Cooking with Culture. Traveling for Taste.
Your Favorite Food Experience. It's hard to choose, right?
I have never been one of those people that traveled specifically for food. I traveled for adventure, was on a budget, and saw food as fuel, a connection to the culture and something that had to be healthy but not too costly. However, I learned through travel that food brings people together and it's how cultures share and preserve their history sometimes, passionately. It's the most basic expression of peace, friendship, and togetherness. Can you think of a place you traveled to where the experience of someone sharing their food or drink was the passion of their existence? Go ahead, take a moment, memories are our guiding light to what the future will be again some day. Remember? They shared a moment with you, their homemade sauce, bread, pasta, taco, tea, or wine, because you were special to them, and that gastronomic gift was their way of saying, "This is my world, and I am honored to share it with you." For me, I think immediately to a small medieval village in France called Megève. Walking through the narrow cobblestoned streets just big enough for pedestrians and horses, their passion for food and wine runs deep and it's not just eating, it's an experience. During a morning run I was out of my skin elated as I ran past historic old farms where old men were getting their horses out for the day, drawing their carriages to town for the markets, and I could smell history through the cold mountain air; the pastures, the animals, the old barn wood, and morning coffee.
Ohhh the market! The specialty of Mègeve was definitely the cured meats and cheeses and the families will argue their whole lives about whose is the best. So obviously, one must test them all to know for sure.
Anyways, that's just a small but beautiful part of the experience. Dinner is an all night affair. The kids eat first then off to bed so the adults can dine.
In an ancient breezy house that has acquired as many little rooms and passageways as they have grandchildren, everyone crowds around the plates of passionately prepared foods. Every morsel, every sip, has a story. It is with those stories the conversations become theatric as the family squabbles about the tastes, the stories of the farmers, and brings everyone, including the town into that tiny little room. Stories, place, passion, and culture. That's what made it memorable. Knowing that every bite was connected to and supported a local farmer, every sip based on centuries of aging and caring for the land. The respect and connection to the people and the food, is an experience that leaves a lasting mark. Sourcing food locally, direct from farmers has been a way of life for us and in Colorado it was easy; a weekly farm box, a farmers market, hunting, etc. but we quickly learned that was not the case here in Panama. While building our Eco Resort here on the ocean, in the remote jungles of Panama, getting out and creating relationships with locals to figure out our food sources proved a bit of a challenge and will be for some time to come. It's not easy to be introduced to a family in a new language, a new culture, and say "Hey, I would love to buy one of your pigs but, it has to have access to fresh water, natural grasses, no hormones, live out in a pasture - not a cage, and can you please carry it out by horse so I can get it home? That's a lot for my backpack. Mind you, they don't have a lot of pigs or cows and most are raising them for their families sustenance, not for a market. From these conversations have come some beautiful relationships. We even take our guests to these homes so they can meet the families where we get our meats and experience an authentic way of life. It turns out, up in the mountains, these families care for their animals like well, family. It's just a natural living to properly care for your animals and is better for everyone. It's pretty awesome to take a nap in a hammock while a pig is snoozing in the corner of your room. So, when I say great food starts with the source, it has a story, this is what I mean. This is just the beginning.
Turtle Tip: Jacinto and Diego from our local Sea Turtle Conservation Center are doing their best to save baby sea turtles from predators and poachers. A donation of just $30 provides them the material for protecting eggs for safe hatching. It takes only a few minutes to do. Click here to help save them from extinction.