How Culinary Experiences Abroad Can Positivley​ Change You

When I was a junior in high school I had a deep desire to get out of the USA and see what else was beyond the country. My longing especially was to go to Europe, and I was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to visit Germany and Austria for a Spring break trip.

It was through this trip that led me to not only begin my process of cherishing and honoring the different cultures and lifestyles of people around the world, but it opened my eyes – and shall I say, taste buds – to a transformational culinary experience too. 

On my trip to Germany, one of our accommodation spots was a small Bed and Breakfast within the mountainous fairy-tale town called Oberammergau. Before we arrived to check in, our bus dropped us off a few yards away and we had to walk in the cold rain that left me shivering, and miserable.

Upon entering the B&B, the owner saw the looks on our faces and ordered us to come into her dining room so we may have some soup. We took off our wet jackets, and I touched up my hair, as we sat in front of a long wooden table. Soon enough, the staff brought forth steaming hot bowls of tomato soup. 

I took one look at mine and squirmed. I hate tomato soup. Or at least, I hate tomatoes. Tomatoes were the one vegetable I would pick off sandwiches, or request to not have when I dined out. I’d even have to leave the room when I saw my dad drink tomato juice. Anything surrounding tomatoes was just not for me. 

But the look of the savory piping hot soup that was brought from the goodness of the owner’s heart, made me question my stance with the red vegetable again. I could tell it was homemade; it was thick, creamy and very simple looking, presented neatly in a blue ceramic bowl. 

From seeing all of this, I began to soften, thinking why not just try a bit.

I picked up my spoon and made a taste. It was incredible. No, outstanding. It was unlike anything I ever had before. It was warm, nourishing, delicious with a touch of black pepper and basil. It was perfect for that cold rainy day as a teenager. I could not believe my taste buds – I actually liked something with tomato.

It was as if a whole new world opened up in front of me. That perhaps I was seeing tomatoes and certain foods all wrong – that maybe instead of making quick judgments and disregarding something after trying one type of food, to explore the many dishes this food can bring.

One of the first things I made when I came home from Germany trip was tomato soup. It wasn’t as good as the small B&B in Oberammergau, but it supported me to open up involving tomatoes and other dishes I had a grudge toward later in life.

A year later, as my family and I welcomed a Japanese exchange student into our home, I was introduced to green tea. Tea, yuck, I had originally thought. I had a negative experience of tea when I tried it a few years ago – it was very strong and bland in taste. No way was I trying it again.

But Saiyaka challenged that notion. I watched how she prepared green tea. I found it to be a spiritual experience. She had a metal can with loose tea bags inside. She took it out carefully, gently placing the tea bag in the mug. The tea kettle on the electric stove was boiling with hot water.

Saiyaka picked up the kettle and ever so carefully, poured the hot water with intention into her mug. She then did the same for mine.

It was the first time I was shown an intimate relationship between a person and an inanimate object. Research shows the Japanese revere tea for it’s healing, curative property. Seeing how deep Saiyaka interacted with tea sparked my curiosity to try it again.

And to my surprise I enjoyed it. Yes, it was strong in flavor, but lighter in taste. The fact that my Japanese friend hugged her mug and took in the tea with ease made me like the drink even more.

To this day, I enjoy tea (with a little milk), every so often. And I always have tomatoes in my pantry, ready to be made into soup, sauce or sliced up for nice caprese appetizers.

Interacting with different cultures, whether through traveling or inviting them into your home gives us the opportunity to try things we’ve never tried before. Additionally, it also challenges our current relationship with certain things and supports us to push beyond our comfort zones. While some prefer to stay in their comfort zone, I do want to say you will have a more interesting and fulfilling life if you just move beyond the internal border. 

…and I can assure you if you allow yourself to travel to other countries, or at least open yourself and your heart to new culinary and cultural experiences, I guarantee you will tap into Positively source of pleasure to get to know. 

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