I live to eat! If you ask me, what kind of foodie are you? My reply would be – a curious gastronaut. From street foods to Michelin star restaurants, I love to explore food in all its essence. I am open to all cuisines and when I travel, I eat local. From source to table, I want to know it all. I have wandered in local food markets, restaurant kitchens and even got invited to the kitchen of a 90 year old Japanese grandmother, who showed me the makings of a traditional kaiseki meal! As travelers, we owe it to ourselves, to forgo our native cuisines and urge for fast food and immerse ourselves in the local traditions and customs of the country we visit.
I grew up in a ‘culinary centric’ Catholic Goan home and for most who have heard of this little jewel of a state in India, Goa, with his beautiful beaches, lush hinterland and Portuguese architecture, you would know that, 450 years of colonization by the Portuguese has left us with a rich Indo Portuguese influenced heritage, customs and cuisine. My favorite place as a child, was my kitchen. Safely perched atop the kitchen counter with a ‘tasting spoon’, I watched my grandmom and mom dish out lip smacking delicacies accompanied by stories of how a dish got its name or came into being. I was exposed to various techniques of traditional cooking – from smoking fish in hay to cooking on woodfire to grinding traditional masalas on stone with fresh herbs from the garden!
As continents merged or demerged, countries were colonized, new lands were discovered, the influences of cross pollination of people and cultures had a major impact on the local cuisine and culture. Cultures evolved to factor in the habits and behaviors of the new inhabitants. Cuisines fused to create dishes that befitted both cultures – the people of the land and the conquerors. Learning about how a dish was influenced or created out of these historical events, provides a glimpse into how a country’s culture came into being.
Local cuisine is moulded by history of a place. Travel presents an opportunity to learn about a new place, its history and its culture through its local cuisine.
Lastly, one cannot argue the fact that, local food is fresh, authentic and cheaper compared to cuisines foreign to the land.