It is no secret to those who know me, even slightly, that I love to eat.
I can talk endlessly about each crunch, lick, and chew. Often to the annoyance of others.
Lunch swirls in my head when breakfast has only touched my tongue.
No meal, snack, or taste escapes my memory.
The tender yellow curry chicken with apple sultana chutney and piquant cucumber relish I fell in love with after much protest with my father against trying Thai cuisine. I was 10.
Fresh figs, mozzarella, and prosciutto gracing my palate for the first time as a teenager in New York City. The soft pulp and crispy seeds mingling with salty savory chews of meat and velvety bites of cheese.
Just yesterday I recanted to my roommate and darling, Nena, a meal an ex boyfriend cooked for me three years ago. Pureed butternut squash with a perfectly seared scallop, savory roasted thyme chanterelles, and crispy shallots with a frisee salad in a tangy egg yolk sherry vinaigrette.In case you were interested.
It would be fair to call it an obsession.
So, naturally, when I travel, tasting new foods, the best foods, the most authentic foods, is of the utmost importance.
However, food for me is more than just taste. It is nourishment. It is energy to conquer the day, comfort to curl up at night. It offers insights to cultures. It makes memories more vivid.
In fact, I view eating the same way I view travel: A balancing act between health, decadence, and discovery.
My method is as follows:
1. I eat authentically whenever possible
After eating bland food my first day in the mountain village of Chefchaouen, Morocco, I asked a local if he made tagine.
That night my friends and I feasted on fork tender chicken covered in lemon halves, butter soft onions, and briny olives, spicy cumin meatballs draped in a comforting tomato sauce, warm homemade bread, roasted peppers dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic, fruit salad piled high in a hollowed out watermelon, freshly brewed mint tea, and buttery flaky pastries.
The entire meal cost us each less than ten dollars.
On the streets of Fez during Ramadan, some teenagers called me over just as the sun set behind the hills.
We shared a traditional Moroccan breakfast of harira, think Moroccan minestrone, baghrir, delicious little pancakes filled with air bubbles and covered in honey, hardboiled eggs with salt and cumin, and homemade bread.
A beautiful moment I will remember forever.
In the coastal town of Essaouira I followed the locals into the souk where I found fish caught minutes before.
Deliciously soft bread, barrels of olives in every color of the rainbow, and vegetables still covered in soil came next.
I took my precious cargo to the nearby “restaurant” where men throw your fish on the grill, assemble your salad, and bring it up to the terrace. Men sat all around me devouring piles of sardines, throwing each cleaned carcass on the ground.
I will never forget the succulent white flesh flaked by each fingerful of bread meeting my mouth. A salty olive occasionally making its way into a bite.
2. When I reach my breaking point I find the hippie havens
No, I do not prefer three spoonfuls of sugar in each cup of tea.
Bread with every meal is hardly my idea of nutrition.
Ahem, hey guys, ever heard of a vegetable?
In these moments I rely on the ex pats to give me just what this American girl needs:
After indulging in platefuls of al pastor tacos in Mexico, the sauciest falling apart pork I have ever tasted graced with a slice of soft caramelized pineapple, and bowlfuls of rich and creamy seafood coconut curry in Belize, my darling Andie and I were desperate for the crunch and clean of a raw salad. We beelined it for the nearest gringo cafe.
When, in Portugal, I simply couldn’t eat another bite of salt cod gratin, sink my teeth into the creamy custard of one more pasteis, nor indulge in a prawn drenched in spicy garlic butter, I sashayed my widening caboose to the farmer’s market and ate platefuls of fruit and vegetables for two days.
Here in Costa Rica, La Botanica Organica is my respite from coconut rice and beans, stewed savory meat, and crispy fried plantains. There, I detox with bee pollen and spirulina smoothies, hemp seed covered raw salads, and big bowls of fresh fruit.
3. And I always, always make sure to treat myself.
A four course authentic Italian feast in the jungle in Costa Rica for my birthday.
Creme brulee gelato in Seville to keep me company while I wandered the deserted streets alone on a Sunday.
A life changing bite of a Laduree vanilla macaroon in Central Park, just because I needed to smile.
How do you like to eat when traveling?