I was sitting and thinking earlier today, which I have been told is a dangerous thing, and my mind wandered into the realm of food. From a cultural perspective though, not in a “oh heavenly oyster buds I will die without that piece of chocolate cheesecake” sort of way. I blame Stephan Fry.
What I was actually thinking about, in a more specific light, was how food changes from place to place, and why that is half the experience of travelling new places. And I don’t mean going to your crazy aunt’s house where they don’t have sugar or only eat food that has died in a peaceful and natural way. What I mean is, yes…what is on my plate looks very much like a lasagna, and I am fully expecting it to taste like lasagna. When in actual fact it tastes absolutely nothing like lasagna, and is more like lasagna’s slightly handicapped, cold Greek cousin who’s got it all wrong in the ‘trying to be like lasagna’ department. Then continue to choke it down with a smile.
It was then, at 17, that I understood how travelling is very much an all encompassing sensory experience, and not just for the eyes.
It isn’t all about the bad though…and there is always the option to avoid putting it in your mouth if it looks questionable, but who would want to do that. Like I said, it’s all about the full sensory experience, good and bad tastes alike.
“This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.” -Richard, the Beach, 2000.
There are so many more pleasant examples I have come across throughout my travels. The tomato and basil salad I had in Arachova for example, the first coffee off the plane in London or chicken soup with ducks in Hove, but it’s generally the bad, jarring experiences that root themselves in the mind for future review.
I now know why so many travel writers and documenters leap head first into the gastronomic realm in different countries. It’s such a way to put a distinct and unique mark on an experience. It’s a way to classify and categorize the adventures we all have, and is a strangely personal experience. You can show your family back home a photo of something that has really moved you, but you will almost certainly, completely and utterly fail in describing exactly how that greasy overcooked sausage in Shrewsbury tasted, and they will never understand why that small detail is so important to the rest of the experience.
This reality also helps you appreciate what you’ve got at home, how that cliche’ maple syrup phenomenon may seem silly to us here in Canada now, but just wait till you’re in Cuba and you’ve got a hot stack of pancakes ready for munching, and there’s no real syrup to be found. Only to see a strange version viscous of corn syrup on the table for you to dribble on top.
(I would also like to do a quick shout out to the wonderful Canadian family we met in Cuba who left us a bottle of our maple-y goodness once they left. It greatly improved our morning pancakes.)
So this is the world, and to travel it is to enjoy and endure all of it. It is at times painfully beautiful and at others pleasantly unsightly, and I just can’t wait to get back at it again.
Miss Hailey Jane