Food as a Gateway to Culture
To truly experience a culture, you must taste it. Was there a moment for you that upon tasting something new, a whole new world opened up? Was it a steaming bowl of Malaysian asam laksa, spiced with ginger, garlic, chilies, lemongrass and tart tamarind offsetting pungent mackerel? Did an unassuming-looking little cup of stout, Vietnamese coffee, thick with condensed milk have you hooked for life? Maybe a sinus-clearing dish of Peruvian ceviche with fresh fish and shellfish, spicy peppers, lime and cilantro was what got to you? We find ourselves endlessly seeking that which lies at the heart of a place, and the answer is often its food. Preparing and serving a meal brings out the best qualities in people: generosity, friendship, pride and harmony. Even where language is a barrier, people make real connections through food.
Personal Food Histories
We both love to eat, but our food histories are quite different. As a kid I would try anything. I was the one to pick berries off the bush or sample whatever came out of the garden before we got it inside. In our house we always had to clean our plate, and there was no choice as far as tasting new things. A year-long student exchange to Japan as a teen opened my mind further as I grew to love grilled fish as a breakfast option and beans as dessert.
Donny had a very late-blooming palate, and was long-known as a problem eater. His diet consisted mainly of white rice, chicken fingers, hot dogs, pepperoni pizza and cereal. It wasn’t until his late 20’s that he had his food epiphany. In many ways, this new thinking about food was tied to travel. Since then, he’s been trying to make up for lost time, diving right into every new eating opportunity without hesitation.
As we travel, we want to try what those around us are enjoying. It’s an endless search for authentic eats. As much as we like to eat, we also strive to stay healthy, so we try to focus on what’s locally grown and seasonal. Responsible eating is an integral part of responsible travel. We are huge fans of street food, and that’s usually the first thing we seek out, especially in new international destinations. Cooking classes have proven to be a good “in” as well, and many include a trip to a local market where unfamiliar fruits and vegetables can be explained! Travelling slowly has given us the opportunity to observe, get involved and truly savor the essence of a place.
Food for Thought Interview Series
Through the “Food for Thought” series, we hope to learn more about other travelers’ journeys, and the role food plays for each of them. As we talk to travelers about their personal food experiences, we find that each has a story to tell, and a unique perspective to bring to the table. For some it may be simply having a food philosophy. Others focus their trips on culinary travel destinations. Some seek out cooking schools and gastronomic walking tours. Others search for organic options or focus on cooking for themselves. Whether you’re into fine dining at establishments featuring celebrity chefs or chowing down at the perfect hole-in-the-wall, we hope this new series will inspire you to get out and discover the world through food! At least we hope it gives you some food for thought!
See what some of our favorite food and travel bloggers have to say about questions like: “How has travel affected the way you think about food?” and “What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising?” A new addition to the series will be posted in “Food for Thought” each Friday, beginning on February 28, 2014.