As salad-hating vegetarians on a Eurotrip, my family’s food choices fell neatly into two categories: cheese-slathered pizza covered with oregano and chili flakes, and meals at Indian restaurants that served overwhelmingly orange paneer or oil-soaked ladies finger curry. And then, a thoughtful waiter in one such restaurant revealed that naan is brushed with eggs and that we should therefore steer clear of it too.
By the time we arrived at Budapest, our last stop, we were desperate to be on the return flight, eating their ‘Asian Veg Meal’ that I’d merrily mocked just a fortnight earlier. As we took in the view of the parliament building that afternoon, a man seemed to appear out of nowhere with a clutch of flyers that read ‘Veg Restaurant – Govinda’ alongside a map. Suddenly, all our sight-seeing plans were replaced by the quest to find Govinda. We rushed there and stared at it like it were a mirage in a desert of bread.
Their buffet (that they describe as lacto-vegetarian) comprised chapatis, rice and vegetable dishes that weren’t of the artery-clogging variety. Our next 48 hours involved weighing all touristy activities solely by their distance from Govinda.
En route to the airport for our journey home, our cheerful cabbie asked if we were Indian. When we nodded, he declared – “I’m in love with gulab jamun”. He sighed deeply before continuing- “A friend who introduced me to it went back to India. Now I can’t find it anywhere”. We empathised with his hankering for food from far-off places, and expressed much regret at not having any gulab jamun ready-mix cartons on us. As we unloaded our luggage and waved goodbye to him, I could only hope that our good-natured Hungarian friend would find his oasis as unexpectedly as we did, and that he would be within a one-mile radius of it whenever a craving struck.