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I’m absolutely thrilled by author Alex Craigie’s new review of Please Don’t Ask For Extra Glasses! [posted with her permission]


Alex Craigie‘s review

Feb 27, 2022

Three ‘mature’ college friends meet up again for another immersive experience – this time in the Rajasthan and Gujarat regions of India.
If you’re familiar with the first book, Do Not wash Hands in Plates, you’ll know what delights are in store for you. Barb Taub’s sparkling prose and delicious humour are enhanced by Jaya’s (Jayalakshmi Ayyer) narrative as the no-nonsense defender of the naive tourists against exploitation, plus the amazing photographs taken by her and Janice Smith.

I read the first book in this series on my old monochrome Kindle Keyboard. When I tried to buy this one a message came up saying it wasn’t available for my new Kindle Oasis. I enjoyed the earlier book so much, I downloaded this one onto my iPad. Now I understand why my Kindle wasn’t up to it. This is the eReader version of a sumptuous coffee table book. It’s full of photographs with colours that zing off the page.This is one of those travel books that sweeps you along. It’s informative but never in a dry way and there’s a real sense of affection for the people they meet– and for the food.

From hilarious camel rides, magnificent and intricately carved palaces, sobering tales of sacrifice and weird and wonderful folded towels awaiting them on their beds, this book took me on the journey with them and I hugely enjoyed it.

There’s even a section at the end called Travel Tips where they share their advice on where to shop, eat, stay and visit. There’s also a link to more of their stunning photographs plus two video clips of how to make your own towel rabbit or monkey.

I’ll be revisiting this book and am already looking forward to the next one.


For more travel fun, check out our battle with the egg (below). –Barb


 

How to tell if your egg is actually hardboiled? 1. It doesn’t crack up if you tell jokes like Q: What did the egg say to the boiling water? A: “I don’t think I can get hard — I just got laid this morning.” 2. It spins quickly. (Raw eggs only give a few slow spins.) [This and all photos unless otherwise noted are © Janine Smith & Jayalakshmy Ayyer]

How not to boil an egg. In a hotel room. In really, really rural India…

It was the lion’s fault.

A few years back, I’d been exploring India’s amazingly diverse state of Gujarat along with travel companions Janine and Jaya. The three of us met as students at the University of Chicago when we moved into Little Pierce student apartment #203—three bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and lifelong friendships.

Jaya’s PhD graduation. If you were there, you’re welcome on our next trip!

By now we’ve been friends for over forty years, and traveled together on multiple continents, so we each have our jobs at a new hotel. Jaya makes coffee. Janine boils water. Lots.

(Once and only once we believed our hotel’s usual “our water is all filtered” statements. I have the patient ID bracelet from Don Bosco hospital to prove what a good idea that wasn’t.)

Tower of Power(cables).  

My job is to assemble the various power adaptors from the US and UK in a precarious tower at the (usually only) available outlet.

Once phones, tablets, and laptops are charging away, we all sit down with coffee to go over our travel options, make plans, hear what Jaya has planned for us.*

*[NOTE: When it comes to travel, Janine and I have worked out a strategy we like to call ‘Do Whatever Jaya Says’. It’s simple, straightforward, and 100% foolproof. As a trip planner, Jaya is just that good.]

Take our trip a few years back to the Gir Forest National Park—a wildlife sanctuary and home to India’s endangered Asiatic Lions. The previous day we’d been in Kuch, admiring local artisans, palaces, and temples. Now as we headed for the forest, Jaya explained about the Indian government’s efforts to preserve India’s rapidly-dwindling Asiatic Lion populations. The hotel Jaya had booked—a newly acquired property of our favorite Club Mahindra chain—was on the far side of the forest preserve, so we kept eyes open for lions as we drove. No lions.**

**[Okay, I admit it. I was secretly relieved. Please don’t judge me—I’ve seen The Lion King, and was pretty sure where I’d end up on the Circle of Life…]

Arriving at Club Mahindra was like coming home. While each of their resorts has its unique flavor and décor, we already knew to expect the microwave, dishes, generously sized rooms, origami towel animals on the bed each day, huge bathroom (with hairdryer!), unexciting restaurant meals, and of course, wifi available only in the FunZone.

