Through a country’s cuisine, we make meaningful connections that we never would otherwise. Through our Food for Thought series, we explore the idea that “To truly experience a culture, you must taste it.” We hope to learn more about other travelers’ journeys, and the integral role food plays. A new interview will be published each Friday for the duration of the series. This installment is with Daryl and Mindi of 2foodtrippers.
Meet Daryl and Mindi
The 2foodtrippers are Daryl and Mindi Hirsch. After meeting in 2006 at a party hosted by mutual friends, it wasn’t long before they realized their mutual love for food and travel. Travels together have included the countries of Canada, China, England, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal and Spain plus extensive travel throughout the US. When not traveling, the 2foodtrippers eat and work in Philadelphia. Daryl is the culinary coordinator at a prominent restaurant group, and Mindi is an executive in the insurance industry.
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?
We absolutely agree. Food is an integral part of every culture and is directly linked to the geography and history of each region. When we travel, eating allows us to use all of our senses to experience an area’s culinary identity. Plus, eating is often a social experience and a great way to interact with locals. Although we may not speak the language, we often communicate through our mutual love and respect for good food.
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?
Although we grew up in different parts of the United States (Daryl in Pennsylvania and Mindi in Georgia), we both associate hamburgers with “home”. We grew up eating at the usual mega fast food chains. Although we rarely, if ever, eat at those establishments now, we often find ourselves craving hamburgers when we’re traveling for an extended time. In fact, we recently hightailed it to the Shake Shack for hamburgers and fries after a marathon journey home from Tokyo.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Being exposed to food while traveling has opened our eyes and taste buds to culinary authenticity. We’ve enjoyed wonderful ethnic meals in our home city of Philadelphia, but there’s nothing like eating a juicy soup dumpling in Shanghai or a rich bowl of tagliatelle al ragu in Bologna. We bring these culinary travel experiences home to our kitchen and do our best to replicate the authenticity with spices and herbs. That being said, there’s nothing like eating local food made with local ingredients by local people.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
We do a ton of research before we travel, which includes reading the most respected food journalists and bloggers in each region. We have found these local experts to be more reliable than friends and fellow travelers. Once we arrive in a city, we immediately seek out food markets and street food to experience food on the ground level. Since we do so much prep work, we usually conduct our own self-guided tours where we walk for miles and eat like champions.
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?
The most memorable meal that we have shared together (and there have been many) is hands down the dinner we enjoyed at Maison Lameloise in Chagny, France. This was our first three star Michelin meal, and it did not disappoint. Since we splurged on the meal using a generous gift from Mindi’s boss, we did not need to cut any corners. We opted for the restaurant’s tasting menu, which was a multi-course affair with an emphasis on fish and seafood, plus wonderful local Burgundian wine. The cheese cart was the star of the meal with its extensive selection of melty, stinky, yummy cheese. This meal set a standard for us in terms of delicious food and impeccable service, and we refer to it often.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
Our friends and family consider us to be adventurous eaters, so they are not surprised when we eat things like ant eggs in Mexico City or chicken feet in Hong Kong. Instead, they are surprised when we eat “normal” food. The reality is that we like to try all levels and varieties of food in every place we visit. When you get down to it, sometimes there can be as much enjoyment in a simple picnic meal of bread with local cheese and charcuterie as there is in a fancy meal featuring foie gras and truffles.
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?
Wow, this is a tough question since we love all food. Though we’re huge Asian food fans, we would have to pick Italy. Italian food utilizes the freshest ingredients, usually served with amazing wine. We would never get bored of the pasta and pizza, and we would go to sleep happy every night after a lovely bottle of affordable wine, be it a Rosso di Montalcino from Tuscany or a zippy white from Istria.