It seems like everyone you meet loves to travel but very few people actually get to experience as much of the world and its cultures as they would like! Most of us have work, families, and other responsibilities tying us down that make it difficult if not impossible to travel for extended periods of time. In my opinion, one of the best things you can do with your time while traveling is trying as many as possible of the visiting culture’s different, unique foods (or uniquely prepared, like Korean-style fried chicken). Once you find foods you like, ask around for a traditional recipe or consider purchasing a recipe book from the area. Then you can recreate your favorite foods in your own kitchen as often as you want! It’s the souvenir that keeps on souvenir-ing.
Food is living history, geography, and anthropology all in one. Exploring recipes from different cultures around the globe (and even just within the United States there are so many cuisines!) allows you to experience the breadth of humanity within your own home. Recipes tell stories of economic turmoil and immigration, imperialism and colonialism, desperation and triumph. When you cook a dish, you are connecting back through possibly hundreds or even thousands of years to every person who passed their recipe on to eventually be made by you.
Recreating recipes from cultures that you are less familiar with offers opportunity to share experiences and to learn new things. There may be techniques or ingredients that are not very common in your culture’s cuisine, for any number of reasons, and making recipes from a culture that use them gives you an opportunity to try something new and work your brain a little bit. Cooking a recipe, especially if you have to learn a new technique or figure out how to prepare a new ingredient, encourages you to learn more about the culture that recipe comes from–how is this technique typically done, why is it done that way, and what is the significance of this technique or ingredient? Appreciating other cultures and what is important to them draws the world closer together.