They say travel is food for the soul, but what about the food that you discover while traveling? You know, that meal that stays with you long after the trip is over. The tantalizing pictures collected on your phone of those incredible bites while touring. I know about those; I have several foodie photos on my phone. When I want to go back to a particular trip, I review the shots, and I am there. I was in Munich a few “days” ago reviewing the mouth-watering snaps of my family and I nibbling our way through the stalls at the Christmas market, tasting some of the incredible specialties from gingerbread to sausages.
My work as a writer requires me to eat out a lot. Those restaurant experiences are woven into articles. I write about where to dine and where to explore and stay in a particular location. I recommend spots travelers should visit to enjoy a fantastic meal. Whenever I travel, I make sure to dive into the street foods or seek out local haunts that really showcase the flavor of a place. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible lately. When the pandemic shut down borders and businesses, I became paralyzed watching our world go through the unthinkable.
I needed to find a way to change my mindset. With all the restaurants closed, I returned to my love of creating food at home. I scoured websites looking for recipes and made a list of ingredients to whip up favorites from my travels. Cooking and baking became a way for me to manage my anxiety and lose myself in a favorite hobby. I focused on making everything from scratch. With the quarantine, I had plenty of time to attempt more complicated, multi-step recipes.
I was scrolling through photos this week and stopped to look at a few from October on my trip to Memphis, Tennessee. I traveled for a food and wine festival, and I remembered the tasty barbeque ribs seasoned perfectly with a dry rub from Blues City Café. After learning that May is National BBQ month, I decided to make my own. I checked the freezer and discovered I had boneless ribs. After a quick recipe search, the pork was prepped to be roasted and later covered with a spicy homemade barbeque sauce. Thank goodness for those grocery runs because I had a stocked pantry with all the ingredients.
I had initially planned to make Pad Thai. I ate the delicious dish at Jay’s on Third last summer, and I wanted to try to copy it. Jay’s, an Asian Fusion restaurant in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, serves an authentic version. Chef Jason Hippen recreates his mother’s recipe for the famous street food. The flavors are incredible; a squeeze of bright lime juice over tender rice noodles, mixed with a salty-sweet sauce and perfectly prepared shrimp. It’s an homage to Thailand from his kitchen. If I can’t travel there, at least I can visit through his food. I couldn’t choose between the ribs or Pad Thai, so I made them both.
Later this week, I began dreaming up a new challenge. I am more of a cook than a baker, but I decided to jump on the sourdough bandwagon and attempt bread. Amongst the pandemic preparation, I bought a coveted bag of flour and scored some yeast. After reviewing a bunch of recipes, I found an easy “starter” and began the journey. I found a bread recipe that received five stars, so I figured that it was the one to try. The method had 25 different steps (talk about time-consuming). At one point, you have to work the dough every 30 minutes for two and a half hours. Between the resting and the prepping, I was at it all day. But when my loaves emerged from the oven, they were gorgeous. Once cooled, the flavor brought me back to San Francisco, where I tasted an incredible sourdough at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market at the Embarcadero.
I am a foodie to the core. I miss travel so much; I am willing to make anything that will bring me back to my favorite meals from my travels. As I write this, I think it might be time to use the rest of my flour for fresh pasta. I can’t forget that unforgettable plate I tried in Tuscany.