It is impossible to travel and not be changed. For me, more than anything else, travel has affected my diet. A look through my kitchen will reveal foods, such as wonton wrappers, Greek yogurt, and oyster sauce, that I’d probably not be eating had I never traveled overseas. Here are 12 examples of how travel has changed what I eat.
1. Black Beans – Guatemala
I realize this isn’t very exotic, but the humble black bean is the food I consume the most as a result of travel. I started eating these when I did a two-month homestay in Guatemala and now I eat them all the time in chili, as a side dish, or simply with tortillas. Black beans are cheap, filling, delicious, and high in fiber.
I. Love. Black. Beans.
2. Wine – Argentina
Before visiting the wine country of Argentina, I think I only drank wine once. I remember choking down a few glasses of cheap jug wine, getting used to the taste and making the following declaration: “This is like juice!” I then proceeded to drink several more cups.
The next day, my brain seemingly had a pickaxe lodged inside and everything was so bright, so very bright. I swore to never drink it again.
In the wine country I got to sample a number of wines and learned what I liked. I really enjoyed the Malbecs of Argentina, especially with a giant steak.
3. Dumplings – China
Chinese dumplings might be my favorite food. Also known as pot stickers or wontons, they can come fried or steamed with a variety of fillings. I make pork and shrimp dumplings at home, with ginger, garlic and onion. It is simple and awesome, especially served with Sriracha and soy sauce.
4. Pad Thai – Thailand
A dish consisting of eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, onions, peanuts and noodles doesn’t sound appealing and I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with the dish had I not gone to Thailand. Now Pad Thai is one of my favorite foods. I only wish I could get it more often!
I’ve made it on my own successfully a few times. I’ve also failed dramatically making it on my own a few times.
5. Falafels – The Middle East
The falafel is the cool kid of vegetarian sandwiches. It loudly declares: I DON’T NEED MEAT TO BE EXCITING! Once I started eating falafels in the Middle East, I couldn’t stop. Many days I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I now make a bastardized version of the falafel at home that would make my Jewish Grandma (If I had a Jewish Grandma) cringe, but I really like it.
6. Greek Yogurt w/Honey – Greece
Greek Yogurt = tangy and weird
Greek Yogurt + Honey = pretty much the most awesome thing in the world
7. Tea – The Middle East and India
All across the Middle East they serve tea with mint and a dump truck load of sugar. Known as Bedioun tea, Moroccan Tea, Jordanian Tea, Egyptian tea (depending on where you are) it all seems pretty much the same to me, and it is pretty much awesome.
In India I started drinking Masala Chai – the milky, spicy and sweet tea that is ubiquitous on the subcontinent. There is nothing better than having a cup of chai after a spicy meal.
8. Human Flesh – Papua New Guinea
Hanging out with the headhunter tribes of Papua New Guinea, I developed a taste for human flesh. I am currently eating a guy named Fred who answered a Craigslist ad. I’ve almost finished him off and need another.
If you can answer yes to the following questions, let’s meet for coffee.
- I am between 15-40 years old
- I am between 10-30 pounds overweight
- No one would describe me as sinewy
- I could be described as “well-marbled“
- I am a non-smoker.
9. Key Lime Pie – Florida Keys
Key Lime Pie is my favorite desert (after milk and cookies) and I am sure I’d have never tried it if I hadn’t lived in the Keys for two winters.
10. Green Olives – The Middle East and Greece
Eaten as a snack and appetizer, I picked up a love for the ubiquitous green olive in the Mediterranean.
11. Weird Indian Food – India
In India, I learned to put whatever was on my plate into my face hole despite the looks of it and I was (almost) never disappointed. Unlike China, you don’t have to worry about eating an endangered animal – or worse, a reptile – since the food is vegetarian.
Take Palak Paneer for example. It looks like something that escaped from a baby’s diaper, but it is absolutely delicious. I am quite sure I’d have never ordered that from Bombay Palace restaurant in a strip mall in Texas.
12. Fried Rice – Thailand
Many years ago I took a cooking class in Thailand and the one dish that I make really well from that experience is fried rice. I hate to brag, but my fried rice is better than any you’ve ever had, with lots of broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and cashews. In fact, I just made some.
Excuse me, but I need to eat this:
How has travel influenced your diet?
What are your favorite international cuisines?