Our sojourn is about to begin, how’d this day get here so soon? Rhetorical of course . . . It seems my mind has been all consumed about this gastric journey; animatedly talking to friends as my enthusiasm bubbles over with excitement, my brain on non-stop thinking, planning, absorbing, my eyes navigating my screen from page to page, picture to picture, recipe to recipe. I don’t feel prepared, but then I’m like that, one can never do too much research, or can they? Eventually you have to just close your eyes and dive into your abyss and make the most of the adventure. I am about to jump . . .
I don’t recall the exact moment, day or time I was struck with this idea of a food journey around the world. It appeared into my brain, a few months ago from what seems out of nowhere; but there is stayed and grew. I pondered on it for a couple of weeks and broached the idea with my boyfriend, as he’d be going along with me – no choice there. “Cool,” he said. Carl can be non-verbal on some things, but he loves and supports me in my endeavors and especially enjoys and has been known to brag about my culinary prowess. Food and wine was a mutual attraction when we met almost three years ago and is still something we are both very passionate about.
As my thoughts and planning progressed, I knew I had to start mapping out our journey. Looking at the globe I determined the best way to begin would be to head south to the Caribbean, it is the middle of winter here in Charlotte, albeit, we are having a very mild one! From there jut over to South America working our way around ten countries landing into South Africa heading north and arriving into Europe continuing on to the Middle East, Asia, Australia, etc. When our adventure is complete, we will hit six of the seven continents, and countries and territories too numerous to mention.
My goal is to discover what flavors, spices, meats, fruits, and vegetables are indigenous to each of these regions of the world. What is similar, what is different? Some areas I’ll spend a week or two discovering while others a couple of days might suffice. And then some might take a month. I have set no time limits or boundaries. In my head, I know this will take a long, long time – a couple of year’s minimum. I am looking forward to learning my geography and history of these countries and perhaps even pick up a word or two of the language. One meal won’t suffice; it will be a variety of different menu items and meals, as well as some local restaurants specializing in that country’s cuisine. I should mention that I’ll be titillating our taste buds from our home kitchen, preparing these foods myself and exploring the preparation methods and discovering how the depth of flavors emerge. This is a sojourn I will never forget and one I want to share. I’ll do my best on the latter.
I have no formal chef training, just a woman who loves to cook and bake and write. My Dad was a cook in the army and was the one I watched at home. I was like a sponge and absorbed and absorbed. In my late 20s, I worked for a caterer and put menus together for weddings and other social events, my sponge was getting very full. My foray in the kitchen began to blossom in my early 30s and twenty years later I have honed it to a talent I am very proud of. I’ve done some personal chef work as well as cooking for 150 guests for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party. But primarily, I like smaller gatherings, a few family or friends, but my favorite is still just for Carl and me. Watching his eyes light up as he takes his first bite, then the moans – that’s how I know I’ve gotten a winner! He’s been forewarned that there may be some misses on this journey. He’s an adventuresome soul and up for the challenge.
We won’t only be eating one cuisine; our normal fare will be interspersed. It would be a bit too overwhelming for me otherwise. Though I don’t know if we really have what most would consider ‘normal’ fare. Yes, we do typical breakfasts and midday meals of cereal, eggs and sandwiches, but our dinner’s are eclectic and from a wide array of cuisines. I very rarely eat or serve processed food and try to eliminate it completely. I always cook with fresh vegetables and would prefer all of our meat and poultry from a local farmer. Sustainable is the way to go; unfortunately it is not always feasible, both financially and conveniently. I feel we do better than most. I am hoping, that being from an urban area with several ethnic grocers, that the obscure ingredients I will need, I’ll be able to obtain. Wish me luck.
I also want to dedicate this sojourn to my cousin Deb. One of the most adventurous and bravest woman I know. Not necessarily in the food department, but where it counts – in life. She battles cancer as I begin and I hope that as we go on our respective journeys we both can garner strength, wisdom, laughter, enjoyment and fulfillment; making the most of all life has to offer. I love you Deb!!
First destination is Cuba and we embark on this journey tomorrow. Cuban cuisine holds a special place in our hearts, Carl and I met at a Cuban Restaurant on a sultry evening the 20th of June - I think I have to recreate the Ropa Vieja he was eating that eve and see what memories it conjures up . . .