Meeting through Food

I love food. And I love traveling. One of my favorite parts of traveling is food. I know, this is a big shocker. But I truly believe that you get to know a culture, a people, in a way that is very intimate through their food. Like let’s just look at the United States. I can mention a part of the country and almost immediately a variety of food comes to mind. Or at least it does for me. Maybe I’m weird, but I know I am not alone.

For example, say Georgia and I think peaches. Say Mississippi and I think fish fry. Get broader and say the South, and I think biscuits and gravy or cornbread. Say Florida and I think oranges. Hawaii? Poi or pineapples. New York? Pizza. Yeah, I know that’s a betrayal of all things Chicago, but it’s what I think. When you say Chicago, I just think hot dog. Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the most amazing and varied food on the planet, but the hotdog is iconic. And whenever I’m heading home to Arkansas, I almost always think fried. Specifically, there are these fried burritos that they sell in gas stations. Yep, those are the healthy part of the trip.

And food is an adventure. I love trying new things. I genuinely will try any food once. I’m not saying I’ll love the experience, and I’ve had some gagging moments in my life, but I love to try new things. And I’m not one of those people that you need to let me try it before you tell me what it is. Tell me it’s the anus of some animal that’s been cleaned and coated in some crazy sauce. I’ll still give it a shot. I don’t know, that was kind of the only thing I could come up with off the top of my head that might get a gut reaction from most people. I don’t have said gut reactions. I’ll try it. Now, I’m not saying I’ll do it again if I hate it, but I’ll try it. And for a lot of things, I’ll try them again and again, sometimes in new preparations and sometimes just at different points in my life.

So when I travel, I love trying the food wherever I am. I am very unlikely on most trips to hit an Applebee’s or some other chain restaurant. I want to try the local mom-and-pop joint. Or I want to try the place that is known for the regional food. On a trip through Arizona and New Mexico, I had a lot of Mexican-American food, and I had some Native American food. In Colorado, I had elk. When I was in Belize, I had chicken and rice. I also broke out, as they use coconut in everything, but hey, it was good. I also had the tacos made by the little lady who sold them on the side of the road and I tried fry jacks.

When I went to Spain, I had paella. I also had seafood in Barcelona. And I ate the heck out of all kinds of preparations of Iberico pork. When I go to Italy in a few months, I plan to have some antipasto and probably quite a bit of seafood. No, I’m not historically a seafood fan, but I also haven’t spent a lot of time in an area where that is their specialty. I know that several years ago when I was in Seattle and ate halibut that was sold right on the pier, I had a very different reaction than I have when I ordered it in a landlocked area like Chicago.

And as I started out this diatribe, I believe that trying the local foods allows you to get to know the people who live there and eat those foods, and make those foods, in a way that nothing else can. This is especially true when you get off the beaten path, find a little place with someone who just loves cooking and order either the daily special or just put yourself in the hands of the chef. We did this while in Paris, and it never disappointed.

Oh, now I want to go travel. Or go find some pork jowl to recreate one of those dishes I tried in Spain.

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