The longer we travel, the more meaningful food becomes as part of our journey. Sharing a meal has been the foundation for numerous new friendships. People tend to be proud of their local dishes, and, lucky for travelers, excited to share them. When we’ve really been fortunate, we’ve even learned to recreate some dishes on our own, long after we’ve left a place. Sometimes even the smell of a particular dish can immediately transport us back to somewhere we’ve visited. The Food for Thought interview series explores how food influences travelers. Is it a good way to gain insight into culture? We think so. This week we hear the perspectives of Talon from 1Dad1Kid. We love following the adventure, as Talon explores the world with his young son. Talon’s recent writings on the Travels 4 Yum blog, has really piqued our appetites with stories of eating around the world, accompanied by mouthwatering photography.
Talon Windwalker is a single parent traveling the world slowly with his young son since 2011. He is also an author, scuba instructor, endurance running coach, and a lover of food and languages.
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 absolutely agree! Food is necessary for our existence, and so many of our memories are based around food. It’s natural that it becomes part of the culture. Many times there are cultural things behind foods as well. It’s always fun for me to learn the story behind a particular dish.
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?
The first thing that comes to mind are bagels. My maternal family are Jewish, and many of them grew up in New York City, so bagels were a big deal at home. My grandfather always had bags of bagels in his freezer. My favorite was the garlic one, so whenever I smell one toasting I’m transported back in time. Good bagels are hard to find outside the US, so it ends being something I really crave while we’re on the road.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
I was never a big fan of processed foods to begin with, but while traveling they’ve become even more anathema to me. Easy access to great street food has really spoiled me. Being in countries where the produce is picked when it’s ripe and has so much flavor has made me appreciate the “farm to table” idea much more. It has also highlighted for me just how much crap goes into our food in the States.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
We love doing food tours, and I really enjoy taking cooking classes. When we’re in a new city, I try to get away from the tourist areas and look for the places that are packed with locals. Couchsurfing and Airbnb have also been helpful for this as often a host will want to introduce you to local food. Street food is often the most representative of local cuisine.
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?
I would probably have to say my dinner in the restaurant Altitude 95 (now called 58 Tour Eiffel) in the Eiffel Tower. It began with kir royale and a cheese, fruit and bread platter. The main dish was kite in a beurre blanc sauce. It was topped off with an absolutely amazing chocolate souffle. I had this moment after finishing my meal where I was looking out over Paris, sipping on another kir royale, where I felt so incredibly happy and blessed that my eyes got teary. And in that moment I had this intense feeling that I was ready to adopt a child. When I later returned to Paris with my child, I was disappointed that the restaurant was closed for remodeling. But it was still magical bringing my son to the very spot where I had made the decision to adopt.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I’ve eaten some really odd things, but cuy or guinea pig is probably one of the more unique ones. I would definitely eat it again. It was rather tasty. A lot of people were surprised that we ate camel when we lived in Morocco, and it was really good. We enjoyed it often.
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 probably have to pick Thai, although Malaysia’s Nyonya cuisine is a pretty close second.