Wondering how an Indian met her Soul food in America? I got my answer to this question last year when I, an Indian, traveled to America as a volunteer. It was my first time outside of India as a solo traveler and I was super excited. I was to spend 6 weeks at a Girl Scout camp called Tomahawk Ranch in Colorado, after which I traveled to Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C.

I remember my first food experience in Colorado—I had Chinese food with one of the directors of the camp. It was absolutely delicious. I think that was partially because I was tired (and hungry) after a 9-hour flight from London and a total of 25 hours since leaving home. It was also the first time I realized that you can have unlimited refills of juice or tea and that you only need to pay for one cup. This was super weird for me because, in India, you need to pay for juice every time you refill your cup. My first day turned out to be a kickstart to my culinary journey across 4 major cities in America.


Some Major "Firsts"


I had my first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at the airport while waiting for my ride. I also had my first visit to the legendary Walmart, Target, and Wholefoods. I was sure that I could spend all day roaming these stores and not get bored even for a minute. I never realized that you could have 20 different flavors of popcorn. The most types of popcorn I've seen at once were 4. Looking at more than 10 types was pleasantly surprising, and I had to stop myself from buying them all. On one of the trips outside of camp, I went to Sonic and had a milkshake and their grilled cheese.

I celebrated my 19th birthday while I was in Colorado and luckily, that was the day I went to see the Evergreen Rodeo. I finally got to taste all the American carnival foods that I usually only see on my Snapchat or Instagram. To see my first-ever rodeo and try these amazing carnival foods was truly a memorable way to celebrate my birthday.

tart, muffin, blueberry, berry, cake, pastry, pie, sweet, cherry, dessert, cherry pie, fourth of july treat
Julia Gilman

For the 4th of July, it was my last day at camp, and we all had a break for 4 days. I had gone to Palmer Lake for the fireworks. Along with me, there were four more international counselors. In true American glory, we all had the flag painted our faces and we took a lot of photos with the flag as well. We did not look any short of ghosts walking down the road in long white t-shirts and painted faces. That is where I tried my hand at eating hotdogs and more delicious fried food. I completed my day with ice cream from one of the local famous ice-cream shops called Rock House. It truly was a wonderful 4th of July

Arriving in Chicago


I reached Chicago on July 6th and the next part of my trip began. After the flight, I was super hungry and still had time before I could check in into my hostel. It was quite impossible for me to not try the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza, and so I left the bags at the hostel and treated myself to a slice of the “Cheese - Deep Dish” pizza at Giordano’s.

Over the next 3 days, I roamed the streets of Chicago to see where I could find something more interesting to eat. I experienced my first hot pretzel and also enjoyed it while watching the opera at Millennium Park. I went to famous places like Willis Tower SkydeckShed Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. I tried a donut that was shaped like Cookie Monster and it made my day. After some amazing days in Chicago, I stayed with my relatives for a couple of days outside of the city. We made it a point to go to Andy’s Ice Cream Shop in Naperville. Though I was sad to leave, it was time for me to continue my journey to New York.

... Onto New York


In New York, the first thing I tried was a gyro in front of Bryant Park and it was absolutely delicious. I had no idea how amazing Greek food tasted. After that, I decided to go and check in to the hostel. After a quick rest, I was eager to explore a bit of Manhattan and have a bunch of touristy experiences. I tried some donuts in Brooklyn and walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. I also went to the “Friends” pop-up in Greenwich Village. I got myself an NYPD sweatshirt and also tried the food at various places. I heard from a lot of people that I should try Joe's Pizza. When I got there, there was a long line, but time went by quickly. I got myself 2 slices of pizza just to be on the safe side because I was not ready to wait in line again and wanted to continue exploring.

The pizza absolutely blew my mind. I couldn't believe I had tried my first slice of heaven. Later that evening I went to M&M World and The Hershey Store in Times Square. I could not stop myself from buying chocolates for my family and me. I really wanted to buy those huge chocolate bars, but I still had the rest of the city to go to and my bag was not big enough to fit everything.

Final Stop: Washington, D.C.


At my final stop, i.e. Washington D.C., I was exhausted missed home a bit too much, so I decided that my first meal in the city would be some Indian-American food. Having a mango lassi with paratha felt like a drop of water in the desert. On the way to my hostel, I saw a Nandos and thought I had to try it. Now, I know it is mainly famous for its chicken, so what would I, a vegetarian do there? I still decided to go and check if there were any meatless sides available. Lucky for me, there were several options and the portions were big as well, so they were able to fill me up.

All the traveling and roaming around made me realize that I still hadn’t been to Chipotle, so that was my next stop. After visiting a church and shopping for souvenirs, I went to Chipotle and had an amazingly delicious burrito and some tacos to go. On the last day, I ended up going to Walmart to buy a bag of Lucky Charms to take home with me (quite weird, I know), but I could not resist taking that marshmallowy goodness with me. Of course, I could not leave without chocolate covered pretzels and popcorn. I reached home 25 hours later with a bag filled with lots of food souvenirs for my family and me. 



My journey to America was wonderful. I got to meet a lot of kind-hearted people that embraced me for who I am and did not doubt me for a minute. I can now proudly say that I have family and friends all across the globe. On my journey to find my soul food, I can with absolutely say that Lucky Charms, Boom Chicka Pop, and pizza are going to remain some of my favorite for a very long time. Given the chance, I would go back to these 4 cities in a heartbeat.