I’ve always found myself frustrated that there was little left to discover. The earth had been mapped, animals named, colours mixed and chords strummed. Maybe this is why I was drawn to the kitchen where I refused to accept flavour combinations had reached their limits.
We travel seeking out the new, but also on a search for elements we can recognise and compare with our own habits, tastes, experiences, beliefs and day-to-day life. But the objective isn’t simply to observe the new with distanced curiosity, it’s about absorbing the differences and filtering them through our own life experience.
Food is the prism by which life makes sense to me and it is perhaps one of the most fundamental elements that defines exploration. Food is at the same time intimately personal, and also sweepingly global. We all harvest and hunt and use heat in similar ways to extract maximum pleasure from ingredients, but the experience can be drastically different from one place to another. Our tastes are in a constant state of flux and exploring new places only intensifies this delicious explosion of flavours.
When I travel, this discovery happens on the street, where food is not driven by globalised trends or captive to Instagram, but instead by the clear and tangible demand to quickly feed people something delicious.
Today’s traveler has it too easy bouncing around in their carefully crafted tourist bubble; silently Ubering from the airport to their Airbnb, guided around the city by an echo-chamber of TripAdvisor recommendations, and treated with white gloves via tourist-specific experiences, menus and interactions designed for the tourist. They miss the reality of a place that might be confronting and uncomfortable but at the same time beautifully authentic and the real reason we cross borders.
Street food smashes this bubble and the reason I will always choose a taco truck over Michelin stars when I travel. Street food forces us to be real explorers and cast aside our perfectly crafted routines in favour of a culinary adventure with an unknown destination.
If you spend a lot of your life in the kitchen, you’ll also appreciate the added educational value in fueling your travels with street food. Because, as it literally happens on the street, chefs have adapted and innovated with the bare essentials to create efficient cooking processes and developed specialised skills only years of practice can teach and no amount of thermomixing can match.We are all travelers and food is one of the most powerful ways to reference and remember a place. While celebrating our globalised world we must respect what goes down on the street. Any attempt to replicate the authentic experiences we have on the road, is doomed to fail because food is a multi-sensory experience that defies even the most skilled attempts recreate. I know the greatest homage I can pay is to fuse these traditions with my own culinary adventures into food that is authentic to me and neither disrespecting of cultural norms of limited by geography.