Outstanding Food...and So Much More
There is no such thing as too much emphasis on the importance of food when it comes to travel. At the end of the day, it’s not just eating, but gaining an understanding of the culture. Dining experiences can turn a nice journey into an unforgettable one.
Travelers crave local interactions with the people of the communities they are visiting. Having the chance to sit down to dinner in a local family’s home, lunch at a family run winery, participating in a small group cooking class, or visiting a local farm are great ways to fulfill this desire.
I recently traveled to Southern Italy leading a small group of 16 adults to explore the Cilento coast, a beautiful area on the Tyrrhenian Sea. On this journey we stayed at a small boutique hotel, practiced yoga and took daily excursions. From organic farm tours to see how mozzarella is produced, to a fig factory where delicious desserts and jellies are made, to cooking classes, we saw first-hand how fresh and delicious regional food is prepared.
Through our intimate journey we interacted daily with the wonderful people of Southern Italy. They take great pride in their food and other goods made here. Supporting the small businesses of the region is of utmost importance to them, as many large industries have left over the years leaving a lot of people out of work.
No matter how much or how little money one has family meals are central to their lives. The Italians use regional ingredients available to prepare the courses. Leftovers are inventively utilized for future meals. The same vegetable can be served at four meals a week, but every time in a new way that it never gets old. And who knew extra pasta from the night before makes an excellent addition to a breakfast bake.
It was interesting to learn the Mediterranean diet was developed after an American physiologist visited the region post WWII and was astounded that the poor population of small towns of Southern Italy were much healthier than the more affluent citizens of the US (whom many were emigrants from Italy). This led to the famous “Seven Countries Study” that proved the nutritional value of the Mediterranean diet contributes meaningfully to the health of the populations that adopt it.
Many in our group will say that our private cooking class with lunch was the ultimate immersive experience. In a small hillside town that dates back to the 12th century we were welcomed into a historic home where our chef, Camila, got us right to work on our meal. This wasn’t a chop and throw in the oven experience. It took hours to prepare and we enjoyed every minute of it. Seeing her passion for cooking brought back memories for a lot of the guests that had Italian nonnas who used the same cooking techniques.
The meal we prepared was something that would typically be served on a holiday. Every member of the family has responsibilities to help for these special events. Some of those preparations begin days before, especially making the pasta. This process takes time and patience, but once you taste it, it is well worth the work and wait.
To Southern Italians dining together and enjoying the fresh, authentic local dishes is an important part of their life. Wine is not served before or after a meal, but it is readily available while you eat. During the meal they converse, share stories and love to sing.
For most, our lives revolve around meals. Not only the food we eat but the sequence of events surrounding it. Each country and the regions within in it have rich traditions. When you travel and pay more attention to the food you’d be surprised by how much you can learn and come to appreciate the people and their culture.
Jamie Jackson: (336) 263-1977 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Luxury Travel Advisor and Virtuoso Wellness Travel community member at Wanderlust Travel Boutique
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