Our Food for Thought series continues to explore the intersection of food, travel and culture through interviews with food and travel bloggers. Each perspective is unique, but we can all agree that food plays a role in our experience of a place. Food memories are powerful, and no matter where you travel, sharing a meal can break down barriers and forge new friendships. This week we chat with Vanessa from Turnipseed Travel, which is all about getting the best bang for your buck and making the most of the time we have to travel. We turn to Turnipseed Travel to daydream, inspired by great narratives and beautiful photography. Recently, our mouths were watering, as we added Norfolk County to our list with a recent Guide to Cheese! Read on as Vanessa shares her perspectives.
Vanessa Chiasson is an ocean loving Maritimer now settled as a freelance writer in Ottawa. Her blog,TurnipseedTravel.com, focuses on inspired storytelling through intrepid value travel. To see more of the incredible dishes she’s inhaling around the world, follow her on Instagram.
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 would disagree – but gently so. There are some countries, some regions with incredibly rich cultures but for whom food is a luxury and they are limited in expressing their culture through food simply due to monetary/availability constraints. And some countries have aspects to their culture that are extremely important but food doesn’t play a big part of that. For instance, hockey is a vital part of Canadian culture but there’s not really a culinary component to it (unless, of course, you count bad popcorn and warm beer!)
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 love a full turkey dinner – with mashed potatoes, herbed stuffing, pumpkin pie, the works. I always had it at every holiday meal but I think I just really love it because I love all the ingredients! I do associate it with home, but as much my home as it stands today as my home growing up. I don’t actually crave it that much when I’m traveling but I do always crave ‘homemade’ food, especially mashed potatoes! And bread! Did I mention bread? Homemade bread is just about the greatest thing in the world.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Food takes me on a travel roller coaster sometimes. When it’s good, it’s oh so good. And when it’s bad, or when it’s overpriced, or when I just can’t find what I’m searching for, I’m a grumpy little bear. Food becomes both a necessity and a desire.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I want to start doing more food tours and cooking classes – they are such a fun way to discover a new area! I had a fantastic time doing an all-day food tour in Athens and it was such an amazing experience. It was so much more than just a foodie event- it felt like I was getting to know the city on such a personal level.
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?
There’s a fantastic restaurant in Norfolk County, Ontario, called The Combine. They do incredible farm-to-table offerings and they go out of their way to support the local farm community. I’ve been there twice now, each time with friends, and each time it’s been delicious! They do especially phenomenal desserts – like cinnamon churros and chocolate sauce, individual apple pies with artisan cheddar cheese, and maple bacon S’mores with homemade marshmallows.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I have never tried anything even vaguely adventurous during my travels! I am a complete wimp and I, while I am always willing to try something, I’m not all that confident sometimes. One thing that always surprises people is that I HATE sushi. Don’t like raw fish. Don’t like sticky rice. HATE seaweed! It’s a weed! From the sea! I just don’t get it.
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?
Everyone knows that I absolutely love nachos but I think if it came down to it I would pick Thai food. I love the variety of dishes and love the mix of sweet, creamy, crunchy, and spicy. The best Thai food I ever had was – believe it or not – at an airport hotel by Bangkok’s DMK airport. This stuff was just otherwordly and I have never found anything that compares.