When I think back over the years, I can clearly see how my love for food has developed. I didn’t used to be adventurous with trying new dishes or get so much joy from trying different foods, but now I do.
I guess that’s one of the side effects of travel.
You can experience a new culture through its food, and learn so much about it. You begin to learn the care that went into creating a meal, and you gain new appreciation for the different tastes and textures you try. Perhaps it’s a simple cup of freshly brewed mint tea, or an intricate three-course meal, but, whatever it is, you begin to understand that every dish has a story behind it.
Food as an expression of cultural identity
Food operates as an expression of cultural identity. It has an importance in preserving this identity.
For example, traditional cuisine is passed down from generation to generation. It can act as a way of preserving that culture, even when someone moves to a new place completely foreign to them.
Life comes through the food.Turkish proverb
Food and society
Food shapes society and it can also tell us a lot about a society’s past or present.
Take, for example: tea! The different ways in which it is drank says something about each culture.
- Afternoon tea (UK): a custom originating among the wealthy social classes in England in the mid 1800s.
- Tea ceremonies (East Asia): a ritualized form of making tea that involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea.
- Turkish çay (Turkey): tea is drank for socializing.
Iranian cuisine can be used as another example.
The scope of Persian food is quite broad; however, when you look at the map and see where Iran is situated, this becomes easier to understand. Since Iran neighbours many countries, it is influenced by them.
Furthermore, owing to the fact that it was a central place on the Silk Road trade route, it had close ties with Europe. And due to the years of invasion, it also assimilated what outsiders brought in.
The history of the world is on your plate, all food is the expression of a long struggle and a long story.Anthony Bourdain (2018)
No matter which country you are visiting, it is always important to respect a culture’s cuisine and eating habits. In this way, we can benefit from learning about the beauty behind different cultures around the world. It’s though this understanding and respect that our global community can grow and flourish.
Finding the best places to eat
If you’re not familiar with a place, how do you find the best places to eat?
1. Leave it to chance
Sometimes the best finds come from pure chance and luck. Give exploring a try and see what you stumble across. Maybe you’ll find a restaurant in a hidden corner that specializes in a certain dish. Give it a shot!
2. Busy is key!
If you see that a restaurant is busy during meal times, chances are that it’s a good place to eat at. If you’re looking to find where the locals eat, take a peek inside and see who’s eating. Is it tourists? Or is it the locals? If it’s the latter, then you’re at the right place.
3. Word of mouth
Don’t be shy and ask the locals where they would recommend for you to eat. Most people are more than willing to tell you about their favourite nook to eat at. They are proud to be living where they are and they are happy to share it with you.
4. Google maps
If you have access to internet, a quick and easy way to find a great place to eat is by using google maps.
As demonstrated below, open the app and tap on the “Restaurants” icon:
Then, specialize your search to what you are looking for. Is it for top-rated restaurants? Are you sorting by distance?
Make sure to also look through the reviews. And take a peek at the photos!
Over my last few trips, I have experienced many memorable meals. Each has been unique. And each has been absolutely delicious.
Here are a few below:
A warm bowl of Doenjang Jjigae (된장찌개; soybean paste soup) and black rice was exactly what was needed after a cold and windy afternoon of walking around Seoul.
My body was cold, but the soup warmed it up from within. The banchan (반찬; side dishes) which came with the meal added flavour and variety to the meal. The spinach was nicely salted and spiced, and the soy braised soy beans were sweet, but the blandness of the yellow bean sprouts brought the two different tastes together.
After visiting the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, we sat down for an authentic Turkish meal. The menu was brought to us and the multitude of options made it difficult to narrow down what we wanted to try. It’s at moments like this where I wish I had three stomachs… and maybe three wallets.
We ended up getting a Mediterranean salad unique to Turkey. The taste of the vegetables was nicely contrasted with the acidic, yet sweet taste of the orange pieces placed throughout. The sprinkled soft feta cheese acted as a palate cleanser and brought out the taste of each bite.
The mixed kebabs (karışık kebap) was also a feast for our taste buds. Each piece of meat was made in a different way. Some were soft, others were tough, and some were spicy. The dolma (stuffed vine leaves) made a great pairing with the main dish, as it had a hint of sourness from the leaves, helping cut through the heaviness of the meat.
After walking through the roads of the Old City of Akko, we happened across a traditional Israeli restaurant. With our order of chicken shawarma (שווארמה), hummus (חומוס) and falafels (פלאפל), we were given side dishes to complement our meal. The shredded pickled cabbage and carrot, baba ganoush, pickled baby eggplants, and pita bread paired nicely with the main dishes.
What do pork schnitzel, Tafelspitz, tomato salad, and potato salad all have in common? A cozy and soul-warming taste!
As we ate through the meal, we all agreed that the food gave us a sense of comfort. The Tafelspitz especially, with its blend of herbs, vegetables, and beef, felt as though it had been made to help someone be cheered up after a difficult day. Each bite made you want to smile.
Although we hadn’t had enough sleep the night before, it was worth getting up early to go for breakfast. These pancakes were not sweet, yet the tart jam and the fruits gave them the hint of sweetness that they needed. Paired with a delicious cappuccino, this breakfast will be one for the books.
What memorable foods have you eaten while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!