But it doesn’t take a journey into the Siberian Arctic or a grueling trek across the Sahara to expand one’s culinary horizons. A short trip to Italy, Greece, France, or heck, even the U.K., can have a huge impact on one’s tastes and eating habits. Furthermore, actually living overseas has a life-changing impact on eating habits. Guaranteed.
I like to cite my sister as an example of someone who was forever changed in this regard. When she was a junior in college, she studied abroad in Italy. Up until that point, Colleen was the rare Alaskan who hated seafood. She also really didn't like vegetables, especially tomatoes. And fruit - nope. Living with a family in Florence changed her life. There, she was daily served the freshest, most delicious tomatoes, seafood, and all those other things that she purported to hate. And she tried everything, dutifully, because otherwise she felt ridden with guilt for rejecting her host mother's cooking. And as it happens, those foods that she had previously scorned soon began to win her over. It probably helped that Italians have some of the best produce in the world (Alaska is not exactly known for fresh, juicy, ripe produce), and they know how to prepare it so that it is simple, yet flavorful, and really just hard to hate.
Sometimes I wonder who my sister would be today had she not undergone that culinary revolution. Today she's a downright foodie, appreciating nearly everything, and one of my very favorite dining companions...
I'm sure I changed too, with travel, though perhaps less dramatically. For me, the foods of the world slowly crept up upon me, inch by inch becoming an integral part of who I am. I am a cook today, because I travel. I write about food too, in this blog, because I travel. Hell, it goes both ways - part of the reason I love to travel so much is because I love exploring the food cultures of the world. What am I most looking forward to with my upcoming trip to Argentina? Certainly, the mountains. But equally as much, the food. As one gets older, sometimes it seems like there are just not that many new experiences to be had. I am perhaps overly aware of this because I set out into the world in search of adventure at a fairly young age - and I really experienced it, traveling to some of the remotest destinations, living with locals, and saying "yes" to almost any adventure that crossed my path. So sometimes I get a little blasé about travel, and when I go through long stretches of routine, I sigh and wish for a little more spice in my life.
Food brings that. It's amazing how you can go through an entire life and constantly be confronted by some new food that you have never tried. That is, as long as you travel.