Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seeing the World

How do you see the world? Some people see it through the mountains they’ve climbed. Or the amazing reefs they’ve dived. Some people see the world through the people in small villages that they meet. Others see it through the shops they’ve shopped in, while others see it through the wonders of the world that they’ve seen or even the baseball parks they've been to.

Me? I see the world through the food I’ve eaten, and the food that a certain country or region has to offer. I see the world through fresh produce, and regional delicacies. I see the world through the wines of a region, through the locally distilled spirits or locally brewed beers that's produced in an area and that the locals drink. I see the world through Farmer’s Markets, fish markets and grocery stores. Through late night dinners, brunches, afternoon cocktails, snacks, and amazing pastries. I see the world through the people that make the food I eat, as well as through the locals sitting next to me eating.

I enjoy seeing the typical tourist sights, but what I do is pick and choose my sights. Just a few in each new city, and then the rest of the time is spent exploring neighborhoods, meeting new people, and finding the local favorite restaurant (after all, a 'famous' restaurant is a sight to me!)

Have I been up the Eiffel Tower? Nope. I don’t want to spend all of my time doing the toursity attractions, so I pick and choose them. For example, in Paris, I walked by the Eiffel Tower (just didn’t go up, it was also rainy the day I was there), and then instead, I went up the Arch de Triomphe. And Paris, to me, will really be about my first steak au poivre, and the sunny Sunday I spent in the Marais looking into the shops and sitting at the side walk cafes.

In Amsterdam, I chose to go to the Anne Frank House, but that was really the only sight I saw. Instead, I think about the meal we had at the original Supper Club (and the hard time we had finding it!)

Hong Kong you ask? Yea, I've been up to the Peak. But I'm scared of heighs you see. And so to me? That was more of a scary, touristy experience than anything. What do I remember instead? Oh the street food! The most memorable being the crab dinner (complete with two large beers) I shared with my dad one night (after we had just finished eating our first dinner mind you!)

In New York? Ask me how many times I’ve seen the Empire State Building? Or the Statue of Liberty? None. Well, I chose Central Park instead. And SoHo (including a stop in the famous Dean & Deluca store). And Fifth Avenue (and of course, the Tiffany's store!) But really? The memories of New York for me include the wine I drank while waiting for a table at Momofuku Saam (and of course my meal there...the yummy pork buns and brussel sprouts!) And then there was drinking ‘til the wee hours at PDT (and eating my very first David Chang dog!)

The reason I’m thinking about this? One of people I love most in this world is a vegetarian. She eats to sustain herself, and as long as it's not horrible tasting, she's content. Breakfast is light. And lunch? Maybe a fruit salad. When it comes to dinner, simple. And of course, no meat. Pretty much the exact opposite of me. Especially when I’m on vacation.

Now don't get me wrong. When I'm at home, breakfast is yogurt, maybe one of my whole wheat waffles (yum). Lunch is typically leftovers or a salad. Dinner is either at a local yummy favorite restaurant with friends (how many times have I been to Beretta or Nopa you ask? Too many to count.), or something something simple I make at home. Usually with meat.

But on vacation, it's a different story. I’ve spent weeks leading up to it doing research. I’ve researched all of the restaurants I want to eat at, neighborhoods with the best cafes, local favorite ‘celebrity’ chefs, etc. I become engrossed in the eating culture of that city. I plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I’m sorry, but there will be days when you have to sneak in a few meals in-between (the tough life of a food obsessed person).

For me, seeing a city is seeing it through it’s food and even more importantly, it’s food culture. If there’s a farmer’s market, I’ll be there. If there’s a fish market that’s well known, I’ll want to be there. A late night chef hang out? You bet. Wouldn't miss it. Street food? I'm not scared. Bring it on.

So what happens when you put these two people together and they decide to travel together for 12 days? Compromise. I refrained from planning every single meal (and in-between meal), and my friend probably had to hear more analysis about restaurants than she cared to. (But I guess unless you're by yourself, there's always some compromise that has to be made, right?)

And there was some of me eating alone.

I love my friend. She is really and truly one of my favorite people in the world. A good mate, and a friend that I will always cherish and have fun with forever. A friend that's supported me through a lot, and I'm sure will continue to through the years. We had a fantastic time traveling together—a once in a lifetime trip that I’m never going to forget.

But did I get to see Australia through food? Not as much as I would have liked. Who wants to go back with me? Because the fun in eating, for me, is eating with someone who is equally obsessed. I'm ready to return to Melbourne and really explore those alley way restaurants. And what about the amazing Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese influenced food?

And in Sydney, who will splurge for Tetsyua’s? And try kangaroo pizza? And the supposedly famous Hugo’s pizza? Or what about fantastically mixed drinks at Otto, Victorian Room, Lotus and Bar Reggio? Or Chinese food at Golden Century and late late night at BBQ King?

Cause I’m ready to go back. And And this time, I'm ready to really eat.

Aussie Food!

Some of the food I ate while in Australia

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