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‘We are what we eat’ - and while we often associate this saying with healthy eating, it’s equally true in the broader cultural sense of how our food relates to our sense of place. At its most basic level, food is an essential source of sustenance, yet at the same time people often associate food with far more ‘spiritual’ matters such as a sense of home or belonging, a sense of community, or a sense of providing for, and sharing in the company of, others. 

 

We think food can be all of this and more, but we’re particularly interested in how food relates to culture. Food is something that appeals to the majority of our senses, and in some ways this elevates it above other cues that tie us to a country or a community. In particular, food is something we think about often if we travel to another part of the world - or we’ve been elsewhere in the world and then come home again. 

 

We’d like to discuss two ideas on this thread (and please feel free to chip in to either!) The first is whether you’ve ever missed food from your home when you’ve been somewhere else. The second is whether you’ve ever lived abroad and then come home and missed food from your host country. The fact that so many places in the world have ‘expat supermarkets’ points to the idea that we all miss a little something from home when we’re elsewhere. But we also can’t be the only ones who have tried to track down ‘foreign’ food after returning home again - even if this means waiting long periods of time for online orders and paying outrageous shipping fees from other places. 

 

How do you see food from your country or abroad? Let us know below!

12件のコメント

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    Busra

    Hi! 

    This is a great topic to share ideas, so I also wanted to contribute with my experiences and memories. Firstly, I will mention Kebab as our 'traditional' food. It is a famous Turkish food all over the world, but in fact, the real Turkish Kebab is not what everyone thinks. In Turkey, we eat kebab generally with our families or friends in special occasions at weekends. It is cooked on barbeque and served with salad and side dishes such as onion salad, Mediterranean salad etc. For us, Kebab means getting together with close ones, celebrating a good news, or spending Sundays in a great way. This is the food that I missed most when i was abroad. 

    As for the 'foreign' food, I miss Paella a lot. It is a Spanish rice dish with many different variations. I started to go to Paella restaurants with my friends almost every week while i was living in Spain a few years ago. As I read and saw, it was a food which Spanish people eat at family gatherings. Another thing I really liked is that the food was being brought to table in a big pan, so everyone was serving and eating the food together. I hope, next Paella time is soon for me :)

    Thank you for reading. I wish a great evening to everyone!

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    Miri

    Such a fun topic!!

    Growing up in a country of immigrants (Israel), I've gotten to know many different cuisines. My family comes from the Ukraine, so that's the food I had as a child, but I would eat at my friends' homes where their moms cooked Moroccan or yamen food for instance. And my husband family is from Iraq, which has awesome food, which we make.

    About your specific questions - when I travel I don't miss food from home, I'm into exploring the new foods in that place. I love to try new things.

    As for your second question - I've been living in the US for many years now and definitely am missing Israeli food. When we go back I go back to restaurants I know have fresh Mediterranean food that I like, they make eggplants in Israel in dozens amazing ways, and they have chocolate yeast babkas that are so good.

    I haven't found good Israeli food near me, so I either make it myself at home, or wait to go back to Israel. But I do go to a supermarket that has some imported foods from my country, not anything cooked or fresh though, just things that we like but can withstand the distance.

    Also, after trips, I sometimes try to find some food that I discovered in the trip. Usually they are not as good as in the origin country, but sometimes they are really ok. like the jongzi I ate in taiwan - it's so good, I ate 1 every day almost. I looked it up back home too.

  • 1
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    Katrina Paterson

    Hello to Busra and Miri, and thanks for contributing! I'm really glad you both like the topic, and I hope other people will, too! 

    Busra - Thank you for sharing more about the tradition of eating kebab. I think a lot of us are really curious to learn more about this, since kebab is famous the world over and yet I think the way it's eaten internationally has changed somewhat from the way it's eaten in Turkey - for example, in some places I think it's become more of a convenience food that people enjoy but almost take for granted, so it's very interesting to learn about how kebab is enjoyed in its home country. Sometimes it's not just the ingredients but also the positive connotations that make a dish special, and I really like the fact that there's so much of a sense of community surrounding the kebab tradition. And I see that this is also true of eating paella, as you say, and it's really lovely to think that two quite different cuisines can have the same universal connotations. Another thing I'm curious about is whether you think Turkey is a good country for vegetarian options, since I believe that it is, but other people have said that it can be meat-heavy. What are your thoughts? As a side note, I love Turkish food. (Who doesn't!)

