Culinary traditions throughout the world have long been amalgamated. History points out that different ingredients have been carried throughout the world as the inhabitants moved to keep their nostalgia alive. Today gastronomy is booming and so is tourism, it is quite common to notice people arrange their travel plans to delve into the cuisines of a region.
In the words of Virginia Woolf,
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
She couldn’t have been more astute in her observation! Food is such an important aspect of someone’s identity, a community, their values, their unique history and so much more. It is possibly the best window to the soul of a culture and the fascinating stories associated with it, the reason why travel is inextricably attached with it. Food has always been an inexplicable part of travelling, so much so that even a whiff of something you had eaten on a past trip straightaway teleports you to that place and that moment. The aroma of lime and galangal can instantly transport you to Thailand, just like the mere mention of Erachi curry instantly takes me back to the time I spent exploring God’s Own Country, Kerala.
Every culture has its own culinary traditions. For instance, harmony as a key attribute of Chinese culture gets reflected in their foods in which every possible flavour is incorporated to create the perfect balance. People pass down recipes as family heirlooms generation after generation. Food plays a remarkable role in defining not just memories but also cultural identities. Even after immigrating to new places, people reinforce their ethnicity by serving traditional foods from their homeland. The eclectic food palette of a place gives a glimpse into its convergent history. The European Colonization of the Americas led to European cooking styles and ingredients getting introduced in the U.S. Thus, no trip of yours can ever be complete without tasting the scrumptious fare of a place.
Food has always been a part of the ohana for Chelsea who hails from Hawaii. When she had to take considerable time off due to a bunch of surgeries, she decided to channel all her time and energy into discovering the story behind all the cuisines that her husband, Rich, introduced her to. Rich, a beer connoisseur himself, inspired her to take part in the live cooking competitions that have become for them an ongoing lifestyle. Today, the two of them travel far and wide to cover and compete in food championships.
I get to travel to different parts of the country with the hubby, so we can experience it together.
says Chelsea who made a mean sausage meatball stuffed with cheese to win the reality show, The Johnsonville Sausage Dome. Her favourite cuisine is Brazilian, churrasco occupying the top spot in her list of Brazilian must-haves. For Martina though, nothing can beat Japanese food! She and her husband, both teachers by profession, travel and explore the often-fascinating beliefs and practices that surround the consumption of food in different corners of the word. They are quite big fans of Asian cuisine- be it a palatable pho ga in Vietnam or a lip-smacking laksa lemak in Malaysia- so much so that she has started taking Indian cooking lessons from a lady in her block. She has already mastered the prawn masala, matar paneer, pilau rice and toor dal!
Tiffany had always been passionate about food. While she and her now husband Tom hit it off on their first trip to Montreal together, his ripping apart a lobster with bare hands is what sealed the deal for her. Theirs was a match made in the epicurean heaven! Currently living the expat life in Mexico, these two foodies don’t hesitate to try even the strangest of foods at least once.
We’ve had grasshoppers and jellyfish, both are very tasty. Add guacamole to grasshoppers and you can’t feel the legs! Ant eggs and guacamole in tortillas are really good too!
Tiffany is also a wildlife enthusiast and sometimes incorporates wildlife viewing into their travel itinerary as well, like that time in Lima when she went swimming with the sea lions while on a mission to eat at the 10 best Latin American restaurants. This passion for adventure sustains her fitness levels which can be somewhat tricky for culinary travellers. However, fitness has never been an issue for Marie who eats healthy most of the times and also practises sports regularly. That she is not into spicy or industrial food also helps a lot. Chelsea makes certain she keeps healthy by moonlighting as a dog sitter. Martina is quite a workout enthusiast and hits the gym at least 3 times a week!
For Chelsea, the destination is paramount while travelling;
We let the destination put its best ‘food’ foot forward and experience it.
Marie and Martina belong to the same club. it’s the other way around for Tiffany and Tom-
Usually it’s a collection of the world’s best restaurants, that determines our destinations.
While their respective approach to travel somewhat vary, the one thing that all of them unanimously agree on is that having local food is one of the most immersive experiences that can provide a broad perspective of a particular culture. They endorse experiencing the entire spectrum ranging from street food to fine dining and speaking to local people at length about their unique food habits for the sake of authenticity. Each dish, each ingredient, each recipe holds a special place in every culture, food really is the threshold into a society and its heritage. And as Martina puts it,
What better place to talk to someone than at a table sharing food!
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