A simple taste of bread and butter has the power to transport me thousands of miles away to a tiny balcony in Paris – breakfast every morning of my Parisian adventure with my 12 year-old daughter. The crisp crunch of a freshly baked, warm baguette smothered with sea-salt butter whisks me to another hemisphere entirely.
Food tells a story.
Food tells a story, whether we’re savoring traditional family recipes at Thanksgiving, trying authentic kreatopita meat pies from a food truck in Greece or tucking into farm-to-table fare in Italy. For every flavor you experience, there’s a story waiting to be told – behind the cook, behind the recipe, behind the ingredients. When we ask questions and get to the root of the cuisine, we’re getting to know so much more. “Why do you make this dish? Where did you get the recipe? Who taught you to make it? Why do you use those particular ingredients?”
The Significance of the Thanksgiving Table
Here in the United States, one of our most culturally significant meals is right around the corner: Thanksgiving. Even here in the same country, the spread at a New England Thanksgiving table, for example, may look quite different than the spread in the Midwest or Southeast – illuminating the fact that food culture doesn’t just vary on a global scale, but on a local scale as well. Our memories and the significance of the food and the family recipes we share at Thanksgiving are as rich and varied as our ancestors’ lineage. There may be purple yams served in Hawaii, hasty pudding offered in Massachusetts, manicotti prepared in New Jersey, pumpkin empanadas set out in New Mexico and green bean casserole devoured in Kansas.
No matter the menu, we linger and laugh, and share stories and sustenance during these holiday meals. In Greece, at Easter, families gather for a hours-long meal while a lamb slowly roasts on the spit (and then there’s the inevitable plate throwing late at night!). In Ethiopia, residents fast for 43 days until their Christmas celebration on January 7th, when they come together to indulge in doro wat, a spicy meat-and-vegetable stew, topped with egg and scooped up with injera bread, all washed down with tej, an Ethiopian honey wine.
Facets of Food Culture
The facets of food culture are myriad, from table etiquette to the landscape. Those who travel widely may already know that in Japan, slurping while eating is standard practice and relays your satisfaction with the meal. Which spices and ingredients are commonly used and how they’re used also reveal food culture – in many countries, this is directly tied to the landscape and climate, which determines what can be grown where and and when. Interesting, too, is that our appetite is based on the environment around us – you’ll likely find yourself less hungry in a hot, humid destination and craving hearty, warm foods, and more of them, when you’re in a colder spot. Mull this over on your next trip and think about how your surroundings are influencing what’s on the menu.
So, how do we make the leap from our own Thanksgiving table to enriching our travel experiences with food culture? At Global CommUnity, we’ve tailored our trips to include pre-engagement materials for young children who like to cook to stoke their excitement for the experiences to come. In addition, if the destination is the right fit, we often include eat-to-explore boxes prior to the family’s travels to inspire a curious palette.
Explore Our Food Tours
France: In such a perennial popular foodie destination, we set the stage for a culinary exploration. There are chocolate tours and workshops, pastry lessons, bread-making classes and an international food tour, to illuminate the influence of the immigrant population on local cuisine.
Japan: Here, we introduce kids to the food-replica culture in Japan – plastic models of main dishes and desserts intended to give diners an idea of what they are ordering. Little ones can craft their own food samples in Osaka – then set out to try the real thing, of course! Attend a traditional tea ceremony with a geisha or visit the fish market, then learn to make sushi with the fresh catch of the day.
Greece: In Greece, your family can enjoy a special night featuring an authentic dinner to experiment with Greek food, customs and traditions.
In most destinations Global CommUnity visits, we offer market tours, cooking experiences and convivial meals in the home of a local family, the very best and most immersive way to experience food culture. You can explore more of our amazing destinations and itineraries here.
From your Thanksgiving table, surrounded by family and friends, we help enlarge your table as you share a meal with new friends around the world.
Bon appetit! Hoppe ga ochiru! Kali orexi!