Food and drink are sustenance. We need both to live. But it’s much more complicated than that, isn’t it? Examining peoples’ relationship with food, we are able to examine many other elements of society and culture. Food reflects our history, economics, environment . . . even our personality. As we travel, food can be an important “in” when it comes to experiencing local culture. While it’s not the only way, many travelers would agree it’s one of the most enjoyable, as evidenced in the unending stream of delectable meals flowing through social media. Our Food for Thought series examines this topic through interviews with bloggers who share their perspectives on how food influences their travels. This week’s interview is with Hanne, creator of the blog, Places People Stories. Hanne is a thinker, and her stories reflect her thoughtful observations of the world as she travels. Read on to find out hear her thoughts on everything from what she likes about fishing to her favorite insect snack!
Hi! I’m Hanne. A twenty-something travel junkie from Norway. So far, I have been to over 50 countries. Still, many more to go! In this blog I write a bit differently related to travel than the common “10 things to do in Bangkok/Paris/Madrid,” you name it! I focus more on the not so obvious, and share stories and experiences about places I have been and people I have met during 5 years of travels. …
Food for Thought
The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
I could not agree more. When I travel I like to try most of the typical local food, and doing so have given me some of the best and memorable experiences I have had on my many travels.
Food in many ways reflect a culture, place, the people, their traditions, history and lifestyle. Though food is not the only way to experience a culture, it is for sure one of the most important. And I definitely think that a cultural experience is not complete without tasting the food.
For example I have been living in Bolivia for a long while now, and I have seen how important the local cuisine is for the Bolivians. It is their pride. I have truly become a big fan, as well. However, I have received many international volunteers through my job here that did not want to try any of the local foods. They preferred to stay at home a cook pasta with tomato sauce. And by doing so, I believe strongly that they missed out on one of the most important aspects of exploring the Bolivian culture.
What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing? Do you crave it while you’re away?
In Norway we eat a lot of seafood. When I am away, I especially miss salmon and shrimps. Fish, in many ways reflect the Norwegian culture. We have for hundreds of years lived on fish, and back in my family we have had a lot of fishermen. Most children growing up on the coast, learn to fish at an early age as well. I just love to catch my fish, and then eat it. It tastes extra good when you have fished it yourself. I think most families still eat fish 2-3 times a week for dinner.
In addition to this, Norwegians just love whole-wheat bread with cheese, meat or other delicious topping on. It is often eaten for breakfast, lunch and evening food. Maybe it does not sound so gourmet, but it is a big part of the culture and history. As we were a very poor country before, this is what people ate. Though today, the country is much richer and we could afford to eat more gourmet, we still keep to our bread and traditions.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Before I started to travel, I was very careful regarding trying new foods. I was very picky. After starting to travel, everything changed regarding to this. I understood that I will not die if I try a new dish. Furthermore, I figured that trying new dishes brings so much positive. Usually, you only have one chance to really try the local cuisine, and that is when you are in that country. You might try it in a restaurant in your home city, but usually it is not the same. Now, I try almost everything I come across when I am in a new country or place.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
Often when I travel, I live with local people. I ask them which typical foods it is worth to try. They are usually willing and proud to share and tell me about their local cuisine. Because, who knows the local food better than the people living there? No one, not even a guidebook. Furthermore, they often cook some of that food for me, and we share together. Others dishes I go out to restaurants to eat or try in the street.
Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?
In India, I lived with a local family. It was the Raksha Bandhan festival, and in this festival food is very important. I was invited to take a part of that as well. For a whole weekend, the family cooked delicious local food. I just love the Indian foods. We sat on the floor and eat with our hands.
I have a similar experience from the countryside in Uganda at Christmas 2011. I was celebrating with a local family that had prepared very tasteful foods, and we were all gathered on the floor eating it with our hand.
These are two experiences I will never forget.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I have tried dog in Nigeria. The worst thing of it all was that when we were eating, a lot of dogs were walking around us, not knowing that they might be next on the plate. I will never try this again though.
We also eat whale in Norway, which many find shocking.
Also I often eat grasshoppers, if I am in a country that serves it. I really love this snack. However, I prefer the small ones.
And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?
That must be Italian food. I love all kinds of pastas. I also love pizza. I will never get tired of that.