owner who had been studying at an ashram in India, had to abandon his dream of pursuing higher studies to rush back. He rode his bike miles every day loaded with bricks and helped his aged father rebuild the house. It was then that he found his new calling: running a homestay in his picturesque little village. In that moment, his experience resonated with mine: where my own dream of climbing in Nepal was taken away by an accident. He had taken on an unpleasant situation and in the process started something wonderful – teaching at a family-run institution. A gentle and respectful teacher both of yoga and his culture, having dinner every night with him was more informative than anything in the Lonely Planet guides.
The food that I had been seeking, I had finally found it here: made with the efforts of the entire family. The grandfather, about 62 years old, grows all the vegetables himself. Fit as a horse, working the small field while smoking a pack of local cigarettes a day, he grows a surprising range of fresh vegetables. Brinjals, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, beetroot – the list goes on and on. There are also fruits to be had in the future as the trees planted are gradually maturing. Future wanderers like me will be able to munch on guavas, pineapple, avocado, strawberries, banana and much more. It is all grown using only natural ingredients and harvested with the care and love of this gentleman. Just watching him hard at work and producing all this variety was unbelievable and inspiring. more..