As we travel, we realize more and more how focused we are on food. We spend time researching, photographing, talking to people about what and where they like to eat. Some of our best travel memories involve sharing a meal with friends, old and new. Through cooking and eating together, we gain a deeper understanding of the cultures we visit. It may not be the only way, but we have to admit, it’s our favorite! Through our Food for Thought series, we hope to learn more about other travelers’ journeys, and the role food plays. A new installment is published each Friday for the duration of the series. This week we are excited to talk to Jenny from A Taste of Travel. Like us, Jenny isn’t afraid to save a bit in other areas so she can splurge on a great meal. She’s got great insider restaurant tips for some of the world’s top cities, but she also loves visiting local markets. Some of our favorite posts are those on daily life rural Italy. Her experience as a travel agent give her a unique perspective too!
Travel has always been a big part of my life and I have been fortunate to have visited many countries and been on some amazing trips. I love exploring markets, trying new tastes and finding fabulous restaurants so the blog is also about food. Sharing these experiences is part of the fun. As a travel agent with 10 years experience in a previous life,I was often asked where we stayed or what restaurants we ate at so the blog was designed to answers those questions. We’re back home in Perth now after travelling for nearly eight months in Europe. In a month or two we’ll head off again for another six months. I hope that by sharing my stories, you will be able to add new experiences to your dream trip or just enjoy the escape with us.
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’m a great believer that at the core of each diverse culture is their food. Cultures really are food centric…it is the one common thread. It highlights their differences and shows their similarities. I saw this recently travelling from Italy to Turkey. In Italy families were getting together to make tomato sauce and would then celebrate the day with a fabulous lunch. In Turkey, I watched women helping each other doing the same…drying the tomato paste on the roof of their home. Similar but different!
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?
Do you mean other than vegemite? Vegemite is the Aussie icon!
Other than vegemite, there are a couple of foods that remind me of home. Fresh crayfish or rock lobster remind me of the summer days that we spend at Rottnest, a small island about 12kms from the coast where we catch our own. Nothing beats a fresh cray, caught and cooked that same day and eaten whilst still slightly warm.
Lamb is another. A lamb roast for Sunday lunch was part of my upbringing….sometimes vegemite was smeared over the roast for that extra bit of taste. It actually isn’t as bad as it sounds! Two Aussie icons together.
When I’m traveling I become so absorbed in trying local dishes that I don’t crave anything from home…apart from a smear of vegemite on a piece of toast every now and again! Even when I’m home I’m always craving food from another country!
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
In the beginning, travelling increased our awareness of different foods and introduced us to foods we would never have tried at home. I loved heading to India to eat one of the best curries I’ve ever had or off to Asia for that touch of Thai, Vietnamese or Indonesian food. Today food now dictates where we travel. It has given us the opportunity to see how the same food type varies between different regions of the same country.
It has certainly made us aware of trying as many local foods as we can. Years ago, I I could never have imagined seeking out a restaurant in a small town to join the locals eating a turkish breakast of beyran…a mutton meat,rice and broth soup…as we did last year.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I always head to the markets first. If anything can tell you about the local cuisine, it is spending time in the markets chatting to the locals. In Sicily, we exchanged recipes with a lady we met at the markets; in Turkey we were invited for tea. Some of our best restaurant suggestions have come from people we meet at the markets. It’s great seeing the social interaction amongst the people as well. In Turkey, the women mainly come to sell their produce at the market. It is a time for them to catch up with their friends as well as sell their produce. It’s fascinating to watch!
I also love to take food tours. They are a great way to learn about the local cuisine, the customs and traditions and pick up a few hints as to where to go for fabulous local dishes and street food. Every now and again, I’ll do a cooking class, especially if I am travelling on my own as I did in Jordan. I also do a lot of pre travel research. Sometimes restaurants that I don’t want to miss are booked before we leave, other times I have a long list of restaurants to ask locals about.
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 will take a while for me to forget our recent lunch at Noma in Copenhagen. From the anticipation of being able to secure a coveted reservation, to the excitement of flying to Copenhagen with friends for lunch, the fabulous setting in an old wooden warehouse at the end of a jetty, the involvement of many of the chefs as well as waiters in the meal, the amazing food….all twenty two courses of very different taste sensations, the edible works of art, the foraged foods that were unfamiliar to us, it was all unforgettable. We finished with a tour of the upstairs kitchen that was amazing in itself. All in all it was a sensational experience.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I’m adventurous but not overly so. I don’t do bugs or spiders or anything weird….maybe I’m not that adventurous after all!
One of the dishes we had at Noma was live tiny prawns. They were served in a jar and I still remember the look on our faces when we took the lid off and saw that they were alive. We were told that they were best eaten in one mouthful and that is what we did! Not bad but I don’t think I will be seeking them out again!
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?
Mmm….Italian or Turkish! I think Turkey wins mainly for the sheer variety and flavours. From so many great street food options to fabulous fresh seafood (Oh the hamsi in winter!) to myriads of meze dishes, tasty kebabs and baklava, and country home cooking…Turkey has it all! Let’s not forget the fabulous fusion food being offered by many restaurants in Istanbul that would rival some of the best restaurants in the world. Now I’m hungry!