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March 15, 2005

Paan virgin spits like a girl

Everywhere in Old Delhi, on every cornerpost of every building there is a reddish haze the colour of terracotta. For awhile I thought it was just the iron oxide in the dirt and dust and so much of the architecture (for example the Jantar Mantar observatory) has this colour. But after a few hours of walking around I saw a few fresh splotches of red and realised what it was. Paan spit.

Paan is a 'digestive'. A leaf, painted with all manner of spices, flecks of gold leaf, sugar crystal and proportedly even opium. You take the leaf roll in your hand from the paan-wallah who has lovingly prepared his special version from 20 or so fine tins of ingredients and ingest it like chaw, I think. This morning, before the coffee I tried my first chew.

What a tenacious taster I was, and this was entirely ridiculous because PAAN IS GOOD. Paan tastes like perfume smells, paan tastes like delicious spices and sugar, bitter, everynow and again a bit of sour. Riding around in a rickshaw in Delhi, between whiffs of exhaust and... well let's just say mostly exhaust, you get a whiff of heavily perfumed air. That's what paan tastes like. Delicious. The texture is as grainy and juicy, I'm sure every paan is different.

And the buzz? Well, I notice a slight tingling in the back of my throat which is probably clove related, and the mind-altering quality is less than that of a cup of coffee. Of course now I'm interested in getting into something a bit heavier.

Next time I'll attempt a truly peaceful savouring of the paan and will be working on my spitting technique. It turns out, surprise surprise, I spit like a girl!

Posted by debra at March 15, 2005 07:19 AM


Interesting... In South America I had same experience but with COCA leaves! In India, PAAN?!
Keep chewing and spitting, Debra! gr Ruth

Posted by: ruth at March 24, 2005 05:06 PM

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