The Food for Thought series explores travelers’ relationships with food as they explore new places and cultures. As we meet new people in our travels, we love to learn what they grew up eating. Getting invited home to dinner is always a great honor, as well as an adventure. New recipes are one of our favorite souvenirs! Through the series, we hope to share the journeys of fellow travel and food bloggers as they discuss the role of food in their travels. A new interview will be published each Friday for the duration of the series.
Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure! Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.
Meg has recently launched “Mapping Megan”, an up and coming travel blog which aims to give you the best tips and advice on travelling, volunteering, living, working and holidaying abroad. She hasn’t been everywhere, but it’s on her list!
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?
Completely agree. You can’t say you’ve truly experienced a culture unless you have experienced their food. Dishes can often be representative of an entire country, and locals take an incredible amount of pride in their local cuisine. Eating locally establishes a deeper connection with a destination, and a deeper understanding of the true identity of a country.
One of the great treats of traveling is to sample local cuisine – each country is bursting with new and exciting flavours to savour, with delicious recipes you’ve never heard of, using ingredients you probably never realized existed. You can’t say you’ve traveled to Australia without throwing a shrimp on the barbie. You can’t say you’ve traveled to Italy without having eaten one of those amazing traditional brick oven pizzas. You haven’t traveled to Switzerland if you haven’t let Swiss chocolate melt in your mouth. You’re traveling to experience something new, so make sure you experience new and exotic 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?
Vegemite Sandwiches! The rest of the world seems to HATE Vegemite, but in Australia we maintain that it’s vital for your health – and it tastes damn good too (although foreigners will probably disagree!). Vegemite is definitely a huge part of the Australian culture – it’s something we all grow up eating, it’s something our parents all grew up eating, and their parents too. In fact, it’s been on Australian shelves for 90 years now! It’s a badge of honor for Australians, whether they are a fan or not.
I don’t crave it while I’m away because I’m always traveling with a jar or two! I’ve been in the Unites States for almost 12 months now and still have two jars left in my pantry. Luckily I have it all to myself because my husband can’t stand the taste!!
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
It’s made me appreciative. For a start, I’m appreciative that I have access to food. I have traveled to many places where people are starving, or literally pushing and shoving to get to the front of a dinner line. I’m also appreciative that I live in a country with sanitary processes and have access to facilities like refrigeration and proper storage – during my travels through Africa for instance, chicken would be left out in the sun all day before we were expected to cook it that night. We went hungry instead!
While I will try almost anything, I’m very appreciative of the fact that I don’t eat bugs every day! Although traveling has made me realize that I should and can be eating a lot healthier. During a homestay in Costa Rica, all we ate was wholesome, nutritious meals everyday. There was no access to fast food, or any of the processed crap which plagues the streets of Western countries. Yet it tasted amazing. The flavours they would add to rice would blow your mind. The fact that fruit and vegetable could be mouthwatering and fresh was a completely new concept. And obesity was a non-issue. Traveling has made me re-evaluate my eating habits.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I do a lot of research before I travel, and tend to hunt for the best street food when I arrive.
I also do my best to meet and spend time with as many locals as possible, whether this be through a homestay, stint of volunteering, or even at a local bar. Locals generally have the best advice on what and where to eat, and, if you’re lucky, have been known to invite travelers back to their mother’s for an amazing home cooked meal!
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?
It was tasting the best pizza on earth in the birthplace of Pizza – Naples, Italy. I could (and actually have!) write a whole article about my Napoli Pizza Experience – but what is forever ingrained in my memory is that unbelievable flavor – I’ve never tasted anything like it! Locally grown tomatoes, bubbling cheese, slightly charred edges from a traditional wood-burning oven; not to mention the pie itself was about the size of a hummer wheel!
My experience was shared with strangers, which was actually really lovely! The owner of the hostel I was staying at took us all out for a night of authentic Italian pizza – it was an amazing way to bond and form new friendships with people from all over the world; sharing a memorable meal.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I’ve eaten many weird foods on my travels. I ate reindeer on pizza while in Finland…was a rather gamey meat! Although the best pizza I have had in my life was called the “Australian Coat of Arms” – packed full of emu and kangaroo meat. It was amazing, and I would most certainly eat it again!
I unknowingly ate raw horse in Japan during a school trip in 2003 – which I didn’t think twice about until after I was told what it was. It was honestly so long ago that I can’t remember how it tasted, but goes to show that the idea of hating or being disgusted by something is usually all in your head.
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?
Italy. Hands down. Because who doesn’t want an excuse to eat pizza and gelato washed down with fabulous wine for the rest of your life?!