My focus on food has been intense the past couple of months and while it’s been a very fulfilling experience (literally and figuratively), I’ve been feeling that something was missing. This morning I realized what. Travel. I’m a travel-a-holic and since July I’ve been posting here with not a word about travel. So I decided to revisit my very first internet post from April 2006, which melded my passion for food and travel in a Meandering Meal narrative. It took a while to track down because I had lost it somewhere in the blogosphere.
In the 3 years since I wrote the piece that follows I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Thailand, Italy, Spain, Greece, Toronto, New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Puerto Rico and NY (several times each)…so you don’t have to throw a ‘pity party’ for me. But, boo-hoo, like many others, I’m running scared about finances and the only traveling I’m projecting for the near term is between my computer and the kitchen! Did I say boo-hoo?
[Reprint: April 2006]
My fingers quake as I lay them on the keyboard to begin this new journey, perhaps the strangest trip I’ve ever taken…entering Blogville. For almost 25 years, I’ve been fortunate to have 3 passions crisscross my life, both personally and professionally: food, travel, and publishing. Another pursuit I’ve enjoyed is photography (let’s call this passion #4). My photography is not the kind with F stops, tripods and special wide-angle lens but, rather, an amateur ‘point & shoot’ method which has yielded some surprisingly good results; a few even hang on my walls. While food and travel still occupy the lion’s share of my recreational thought process, the publishing aspect had begun to slip away. Enter BLOGVILLE, a cyberspace destination I’d yet to explore. Why not create an online food and travel journal? It seemed like the ideal pursuit to meld my 4 passions into a new vehicle for my enjoyment … and maybe yours. Perhaps you’ll continue on this journey with me?
A Gastronomic Stroll Down Memory Lane
Many memorable meals were tasted along the way but, unfortunately, not recorded.
• I’m thinking about Risotto Nero in a little restaurant in Venice with my sister and mom where the chef was literally dragged out of the kitchen when Mary told the waiter in a very offhanded manner ‘my compliments to the chef’. (Apparently, that’s something you get to do personally.)
• With a heavy heart, I remember the dichotomy of food supply I experienced in Cuba from the predominantly rationed portions in government restaurants (the only place tourists were supposed to eat and where you were lucky to get a spoonful of frijoles to accompany the rice) to the high cuisine and Nuevo Latino dishes of a paladar (private residence) where we secretly dined one night.
• I don’t need a photo to remember downing tequila the real way (lime and salt off my thumb and pointer finger) with grilled meats wrapped in tortilla at a plaza in Mexico City while Mariachis played in the foreground.
• The fabulous barbecue meats of Brazil and Argentina and my first experience at a rodizio (all-U-can-eat BBQ with a football field of ‘salad bar’ offerings) are definite standouts in my memory food bank … as is the looming and impressive Christ figure on the top of the mountain as you fly into Rio by night.
• Lubino al Sal (a whole fish heavily encrusted in salt and baked) was a wonderful, juicy, non-salty surprise when first tasted at an outdoor restaurant in Malaga, Spain many years go.
• I’ve spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico and certainly found many meals ‘muy bueno’, high among them the rich asopaos made with shrimp or chicken that I remember from my early visits to the Island. A squeeze of lime and sliced fresh avocado takes it right over the top. Anyone who knows the real PR has visited at least one of the roadside foodstands in Piñones where you are greeted by wafts of alcapurria (mashed, stuffed and fried plantains) and bacalitos (cod fish fritters). You wash these down with an iced cold beer or coconut water sipped right from the shell. More recently, I was treated to the sights, smells and sounds of La Ruta de Los Lechones, a colorful stretch of mountain road in Guavate. Here one can spend a wonderful afternoon feasting on roast pig right off the spit with all its typical accompaniments and dance away the calories to the undeniably happy sounds of live salsa bands.
• In Tuscany, a farmhouse in the rolling hills of San Gmignano was the setting for a wine-tasting and a wonderful home-cooked meal; at the main hall of a castle in Chianti, we tasted wine and ate crusts of just baked Italian bread served with salamis, olives and artisanal cheeses.
• We seemed to have mouled (ate mussels) our way through France. They were so good and so hard to resist. At La Pied Cochon I had the best onion soup, escargots and cod over a potato puree in a very Parisian atmosphere…and then took a night boat ride on the River Seine. Ooh la la.
• A must stop in downtown Santiago, Chile is lunch at Donde Agosto in the bustling and colorful Mercado Central. On the road to the wineries, I loved our stop at the wisteria-laden “Los Hornitos” where we were greeted with a welcome drink and empanadas made from meats cooked in the outdoor ovens.
• And, of course, who has ever gone to the beautiful and fragrant valleys of Napa and Sonoma and not enjoyed themselves? Tasting, tasting, and more tasting!
• Lastly, I’ve been presented with a few strange dishes in my travels…an appetizer of lamb testicles in the House of Morande in the Casablanca Valley outside of Santiago (but with a glass of wine and that beautiful setting overlooking the vineyards, who cared?); a Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac of bull’s balls served at Cafe San Martin in NYC. (I know it’s suspiciously starting to look like a theme here, but that’s the end of that category, promise).
• Grasshoppers are a delicacy in Oaxaca, MX and I’ve conveniently blocked my memory as to whether or not I tried them when they were presented at a folkloric buffet I attended. I’m thinking I did…and I’m thinking salty.
Postscript: I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane and while there are only a few photos and most were taken way back before digital cameras, they’re authentic. This post has left me wanting…wanting to make a project of finding old photos and travel journals, wanting to update it with memories from the great trips I took over the past 3 years…and, more importantly, wanting to go out and create new ones!
NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for.
A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!