When You Can’t Travel—Eat.
Here’s some food for thought. As someone who has spent a good chunk of my life travelling or living in different places, I often grapple with my relatively “settled” current state of life. Any traveller knows that the time in between trips can be the most difficult, and for me this is certainly true, especially if I’m unsure of when or where exactly my next adventure might be.
Fortunately for me (and many others), I’ve come to understand one delectable way to subdue my travel itch. In times of wanderlust, I turn to food.
Food as Nostalgia
Earlier this year on Anew, we shared a fantastic article written by a guest contributor who shared how he was able to transport himself back to his home country (Italy) through the simple experience of drinking a glass of wine from the region he grew up in. This trick is as easily performed with food—especially those dishes that hold a significant tie to a specific travel memory.
The food that lets you relive your travel experiences varies for each person, based of course on the places you’ve travelled to and the things that you’ve tasted. For me, there are several foods I turn to to indulge my nostalgia. Here are just a few:
France was the first country I travelled to outside North America, and I can still vividly remember my eagerness to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly could. While I was fortunate enough to have tasted many delicious treats and dishes on this first trip abroad, it is pistachio macarons that I always come back to. As an occasional treat, I’ll stop at a local pastry shop and buy a single macaron—it’s enough to take me back to that trip, the one that first ignited my passion for travel.
One of my favourite trips was a week spent in Morocco. I was fortunate enough to stay with a friend’s family in Casablanca, where their fantastic cook introduced me to foods I had never heard of. While I don’t think anything could possibly compare, when the dreary Toronto weather has me down, I eat a delicious bowl of couscous (with my hands of course) and get transported back to hot, exotic Casablanca.
Rice and Beans
It doesn’t sound like much, rice and beans. But for me, this was what I basically lived off for the three months I spent in Tanzania. I’ve come to respect it as the ultimate comfort food, one that fills me up and gives the same warm, comforting sensation in my belly that it did when I was half a world away.
I must have seen it in a movie first—I’m not sure. All I know is that the moment I arrived in Rome, the first thing I wanted to do was order a cappuccino from a tall, crowded counter. I’ll never forget the rich frothiness of the foam followed by a silky espresso bursting with flavour. While there’s far less yelling in a coffee shop in Toronto, the similar taste and aroma of the classic cappuccino transport me back to the busy streets of Rome.
Food as Exploration
Recently, I had the fortune of attending a tasting offered by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. It was a cheese tasting, showcasing the best of Canada’s delicious, oft-overlooked cheeses. At the beginning of the session, the host shared a story with the group about a cheese-maker she had visited in rural Quebec. This specific artisan not only crafted the cheese awarded the Grand Prix for 2015, he was meticulous in his craft, also running the farm where the cheese’s milk was harvested to ensure that every step in the process of cheese-making was absolute perfection. In explaining the unique qualities of the cheese, the host spoke to the notion of terroir, one we usually associate with wine. She argued that much like wine, the taste of a cheese speaks to the region it hails from; the cows graze on the fertile soil of the land, their milk is characterized by their diet and exercise, which in turn shapes the notes of flavour and aroma that result in the cheese.
I share this story to illustrate just how food let’s one explore. Simply through taste, we are transported to an ingredient’s origins. Whether it be a banana from Ecuador, a brie cheese from France, an olive oil from Spain—each time we eat these foods, we get a glimpse of the unique surroundings in which it was made. In a globalized world where the food we consume each day comes from near and far, I try now to make myself conscious of the terroir that I have the opportunity to explore through eating.
Food as Inspiration
Living in a large, multicultural city like Toronto, I’m fortunate enough to have access to cuisines from all over the world. While my travel bucket list continues to grow, in the meantime, I can give myself a taste of what these destinations have to offer by experiencing one of their best cultural commodities: food.
I’ll give you an example. Though I’ve never been to India, Indian cuisine is one of my absolute favourites. The exotic spices lead to intoxicating aromas and dishes that can only be described as absolutely delicious. While it’s likely that the Indian food I have access to is served with Canadian tastes in mind, at the very least it offers me a glimpse of a place and the inspiration to one day visit it.
For those with access to a multitude of cuisine through their local restaurant scene, I encourage you to taste as much as you can to inspire future travels. However, this isn’t the only way to gain inspiration. Cooking recipes from far-away lands is another great way to not only to learn about new flavours and techniques, but also to explore the world from the comfort of home.
Food as Travel
While the opportunity for travel is not always there, and the stints in between trips can be challenging, I’ve found the best way to feed my globe-trotting ambitions is through food. Whether the goal is to revisit trips past, explore new regions, or gain inspiration for future travels, food is the wonderfully delicious catalyst that can appease worldly desires.
Have a food memory or tip to share? Please do so in the comments below!