During a recent, short hiatus, the Food for Thought series turned 1 year old on February 28! We continue to enjoy visiting with both successful, longtime members of the food and travel blogging community and some inspiring newcomers. Through each interview, we learn more about how food affects our experience of new destinations and cultures as we travel. This week we share the perspectives of Alli, who writes about her travels at The Vintage Postcard. Like us, we know you’ll be drawn to Alli’s sincere and thoughtful observations as she expresses them on her blog, with a focus on food, photography and storytelling. Her “favourite foods are Vietnamese, Greek cuisine, and strawberry banana smoothies,” but I can totally relate to real maple syrup bringing on some serious nostalgia.
Alli is a young travel blogger and photographer from Toronto, Canada with an incredible zest for life and adventurous spirit. Seeing the world while writing about it is her greatest passion and fuels her with more life and inspiration than anything else she knows.
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 couldn’t agree more. I am a huge advocate of eating local and being adventurous and open to a variety of cultural dishes! I even recently jazzed up my spice rack at home to include spices from different regions of the world in order to cook more culturally specific cuisines. This way, when I am not traveling, I can continue experimenting and tasting new and unique flavours and dishes! I think experiencing a destination through taste is one of the best ways to get to know and feel connected to a new country or 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?
I identify pure maple syrup with home. I will consume real maple syrup from the bottle or by the spoonful as many other Canadians do, I’m sure. Whether I’m using it for pancakes, baking, or cooking, it just has to be real. It’s a great natural sweetener with many health benefits while being so delicious all at the same time! When I was young my parents would frequently take me to a maple bush in the winter months and I’d learn how the sap was removed from the trees and transformed into maple syrup. Afterwards we’d eat the maple syrup poured into strips in the snow or during one of their pancake feasts.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Travel has affected the way I think about food in that I am always open to trying new flavours and cuisines. Food has a way of connecting people together, whether it’s back at home or in a new culture. After so many years of travel, the joy and excitement I feel while learning and tasting new foods is something that I hold close to my heart and regard as very special.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I absolutely LOVE attending cooking classes in a new country and participating in a food tour! The most recent cooking class I attended was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I learned how to cook some traditional Thai cuisines: tom yum soup, pad thai, chicken cashew, and green curry. Beforehand, the chef took us to the market to learn about the different ingredients we would be cooking with! It was a fantastic way to further connect with the culture. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia , I participated in a phenomenal food tour. If it weren’t for this food tour within the local markets, I couldn’t have said there was anything about Phnom Penh I enjoyed. It was an amazing experience and while I was in the markets I ate my most memorable meal.
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?
My most memorable meal was the Banh Hoi I had in the Phnom Penh morning market. The lady I visited is famous in the area for her Banh Hoi and she completely sells out by 11 am. She is then done for the day and spends the rest of her time at home with her family. Served with a fresh, cool iced coffee, it is a fabulous dish with so many delicious ingredients: rice noodles, cucumber, lettuce, bean shoots, anise basil, mint, chopped up vegetarian spring rolls, pork, pork loaf, coconut milk, fish sauce, crusted dried shrimp, crushed peanuts, and chili on the side.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I tried guinea pig while I was in Cusco, Peru. I would not eat it again! I grew up with guinea pigs when I was younger, so I still can’t believe I managed to eat some. To me it tasted like very tender chicken so absolutely no need or want to try any again!
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?
I would choose Thailand. I just love pad thai, and am always seeking out the best spot at home to enjoy it when I’m not traveling, or even making my own recipe.