Eating the World
First published December 2016
You’ve finally worked it out. The trip of a lifetime that you’ve talked about and planned for with spectacular sightseeing and exotic destinations is finally on the calendar. Have you forgotten anything? What about a well-researched food itinerary?
Knowing something about the people you’ll visit, how they live, what they wear, and the language they speak is a significant part of a successful trip. So is knowing about the food. Why not take that experience further by cooking some recipes from the country you’re about to visit?
Planning ahead isn’t just about scoping out the famous sights you’ll visit. It is also about indulging in the pleasure of eating new cuisines. Researching recipes made with unfamiliar ingredients and learning the culinary customs of the cities, towns, and countries before you depart gives you a real advantage. Involving the entire family in the research makes kids feel part of the planning and goes a long way toward ensuring a rewarding vacation.
Eating the world at home before you depart gets you and your family ready to dig in once you arrive. Setting time aside in your travel planning for eating explorations will make sure you get to taste what local people eat. The looming question “what are my kids going to eat?” should be something to think about before you travel, not a last minute decision. Most kids have a yuck list of foods they say will never cross their lips. “Gross, no way am I touching that.” “I just want it plain.” “The potato touched my burger.” Or the famous “You know I hate that.”
Cooking and eating the foods of where you’re going to travel have the potential for a big pay-off. When your picky eaters recognize something on a menu you’ve prepared at home, they might just be willing to try it again because they already know what it is and like it. They might even have helped cook it! Another tip to consider is to put out, a few weeks before your departure, maps and guidebooks for the family to explore. Learn what fruits, spices, condiments, vegetables, meats, and seafood are served in local restaurants and sold in markets. What utensils are used to eat with and how? Everyone knows about chopsticks in China, but what about Thailand? There you usually eat your meals with a spoon, with the fork used to push food onto the spoon. Don’t ask for chopsticks there unless noodles are part of the dish you’ve ordered.
Traveling together is a perfect chance for families to get to know each other in a whole new way. Get everyone involved in making plans.
Learning a few basic phrases of the language — such as “Hello,” “Good morning,” “Thank you,” and even “Where is the bathroom?”— is a real plus. And you’re likely to win the hearts of restaurant and hotel staff when you use them. Make a surprise gift to your kids of a food diary they can use to record what they eat and their reactions to the dishes. A record of food photos will also be a very cool way to impress everyone upon returning home. Think about scheduling lunch or dinners at restaurants in parts of the city you’ll be close to on one of your sightseeing trips. “Here’s what we ate near the Eiffel Tower.” What about blogging food discoveries back to friends at home? I still remember sharing my first Belgian waffle with my sister and brothers at the New York World’s Fair (yes, I’m that old). Treasured family photos show all of us, faces covered with whipped cream, grinning ear to ear, loving our first taste of Belgium.
Here are three recipes from Thailand, Brazil, and Mexico for kids and their families. The regal Galloping Horses from Thailand combines sweet, spicy, and crunchy ingredients with Thai fish sauce for authentic flavor. Fresh Shrimp and Black-Eyed Pea Salad is bound to whet your appetite for the Portuguese-inspired cooking of Brazil. The much loved Picadillo, the ground meat filling for tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas, gives an authentic taste of Mexico.
As they would say in Thailand, “Churnrub prothan mak mak na kha” or “Make yourself at home and eat all you like.”