India is too sweet for me!
Finding non-sweet non-alcoholic drinks is a problem here in India. From mocktails and fruit juices to iced tea or coffee, it’s all served with loads of pre-mixed sugar. People like me who don’t have a sweet tooth are in the minority. I do enjoy sweets and sweet drinks, but only as long as they are not excruciatingly sweet.
As a result I cannot enjoy most commercial ice-creams and soft drinks as they are too sweet for my taste. It’s the same with biscuits. They are either too sweet or just salty.
Once I made the mistake of asking the vendor for an ice-cream flavour which was “less sweet” and was delighted when he told me that he had not one but several! But on tasting it I found it as sweet, if not sweeter than the other ice creams. The shopkeeper insisted that it was of the “no-sugar” variety and said that it tasted sweet because of the artificial sweetener. He thought this was what I was looking for! When I tried to explain that it’s the sweetness I don’t like, he didn’t get it.
I am not diabetic and neither do I have any diabetics in my family, on either side. I just don’t like very sweet stuff. It nauseates me. That’s what most people find difficult to understand. Specially as it doesn’t mean that I eschew sweets. In fact I quite enjoy something a little sweet.
I drink my tea black and without sugar, and I drink milk without sugar. And this can get embarrassing when one is offered tea by others. If one refuses it looks bad, as in India you can’t refuse tea. Specially as it’s offered to you as a matter of course. No one asks you whether you would like to be served the sugar or milk separately. I either swallow it if I have to and the nausea that comes with it, or if I am not up to it I make some excuse of a stomach upset. But in the past I have offended people so now I am a little careful!
Not liking very sweet things makes me a sort of misfit in India. It’s not just with those one works with and acquaintances, but in restaurants, coffee parlours and hotels too. The iced tea they serve is too sweet for me as most of them make it with a pre-mixed powder. The cold coffee is horrible it’s mostly blended with sweet ice-cream. Once I asked the people serving coffee at Cafe Coffee Day if they could serve me a non-sweet cold coffee and they said they would. And guess what they served me? An overly sweet cold coffee which they explained was without any added sugar. What they had forgotten to tell me is that the ice-cream which was blended in had sugar! I wondered what had happened to the old fashioned cold coffee we had in the old days. Cold coffee without ice-cream. Have they forgotten how to make cold coffee? Why has ice-cream become a necesary ingredient? Now if I want cold coffee I make it at home Same with milk shakes.
I am sure that in other parts of the world “less sweet” is not interpreted as “artificially sweetened.” Maybe they have the choice of non-sweet and sweet over there, or more likely, their pre-sweetened cold coffee is not excruciatingly sweet! People have told me that Coke and Pepsi are sweeter in India too, but again this is just hearsay. Nothing official about it! If I am forced to have a cola I prefer Thums Up as it tastes less sweet than either Coke or Pepsi. Pepsi is unbearably sweet. I am not talking of the amount of sugar in anything, just the taste. For example I can eat a good quality chocolate as it doesn’t taste that sweet.
Usually when I am out I make do with jeera paani or salted lime sherbet. There is always beer ofcourse. Or white wine.
(Photographs are by me and copyrighted)