Foods I’ve Learned to Love Through Travel

I’ve written before on vegetarian travel. It can be pretty difficult if you’re trying to sample the local cuisine… and sometimes even when you’ve given up trying to be authentic and just want something because you’re starving. There are, though, some foods I’ve learned to love, or at least like a lot more, when traveling. Because to me the food experience is an essential part of the overall travel experience, I thought I’d share.

1. Eggplant – in certain forms. I used to strongly dislike eggplant. But a few years back I took a trip to Europe in November, and eggplant seemed to be one of only two vegetables in season in Europe – the other one being mushrooms, which I still pretty much despise. So I think I probably ate eggplant in every form over the course of those two weeks. I discovered that I liked it in camponata (if made without the anchovies), parmasean, rolled and stuffed with ricotta, very thinly sliced and grilled. I still don’t like big chunks of it if not really “prepared”. i.e I don’t just like baked eggplant. But my eggplant tastes have come a long way and now I officially order it on a menu over other things!

2. Bibimbap. What the *%&# is that, you say? Well, I’ll be honest – I said the same thing. It’s a Korean dish that involves a large variety of vegetables, many of which I don’t recognize, put in a sizzling pan with a raw egg and red chili paste. You then mix it all up and in doing so, the egg cooks in with the vegetables and the chili paste. I know it sounds really odd and probably kind of gross. It is, at least at first, really odd. It’s not gross. Meat or tofu can be put into the dish as well, but I mainly had the vegetable and egg version, though perhaps I had tofu in there once or twice. To be truthful, when it’s all mixed up, it’s kind of tough to tell. Since this clearly requires a visual for full effect, here’s the wiki link.

3. Falafel. Falafel is one of my favorite foods in the world. I’ve now had it when not traveling, and may have prior to lots of travel, but travel helped me get to the love affair I have with it today. Though middle eastern by origin, it’s a food that seems to be found just about everywhere these days. It’s a great way to spice up my vegetarian diet when traveling abroad, as I will admit to often being limited to steamed vegetables and some form of bread, cheese, and potatoes.

4. Red wine. Ok, so it’s not that I can’t find wine here, obviously, and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy a glass here or there before. But it wasn’t until I began traveling to countries notorious for their wines that I really started to appreciate it. There’s a big difference between trying something once in a while and appreciating it. My travels to Italy, Argentina, France, Spain, and South Africa have helped me to differentiate between different types of wines (ie a Malbec as opposed to a Pinotage) and different wine regions throughout the world. Now when I buy or order wine, I often try to get something I’ve learned about from my wine tours in another country.

5. Tofu. You’d think tofu is rather standard for a vegetarian. However, tofu if done well is quite delicious, and tofu if done not-so-well tastes like eating your shoe. My meals in Asia have involved a considerable amount of tofu. After having it done well, and used as intended as opposed to just slopped in place of meat to make a dish vegetarian, I now seek out tofu dishes. Sometimes it still tastes like my shoe, but I’ve gotten more discerning about where and when to order it, and my chances of getting something tasty with tofu seem to have increased as a result.

I’m sad to say, mushrooms haven’t made the list. I still hate them. I did once have them mashed up very tiny with cheese and shaped into a little fried ball, which I actually enjoyed. But I enjoyed it because you couldn’t taste the mushroom and basically it tasted like fried cheese. I’m going to keep trying. I’ll rejoice the day that I decide mushrooms don’t disgust me. Until then, I’ll focus on the eggplant, tofu, and other elements I’ve learned to love while traveling. And of course, the red wine.


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