One of the best parts about traveling the world is being able to taste the local cuisine, no matter the destination. Our own country is a melting pot of different dishes, from Creole and Cajun to southern barbeque, and even fresh seafood in New England. When you visit other countries, you’re introduced to entirely new types of food that you may have never tried before.
Now that your mouth is probably watering just thinking about it, here’s the bad news: thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably haven’t been able to enjoy a lot of those culinary classics from around the world lately.
Travel has been either restricted or discouraged for most of the year. Now, in multiple states, dining in restaurants still isn’t allowed. Thousands of restaurants have closed their doors, and many will never re-open. That includes restaurants that serve authentic dishes from around the world.
While you should always strive to support your local businesses, you can also take matters into your own hands. Cooking some of your favorite foreign dishes at home can be fun, educational, and help you to satisfy your cravings.
How Cooking at Home Can Help You Travel the World
One of the best parts about recreating your favorite dishes from around the world is that it can transport you to that location. Food is an important part of so many different cultures. You likely have an international dish in mind for nearly every place you’ve ever visited. Maybe it’s cacio e pepe from Italy or falafel from the Middle East. When you think about those foods, it’s easy to imagine any experiences you’ve had that go along with them.
Cooking those dishes at home is more than just putting ingredients together. While you’re reading a recipe for one of your favorite dishes, you’ll learn more about the culture. Educate yourself on why certain spices are used, or how that dish came to be. By fully immersing yourself in the experience, you’ll appreciate the final result more.
You don’t need a lot of fancy tools or skills to get started. Having a few essentials in your kitchen is enough, so make sure you have the following:
- A quality chef’s knife (and sharpener)
- A cutting board
- A nonstick pan and cast iron pan
- A Dutch oven
- A blender
- A digital thermometer
Keep in mind that in many parts of the world, the items listed above aren’t all that common. Or, they weren’t when the dish you’re recreating was first invented. So, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have everything you think you might need. Have fun, and let the experience be something that takes you back to your favorite destinations across the globe.
Keep it Simple
Again, you don’t have to be a fantastic chef to recreate authentic dishes. You can create a simple dish and make it memorable by just planning ahead. For example, putting together a regional cheese platter or making hummus to dip with pitas or fresh vegetables is a quick and easy way to pay homage to different parts of the world without slaving over the stove. You can highlight these flavors with a bit more planning. Pack a picnic and bring along a bottle of wine from the country of your choice, or play music from that part of the world.
If you’re planning a date night, you can keep the menu — and the whole experience — simple and inexpensive by using plastic dinnerware and one of the recipes you’ve been trying out. To keep the setting simple and cheap but not shabby, picnic in your own backyard.
Speaking of simplicity, some of the best recipes from around the world are also the simplest. That’s because they were built upon necessity. People used what they had on hand at the time to create something that we may now consider “famous” for that location. Some examples of this include:
- Red beans and rice
- Mince pies
- Fermented foods
Today, fermentation and pickling are seeing a rise in popularity once again as people find new ways of sourcing foods, especially ones beneficial to both gut health and the planet. These new sustainable foods contribute to more self-sufficient living. It allows you to go back to the basics of cooking when people had to find unique ways to preserve their food for it to last longer (pickled eggs, anyone?). Thankfully, fermenting and pickling are easy hobbies to get into. Not only will you learn more about how other cultures have preserved their foods for years, but you will develop new skills in the kitchen that can help you to create even more foreign dishes.
Go With What You Know
If you’re not sure where to get started or you’re not confident in your cooking skills, that’s okay. One of the best ways to get started is to think about some of your favorite foreign dishes and to decide on one or two that you would most like to create.
When you choose something you know you love to eat, you’re more likely to have fun recreating it. Whether you start small or having big ambitions to perfect Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, you’ll end up sticking with it and putting more effort into if you already know it’s something you enjoy eating.
While you may not be traveling the world at the moment, take comfort knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You will travel again someday soon. In the meantime, bring your favorite places to the comfort of your own home by experimenting in the kitchen, and recreating your favorite dishes from your travels.
About the Author
Adrian Johansen craves adventures and knowledge almost as much as she craves sushi. She writes both to learn and inform others, and loves conversations that teach her new things. You can find more of her writing here.