Many believe that to truly immerse yourself in another culture, you have to explore its cuisine. From exploring local markets and cooking with local ingredients to taking a cooking class or, better yet, having a meal with a local family, we can learn a lot about a place. Sharing a meal, we make lasting connections that we may never have otherwise. The Food for Thought series delves deeper into the complex connection between food and travel, through interviews with well-known travel bloggers. This week we chat with Mike and Luci from 1000 Places to Fight before You Die. Though we hate to think of friends at odds with each other, their fights around the world can be hilarious in retrospect. They also have an important recurring message about working through differences when you disagree. Mike and Luci have mentioned on more than one occasion that hunger can easily result in a fight. For Donny and I, food is probably the #1 reason we fight when traveling! Read on to learn more about the “Fighting Couple” and their perspectives on food and travel.
Meet Mike and Luci
First off, we are Mike and Luci of 1000 Places to Fight Before you Die. We are affectionately called the “Fighting Couple.” We have been “fighting” since we met in 2nd grade. Our mission is to encourage couples to get out and travel together. It is so important to keep relationships strong. One of the best ways we have found is finding time to travel together. You learn so much about your partner as you explore together. It doesn’t have to be some extravagant trip abroad. It can be something as simple as going on a weekend trip. It gives you time to talk, reconnect and dream. The second thing that we hope to pass on is that it is ok to fight. As long as you fight fair. All couples have challenges. We encourage couples to work through their differences. Check out our fights and more at 1000Fights.com.
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?
Agree! In just about every country we have visited, food is a huge part of their culture. To really understand the people, you must understand the cuisine.
Parisians love their bakeries; Asians, not so much. One of the biggest lessons we have learned from being out on the road is food is a wonderful expression of people and culture. Even within a country there are regional specialties. While we visited Lake Bled, Slovenia has a cake-like dessert that is unique to that area called Kremsnita. It is a light cream vanilla cake with a flaky crust on top, dusted with powdered sugar. We highly recommend!
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?
Both Luci and I grew up in rural Idaho in the western United States. As you can imagine, our diet was heavy on hearty meals of steak and potatoes. We love them! Having traveled widely, some of the food we ate growing up tastes a bit on the bland side in comparison to some the dishes we discovered on our travels. Travel has added spice to our relationship and diet. While traveling has given us a chance to eat some really weird stuff, we still love coming home to a huge meal of steak and potatoes.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
It has forced us to research food, which is a new thing for us. Call us weird, but prior to our trips, we do some in-depth research on the different cuisine specialties for the area. Just like the cultural sites we see, we want to make sure we don’t miss something special on the culinary front.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
Great question. We use three techniques. The first is Trip Advisor. It has been our trusted source for finding the best hole-in-the-wall eateries. We have found some real gems by carefully reading reviews from fellow travelers. We have also avoided some tourist traps and likely some food poisoning along the way. The other tool we use to find little family-owned establishments is to “crowd source” ideas from fellow bloggers. Recently we visited Budapest and wanted some good goulash. We took to Twitter and in minutes we were directed to Kadar Etkezde. We had the most amazing meal! All thanks to asking in a tweet: in search of good goulash #budapest. Third, we ask the hotel clerk where they like to eat. We found the best pizza place in Trieste, Italy!
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?
Wow! Love this question. This is an easy one for us. We recently visited Ao Nang, Thailand. Up on the hill overlooking the small city and the ocean is a little tree-canopied restaurant called Lae Lay Grill. We had the best collection of seafood we have ever eaten. We started off with their special fried rice, which is served in a fresh pineapple husk. We washed it down with some freshly squeezed passion fruit juice. The main course was grilled right in front of us. We gorged ourselves on prawns the size of your arm, fish of every kind and wonderful grilled veggies. We were supplied with a tray of Asian spices and sauces that made every bite a delicious adventure. The best part? While eating this life changing meal, we watched the sunset over the ocean horizon. Trust us, we didn’t fight that entire evening. It was too wonderful.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
We have tried a few crazy things during our travel. We ate in an old monastery in Cusco, Peru. There we had broiled guinea pig! In Asia we have eaten frog, snake and what might have been dog? We are still a little unsure about that. Of course, we love a good batch of snails when we visit Paris.
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?
Turkish! This was a surprise for us. When we booked our trip to Istanbul, we thought that we were going to be eating kebabs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not the case! Turkish cuisine is varied and impressive. We loved the fish dishes in southern Turkey. Our favorite delicacy on our trip, surprisingly, was the honey in central Turkey. It was delectable! According to our innkeeper, the key to the honey is the bees aren’t fed sugar like in the United States. We kept inventing things that we could have honey with. Needless to say, the baklava in Turkey is to die for!