    Miri - I like how your answers are always so intrepid! I really enjoyed reading about your culinary adventures in Israel and abroad. I've always thought that Israeli cuisine is one of the best in the world, and like you say, I think it's special among global cuisines in that it incorporates elements from so many different countries. I also think Israel (and Turkey, as described by Busra) are really fortunate in terms of their climate, since I would imagine the ingredients are really good there. Is that something you miss in the US? Another question I had was whether you've ever eaten Israeli food outside of Israel or the US. The reason I ask is that I was in Thailand a few years ago and I was amazed by the number of Israeli restaurants there. I went to quite a few, and I have to say that it was one of the highlights of my time in Southeast Asia! So many nice meals there.

    Thanks to both of you for your comments! I'm sure we're all really looking forward to sharing ideas about this tastiest of topics :D

  • 1
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    Miri

    First I have to say what I loved loved when I was in Turkey is Simit. It's great especially when they toast it like a panini with cheese..., and the strong tea this guy was selling on the ferry - we were there in December and the hot tea was wonderful.

    Katrina, I do have a great restaurant for you, in Paris, it's a cozy simple sort of place, called miznon. he has two spots in paris, I prefer the one NOT in the Jewish quarter just because it's not as crowded. He also has a spot in new york, I always take his ratatouille, which is just splendid.

    About quality of ingredients, it seems to me, that every place has it's own local quality ingredients, and so I eat different things in different places!! 

    for instance: I live in WA state, and eat wild salmon every day. I would probably never buy salmon in almost no other place in the world. definitely not in Israel where we have this really mild tasting farmed salmon. But, raw tuna that was delicious and cheap in Japan, I tried to buy here and it was not tasty at all.

    So, I just find what is local and good and change my diet according to the place :)

  • 1
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    Katrina Paterson

    Hi Miri, thanks for the recommendation! I'm really happy you had the idea of mentioning specific places since it would be interesting to see whether other people have favourite spots that they can share with us, too. I looked up Miznon on Instagram and they seem amazing - I even felt compelled to follow them because the photos were so beautiful! I'll be sure to check them out if I go to Paris (incidentally, when I've visited the city on previous occasions I've always had really good meals there, and while people speak very highly of French food I think it's also true that with France's multicultural background, it has great cuisine from pretty much ANY part of the world.)

    Since we're talking about places, I went to a really interesting Syrian restaurant in Amsterdam a couple of years back which is called Bread and Salt. But when I looked it up on TripAdvisor to refresh my memory (here), I saw that it had received a couple of disgruntled reviews by people who say they got scammed, with one person claiming that 'It didn’t feel like a real restaurant - it felt like a front for something. All the staff just had this weird air about them.' Very mysterious! Perhaps it's changed management since I went there, but in any case it's probably best to take my recommendation with a pinch of 'salt', to pardon the pun on the name of the restaurant!

    It would be really cool to hear about other culinary places that have left an impression on people, so we can either look them up in real life or travel to them by proxy in our minds (or on Instagram). 

    Lastly, the wild salmon sounds really healthy!

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    Erika

    Hello Katrina, and everyone of the Gengo community!

    I don't write here very often as I really enjoy reading other people's comments, but I couldn't resist this topic! I am Italian, and when I travel around Italy, I cannot but feel blessed to live in such an incredible country with amazing cultural food traditions. A couple of years ago I flew to Portugal, and stayed there for about 9 days. The typical food there is fish, fish, and more fish (which I absolutely love!). I also ate a lot of rice and potatoes. It may sound a bit of a clique, but after a week I really NEEDED (and needed is the right word) a pasta dish. Here in Italy, I normally eat pasta twice or three times a week, with different types of sauces. During one of the last evenings of my holiday, I was visiting a small and super cute village in the south of Portugal, Lagos, in the Algarve region. It was dinner time, and my craving for pasta was growing and growing when suddenly, as a miracle sent from above, I stumbled across a tiny shop called "Pomò - la pasta bio italiana". I couldn't believe my eyes! This little restaurant was run by a fantastic young Italian couple, and every single ingredient of their pasta dishes was 100% Italian. It was a perfect ending of a wonderful holiday in Portugal.

    10 years ago I lived in Brighton (UK) for 6 months. Internationally, English cuisine is not one of the best renowned, but I have to admit that there are some dishes that, even after many years, I really miss. One in particular is the Sunday Roast and its fabulous gravy sauce. I remember myself pouring huge amounts of gravy on meat, vegetables, bread.. everything! My "guest-mother" 's cooking skills where unbelievable (another myth to debunk: people in England can cook!). 

