Food and travel have sparked my imagination and ignited my daydreams as long as I can remember. It occurred to me recently, while looking through old photographs and reflecting on past travel experiences, how deeply my interest and love of food has been enhanced by my adventures in other cultures.
In 2002, while spending a few weeks traveling around Holland and Germany with friends by bicycle, my love for coffee grew as we made our way down the coastline. I can almost remember the exact moment. I certainly remember my surroundings and the view from the little café table on the beach in Zandvoort. The tiny cup of espresso served with a delicious, perfectly sweet, butter cookie. The rich, thick coffee, strong yet subtle flavors, it’s steam swirling above.. I fell in love right there! It very well could have been the caffeine and sugar, but hey.
After that came learning the gourmet adventurer meal preparation. For 3 consecutive summers, 2009-2011, I offered massage therapy sessions on a 7-day yoga and white water rafting retreat down the Salmon and Snake rivers. I have always loved rivers and sleeping outdoors, but in my experience, that environment came at the expense of delicious food. It blew me away how well we ate on those river trips! The gear boats packed up with everything from fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the garden of the outfitter in Joseph, Oregon, to grass fed beef raised just a few blocks away from the rafting company. I loved watching the guides create a 4-course meal for 14 people out of a tub of random ingredients and a cooler. Spices, wine, peach cobbler, bacon… those dinners sitting around the campfire with a guitar, after a long sunny day of rafting and hiking, were something to remember!
In 2007, I ventured off on my first big solo adventure… a summer exploring Southeast Asia by train, plane, boat, motorbike and tuk tuk. It was the most I have ever explored my taste buds as well. Fried tarantula in Cambodia. Cocoa covered crickets in Laos. Fresh, ripe Mangosteen and the most delicious tropical fruit smoothies, picked right from the trees in Thailand. I had never experienced anything like it!
Until 2012 that is, when I spent another month in Thailand living out of a backpack. Long luxurious days on white sand beaches, drinking fresh coconuts from a hammock and swimming in the warm turquoise ocean. Indulging in the most incredible Thai food created by tiny old ladies serving from street carts with plastic tables perched next to them. This time, I was so inspired by the food I experienced, I spent three days in an authentic Thai food cooking course in the northern mountainous region of Lampang. If you love food and cooking and immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture, learning the depth and beauty of exotic lands, I highly recommend a culinary adventure! This year, I have set clear intentions of bringing more of the things I love together on a regular basis. Creating the opportunity to mix cooking, farming, massage therapy, teaching and travel! If you own a sailboat and are looking for a crew member to cook and give massages… if you have connections to retreat centers that would like to offer cooking/nutrition classes, massage therapy etc… or if you know of an organic farm that would like an extra set of hands working the dirt, consider me a part of your team! I would love to hear from you!
Finally, I have been asked by several clients to share some photos from my culinary adventures. Below is a series, all things food, from my last trip to Thailand. Injoy!
There is nothing quite like a delicious dinner on a warm, tropical beach! Thank you for giving me nourishment, Red Snapper!! KohTao, Thailand.
My favorite kind of breakfast… Colorful!! Enjoyed with an ocean breeze and inspiration to write!
The night market… Chaing Mai, Thailand. So much delicious food!!
Most menus throughout SE Asia look like some version of this…
…the food always came out amazing, though! Usually some version of this… 🙂
Smart Cook, Thai Cookery School!! The day begun with a walk to the local market to get a little lesson on Thai cooking ingredients. Vegetables, fruits, herbs etc.
We then walked to the train station and road the rails about 30 minutes east from Chaing Mai to Lampang. (Pictured is a Anika, a lovely girl from Norway I met in the course and ended up traveling with for a couple of weeks.)
Arriving in Lampang, our course leader Pung greeted us and instructed each of us to choose a bike! We rode another couple of miles to the farm where all of the food we would be cooking with was grown.
My favorite part about the experience (besides biking through the beautiful Thai countryside, meeting so many wonderful people, playing with baby chickens, eating all. day. long…) was how interactive each step of the course was. From harvesting our own vegetables and herbs to learning the traditional way to serve an authentic Thai dish.
The next morning we gathered and made our way to the kitchen where the hands-on cooking and magic making would take place. Each station under the covered patio had the view of a beautiful jungle garden and the farm we had harvested our food from the day prior. The indoor classrooms had long countertops extending through the center and a cutting board and set of knives at each station. Little bottles with labels I couldn’t read lined the wall.
The following 2 days continued in a blur of cooking, eating, chopping, drinking, laughing, eating, napping, cooking, eating… curries, Phad Thai, spring rolls, papaya salad, Thai beef, tom yum soup, mango and sticky rice, deep fried bananas…
And I even got a cookbook to take home and try the recipes out on my own! I have collected the obscure ingredients from a small Asian shop in south Seattle and attempted to recreate a couple of the dishes I made on that tropical farm day in Thailand. They were good, but not amazing. There is something about the energy of creating food and building a meal with the local, ethnic ingredients harvested right there… prepared with the creativity of the land that inspired it. Like you can taste the history. So worth a trans-continental flight!
Aaaaaand… This has absolutely nothing to do with food, but the tiger sanctuary was certainly a highlight of visiting northern Thailand. Browsing through photos of this particular day brought back the incredibly warm and fuzzy awesomeness of this experience. Injoy!