Food and travel go together like the beach and sunshine.
It’s through food that we can get to know a place and its people on a deeper level. Seeing the way other people do the exact same thing that we do – cooking and eating – is a great way to expand our horizons. During my travels through Europe, what amazed me was not the exotic flavors and five-course meals, but the simplicity that is embraced with cooking.
I was fortunate enough to be invited into many people’s homes and experience how locals prepared their food. Most people’s kitchens had less gizmos and gadgets; spice racks had only a couple of herbs; there were only a few fresh vegetables on the counter; and refrigerators were a quarter full. Despite the lack of complexity, the food was incredible. Each ingredient was carefully selected. There was no excess lying around. A separate pantry for preserved foods wasn’t necessary. Markets sold what was in season – not foods shipped from halfway around the world.
By keeping less food in the house, people made more frequent trips to the market. Regular trips to the market allowed them to always have fresh produce and meat on hand, rather than stockpiling large quantities of packaged foods.
There was a distinct difference in the quality of flavors and liveliness of foods because everything was fresh. And, when it comes to health, there is no question that the quality of food that we ingest will have a direct effect on our quality of health.
Witnessing other the cooking styles of other cultures and people broadened my perspective. Back at home, I had grown accustomed to some of my own habits and, while aboad, used other people’s habits as a way of challenging my own. The simplicity I experienced in other people’s kitchens seemed like a great model for my own. I borrowed some of the philosophy that circled around clean eating and mindful food choices.
All around our own country farmer’s markets have been sprouting up in smaller communities. And many people are tired of hearing the negativity associated with the preservatives and additives in our food. A great way around this is to shop more locally and prepare our own food. Pockets of our society are reclaiming their independence and appreciating the labor of love in growing their own produce. There’s a fine line between the modern convenience of fast foods and the price we pay later – with our health.
A common excuse in our culture is that there simply is not enough time to cook. It’s undeniable that preparing your own fresh dishes demands more time.
Rather than trying to compete with time, I had to shift my perspective on how I shop, cook and eat. Change is always a process of small changes adding up to a larger one. Little by little I carved out more time in my schedule for learning new recipes, and I started preparing fresh food for the coming week. After spending time cooking with other cultures, as well as my own family, it seems that – more than anything – it’s our attitude toward food that is the most important.
Peter Stadalsky is an Aurora resident and adventurer. He shares his travel experiences with a “glass-half-full” view of the world.