But this time, our assigned room was #203—the same number as our long-ago apartment back at University of Chicago, and surely some kind of sign? (Remembering some of our Apt. 203 adventures, we just weren’t sure if it was a good sign or…)

Sadly, this is as close as we got to seeing lions at Gir Forest…

 

Next day we headed back into the Forest on our ‘gypsy’ jeep safari through the Gir Asiatic Lion Sanctuary. Although we spotted leopards (sorry, couldn’t resist), crocodiles, jackals, deer, antelope, lots of peacocks, and enough birds to make dedicated birder Jaya and photographer Janine giddy with joy, we didn’t see any lions. (Remember the lions?) Thus instead of triumphantly sending dramatic lion footage to everyone we know, we were out shopping for eggs so we could avoid the hotel breakfast. We stopped at several minuscule roadside stores, but apparently eggs were almost as rare as lions in these parts.

My emergency backup job? Egg-wala.

Dharmesh, our long-suffering driver, asked how we planned to cook our eggs. We explained about Club Mahindra, and how we could always count on a microwave in our rooms. He remembered seeing some eggs for sale the day before, so he pulled over, ran across the road to a nondescript house, and came back triumphantly holding a plastic bag of eggs, with one extra that he asked us to boil for him.

He’d also heard about a little home-based business that could provide good dinners, so he promised to deliver our dinner when he came back for his egg.

Club Mahindra public service announcement: Eat at the Club restaurant or…

…take your life in your hands. Your call. Have a nice day.

Back in our room, we looked at each other. Despite having well over a century of cooking experience between the three of us, we had no idea how to microwave a hardboiled egg.

Jaya: “How hard can it be?”

Janine: “I heard something about eggs exploding in microwaves?”

Me: “Exploding?”

Jaya: “Maybe we just put it in a cup and cover it with water?”

Me: “Ex-plo-ding?”

Janine: “That doesn’t sound right.”

Me: “EXPLODING?”

Jaya put the egg into a mug, covered it with Janine’s precious already-boiled water, and I turned on the microwave. Almost immediately, there was an ominous bang. We looked at each other but nobody moved. Finally Jaya bravely opened the microwave. “Ewww.”

It seemed almost impossible that one egg could have produced so much… eggness. Eggy liquid oozed from every microwave surface, congealed egg bits bobbed sluggishly in the mug, while eau d’egg wafted out in a sulphurous cloud.

Jaya grimly mopped and scooped and poured egg-bits out of the microwave.

Me: “We should tell the Front Desk we need a squeegee, because that’s a lot of egg.”

Janine: “We should tell them we need a new microwave, because I don’t think this one will ever be the same.”

Jaya: “We should just tell the driver no eggs.”

Me: “Google says all we need is a bigger bowl, more water, and salt.”

Janine: “We should tell the Front Desk we’ll need salt, a squeegee, and a new microwave. And maybe a few more towel animals.”

Me: “Club Mahindra is going to think we’re having a LOT more fun in here than we actually are.”

Jaya (holding up the truly unpleasant and surprisingly large remains of the exploded egg): “I’m going to flush this down the toilet.”

Janine: “What’s that smell?”

Me: “We should tell the front desk we’ll need a toilet plunger.”

Jaya: “We should tell the front desk we’ll need another room.”

This is the meal Dharmesh exchanged for his egg—delivered in a stacking tiffin (lunch box).

Clearly, we got the better deal.


EPILOGUE: Eventually, we did manage to hardboil the egg. So our driver got his breakfast egg, we got our wonderful dinner, and nobody got to see lions in the wild. Maybe next trip?

Maharshi House Cooking

Maharshi House Cooking staff.