To truly experience a culture, you have to taste it. Eating local cuisine, we make meaningful connections that we never would otherwise. The Food for Thought series, explores the integral role food plays in travel. A new installment will be published each Friday for the duration of the series. This week we talk to Valen Dawson of Eating the Globe. Her passion for food is evident in every post she writes, and it’s contagious!
Valen Dawson is a food and travel writer who wants to show you not just where the best places in the world are to eat and drink, but also what foods you shouldn’t miss, the best markets to shop at, and the most interesting stories to go along with it all. Menu’s are her maps and she’s ready to show you the way.
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 definitely agree. Food is so much of a culture that you can’t really separate them, not to mention how many stories are passed along over a kitchen fire.
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 grew up in both Lousiana and Arkansas. Cajun food always makes me feel at home. Red beans and rice, gumbo, or chicken and dumplings with some added Cajun spice. BBQ is my absolute favorite! I definitely crave it because it’s so hard to find these foods anywhere else in the world. Although, sometimes places surprise you. I was living in Mexico for the last six months, and there was a Cajun spot there called Hank’s that was actually quite good. There wasn’t any good BBQ, though.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Travel is what caused me to become a foodie in the first place. I didn’t have much ethnic food growing up, but now that I travel, it tends to be what I want to cook. I also try to taste all of the specialties of a place at least once (except for any food related to bugs) as I do feel like you really can get to know a place through the taste of its food.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
Hunting the best street food or asking cab drivers where to eat are my favorite strategies. I also do take cooking classes and food tours. Going to the local market is also one of my favorite ways to explore the food. I also tend to meet locals who invite me over for dinner. That’s my absolute favorite way to explore the food of a place.
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?
Honestly, it was the first street food meal that I had in Thailand. It was a crab and pork noodle dish. I had read about this vendor in a street food book, but I got lost trying to find it. I wound up meeting a guy from Germany who was also lost looking for something else on the way. I invited him to have dinner with me. He accepted and helped me locate the vendor. When we finally found the vendor, he was wearing the same exact striped shirt that he had worn in the book. We finished the meal with sticky rice and mangoes and it was definitely the best meal that I’ve ever eaten!
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
Nothing really shocks me, but I don’t eat bugs, so I can’t think of anything. I did have quite a few molecular gastronomy meals in Barcelona which were very enjoyable and surprising.
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?