My dream come true would be to have the means to travel the world and explore the various worlds of food that are out there. Thus, combining two of my favorite things in the world. Food thrills and revives me, when done properly. My world revolves around food, beyond the simple need to consume it in order to live. Mixing flavors is fascinating and the biggest part of cooking for me. My friend recently had a drink that was made with both avocado and taro. I was immediately intrigued–though confused–and surprised by how surprisingly refreshing the combination was! Travel excites and inspires me; how could it not? Travel allows a person to explore whole new worlds, values and people. I have learned so much every time I have stepped onto a plane, bus or car. Even a simply subway ride opens my eyes and continually draws my interest in so many different directions!
My main questions for exploration are: How is it that one ingredient can be used in so many different ways? How is it that one ingredient can taste so differently from one dish to another? What makes a dish represent a culture? And, of course, a necessary part of this exploration would be the chance to attempt to learn how to cook whatever dish catches my fancy.
I would start abroad, if I ever got the chance, so that after forever eating foreign foods, I could satisfy the inevitable craving I would have to eat something familiar. I am undecided as to whether or not I would try the most popular dish of whatever culture I am in. While it is the most popular dish and therefore an integral part of the culture, it could be the dish with the most variation in the type of ingredients used. Gumbo is not the same for every family. A hamburger can be made in so many different ways! A classic roasted chicken or classic stew can have different flavors based upon one herb. And who knows what else is out there. Even the length of time a dish takes to cook can alter the flavors, texture, color, etc.
Another thing is that I would avoid major cities. The culture of New York City or London don’t really lead to an accurate representation of a specific food culture. I could hardly find the best restaurant according to locals in a city that is its own entity. Thus, I would choose smaller locations. Probably towns of a medium size so there is a higher chance of economic diversity. Who wants to explore the rich man’s world of food and miss completely the common man’s world? My wallet certainly does not.
My hypothetical plan would be to stay in a town and eventually explore the local favorite restaurants. There have to be some that simply are the best. Just as there is a specific deli in my hometown or a specific taco place in my birth place, there must a specific eatery that locals have cravings for. And that would be my destination. And just as there’s a special place, there’s a special dish. This dish would be the start of my exploration of this culture and what food means. What ingredients are used? Why? How? What is the texture and flavor like? How does this culture present their dish? Is the food generally of one color?
And my venture into this specific dish and culture would, hopefully, end with a cooking lesson. Or at least a recipe. My mother loved to try new recipes and explore the foods of other cultures when I was growing up. It was fantastic and very likely the base of this dream. What would be the point of traveling around the world and eating so many different dishes if you could never recreate the dish and transport yourself back into the sensory memory? It’s always great reliving the first time some amazing explosion of flavors and textures occurred within your mouth.
I am beginning to compile a list of places I want to travel to and the related dish I want to explore. So far I want to explore the world of barbeque–dry rub vs marination, sauces, meats, etc.–and I, personally, believe that Texas is the place to go for that. I also want to explore the world of gumbo but that’s simply because I’ve never had it. I want to explore the world of spicy dishes in Sichuan province in China and South America. I want to explore the world of meat in Germany and Ethiopia. But I only have vague impressions of many of these regions.
If there’s a dish that simply represents a region, country or culture to you, let me know! I would love to add it to my list.
I have since learned that there is a fellowship, the Watson, that allows the fellow to travel in the pursuit of knowledge. It’s an awfully tempting idea…