    I think food is an amazing way to get to know new cultures and places. I really don't understand those tourists who travel around the world and don't want to try local dishes. From every place I have visited so far, I have always brought something back to my everyday cooking routine, it may be a particular spice, or a cooking method, or a whole recipe (let's talk about English breakfast with eggs and bacon!).

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    Katrina Paterson

    Hello Erika, welcome to the discussion! Your holiday memories really put a smile on my face, particularly when you talked about the lovely Italian meal being the perfect ending to your trip to Portugal. I can still remember some really nice meals that I've had while travelling, too, and there's one that REALLY sticks out as being special, which I had when I was on holiday on my own on Gozo Island in Malta. It was at a small restaurant on the waterfront in Marsalforn, called Ta' Pennellu, and I remember sitting there looking out over the Mediterranean as the sun was going down, drinking quite a large glass of wine, and feeling like it was one of those rare moments in life where you really feel content in the moment. And the food wasn't bad either! 

    I also had to laugh at your adventures in English cuisine! I'm English and I agree with you that England doesn't necessarily always set the bar HIGH when it comes to gastronomy. However, I'm really happy you were able to find some aspects of English food that you liked. I'm 100% with you on the cooked breakfasts. What do you think about baked beans, and milk in tea? I'm curious because they really seem to divide opinion among people who didn't grow up with them :D 

    I want to visit Italy now and sample all of the amazing cuisines! Thanks for joining our discussion, and I'm really happy to hear that you've enjoyed reading other ones :D

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    gunnarbu

    Hi, - interesting thread! I have travelled a lot and lived abroad several times and places, but in terms of food culture there is no doubt that Italy comes out on top, by far. I just love Italian food and food culture. What I miss most are all the varieties of fresh foccacia and farinata often just as a street snack! Among the foccacias there are many variants, and one of the most special ones is Foccacia di Recco, which has a warm melted cheese topping, but my favourites were plain or with onion topping. I think foccaccia originated from Genoa, where I lived, but today you find it all over Italy.  You can also get foccacia many otheer places nowadays, or attempt to make it at home, but it is never the same, that is simply not possible to achieve without the special ovens they use (I believe it is the same kind of ovens used for pizza baking in Italy). Regarding what I missed most from home, in my younger days, was Norwegian milk. I was a big milk drinker back then when we only had whole milk, and milk abroad always seemed to be a disappointment compared to milk at home. Of course, today we hardly drink whole milk any more, with all the new more healthy  low fat and skimmed variants. Gunnar

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    Katrina Paterson

    Welcome to the culinary discussion, Gunnar! I'm very excited to see how popular Italian food is proving - I'm getting hungry just thinking about the onion focaccia. It's interesting to see that even though most of us seem to have things that we like from home, there's also been so much talk about taking the adventurous tack and discovering new foods in other countries. I'm very impressed by how intrepid everyone is!

    Gunnar - I'm interested in what you said about the milk, because it's something that I'd never have thought of being different in other places. Yet why would it not be? Now that I think about it, I guess we've probably all had those conversations about what the equivalent versions of food taste like in other places, and one debate I had a lot (in England) was whether Nutella tasted better in Spain, which I'm convinced it does. I don't know if it's because they adapt the recipe to suit each local audience, or if it's because, as some people have told me, the warmer weather in Spain makes Nutella have a more pleasing consistency. Who knows? Coca-Cola is another one that people say varies from country to country, and then we have those big chains like McDonald's that adapt their menu around the world. Of course, whether to eat McDonald's while travelling is another debate altogether!

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    Katrina Paterson

    Not that I'm saying that eating McDonald's while travelling is a bad thing! 

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    Erika

    Hi Katrina, I didn't know you were from England! :-D Milk in tea is another habit that I've happily "stolen" from Brighton! At first I was quite sceptical, but as soon as I tried the mix, I fell in love with it! With regard to baked beans.... I love them!

    I really hope you can come to Italy soon! Forget any diet, and prepare to fill your belly! :-D

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    Katrina Paterson

    Very nice, Erika! I'm glad that Ryanair doesn't (yet) charge for excess body weight! :-D By the way, totally by coincidence, or perhaps because of targeted advertising, I just came across this really intriguing article here which talks about a lady who put gravy on a full English breakfast (you might remember the Metro newspaper from Brighton). Apparently it divided opinion, and I'm not entirely sure myself what to make of this controversial culinary choice. However, I had to laugh when I read the article, and it reminded me that we were talking about both English breakfasts and gravy. What a combination! 

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