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Taste of travel

What does travel taste like? That’s an odd way to begin a post. Many of my travels have included a very important piece of preparation — researching unique places to eat. I’m sure there are others like me — many people probably do the same tedious exercise of looking online for travelers tales of discovering something tasty and refreshing, of reading through guidebooks and noting the recommendations, then doing cross-comparisons with other recommendations. That’s what I do.  Another thing that I do takes place after I return home. In my previous post I wrote about how I preserve my travel memories through various visual and auditory reminders. In this post I’m focusing on the tasty and yummy….  I find that the best way to recall my travels and to share it with others to relive the experience associated with trying new and unusual foods. After coming back from Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example, I felt compelled to gather my friends at my apartment and introduce them to the Chinese tea ceremony. Various teas packaged in tin cans with writing entirely in swirling Chinese characters, tiny tea cups, tea pots with boiling water, and even the  Lucky Money Toad, Chan Chu, all made a lasting impression on everyone who came that night. Granted, my Chinese tea ceremony was very amateur, to say the least. I was adding my own twist to what is, in reality, an ancient, elaborate, and complex custom. Yet it sparked some curiously in my friends and allowed me to prolong my travels. Mission accomplished! 

Taipei’s night market is a tasting heaven © Ilya Katz

I had always found corn to be yummy but since visiting Peru I’ve rediscovered just how much I really love it. The large, round, toasted kernels taste even better if they are complemented with chicha — “corn beer”. As much as I like to experiment, I don’t think I could have a beer brewing ceremony at home. I sometimes find it difficult to reproduce what I’ve tasted abroad.  When the cost and effort of trying to reproduce a meal I had abroad is too much, that is when I become hugely grateful that I live in the large, multicultural, great city of New York. So I headed out with a friend to West Village in search of Peruvian corn. My reward was nourishment in the form of cancha — toasted corn common in Peru. Naturally, when I finished my first bowl I asked for another. As I munched into the tastiness, in my mind I traveled back to South America, to Cuzco, imagining myself adjusting to the altitude by drinking coca tea (tea made from the coca plant which you certainly can’t find over the counter in the US of A, sorry, something about not allowing it over the boarder).

Peruvian corn is a mixture of colors and a tease for corn lovers © Jenny Mealing  

My association of food with emotions and special occasions is so strong that if I merely hear of an authentic restaurant featuring ethnic cuisine from somewhere I’ve visited before, for a moment I travel back south or east to a place far from home but close to my heart. Do you have a favorite way to relive tastes of traveling? I’d be curious to read your comments.

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