There have been many difficult adjustments made during the pandemic. One of the hardest for me has been curtailing my wanderlust. I love to travel, whether exploring my state, neighboring states, throughout the country (I’ve visited 47 states!) or other countries. I love the open road and I love awakening on another continent after an overnight flight. While sightseeing and meeting new people are important aspects of travel, eating local cuisine is perhaps the pinnacle of traveling. Wherever we go, we always check out markets and make a few meals at our home away from home, as well as ask locals for restaurant suggestions. The meals are truly memorable years – even decades – later.
One such meal was procured from a tiny grocery store in Sicily. The proprietor’s English was worse than my Italian, but with a few basic words, facial gestures and pointing, she introduced us to amazing local delicacies including a cheese embedded with pistachios. (That region is a producer of pistachios; we also discovered the various liquors made with that tasty nut!) We trundled back to our flat with the cheese, a fresh tomato, local olives, a loaf of chewy bread and a bottle of Sicilian wine for a most memorable feast! While exploring Nice, I happened upon an outdoor market and found a table piled high with an extraordinary array of olives – all shapes, sizes, colors! With my high-school French, I managed to relay to the proprietor that I wanted a sampling of just about all of them. I then headed to the beach with that briny bundle, a chewy loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine for a memorable lunch (and nap).
How do we do that when we are staying home, hoping to avoid catching and spreading a deadly virus? Via our kitchens, cookbooks, online recipes, and a little searching for ingredients, we can be whisked away across the world in no time at all. This year, as part of the cookbook project, my goal is to explore the world through cuisine. I have a few cookbooks of Indian food that I have never really delved into even though I love Indian food. I have a hard time cooking the other cuisines of Asia, too. And Mexico – that beautiful, diverse country just a few hours south of me – has so much more to offer than tacos (not that I don’t love a good taco, mind you). I’ve got my cookbook collection spread out and am carefully going through them to find just the right one for each season while also satisfying my thirst for travel.
Another very easy way to travel the world through its cuisine is through Piquant Post. My children gave me a subscription for my birthday and I am truly enjoying this. Each month, I get a couple of spice packets and recipe cards for exciting, world cuisine; I purchase the veggies (and meats, if using) and they supply the spices and recipes. Whether that is exploring the African-inspired cuisine of Portugal (Shrimp Mozambique, Peri Peri Chicken, Madeiran Marinated Pork) or Mexico (Portobelo Mole Enchiladas, Chicken Tinga Tostadas), Southeast Asia (Thai Green Curry, Mushroom Larb, Thai Meatballs), or Sweden (Cardamom Buns, Baked Salmon Meatballs, Gingerbread Pudding), these recipes and spices really do take us around the world. After making a recipe, there are leftover spices and plenty of other recipes on their website; we can also purchase all sorts of other spices there.
Throughout the year, I am going to travel around the world via my kitchen. I can find global music on my music service, helping to set the mood as well. Until we are widely vaccinated and otherwise have a grip on this deadly virus, it’s the only way to go! I hope you join me!
Pepper Pasqua, December 2020