Notwithstanding having a kitchen the size of a yacht galley, I love food.
Living alone, I whip up very few culinary delights. This is despite watching the occasional TV chef, attending a cooking school in Thailand, managing a cafe in Athens, and working as an entree chef in Wales! (In an Italian restaurant, under a temperamental French Chef)
However this experience has qualified me, like people at an art gallery, to know what I like – and what I miss when I travel.
Usually simple things like good bread, vegemite, good cheese, seafood, and poached eggs on toast. However it all depends on the country I am in, how long I have been on the road and my state of mind.
When all is well I am happy with the local food no matter what it may be, although a snack of sun-dried caterpillar in a Zimbabwean food market was hard to swallow because of its dryness.
When I was vegetarian it was difficult to be sure no chicken had sat in the soup water despite having learnt to say ‘I don’t eat meat’ in a dozen different languages. “Vegetarian meal? No problem, here is chicken, fish or pork.” As long as it is not red meat some assume that it must be vegetarian. “No – no meat, no chicken no pork, just rice please. No. No soup on it” I say as they would carefully scoop up some liquid and leave the chicken pieces floating in the fatty cauldron.
Some countries are easier to travel in when you don’t eat meat however even some Buddhist eat meat. The best place in the world for vegetarian meals is a small suburb in Georgetown. (Malaysia) If you are going there, write out these directions.
Go to the reclining Buddha, (walk or bus from town) then cross the road to visit the peaceful Burmese Buddhist temple and when you have finished looking, go out the front gate – turn left, walk a kilometre down the road to a t intersection, turn left and stop at any food shop. I guarantee it will be fantastic. I also know you will ask, as I did, “Are you sure this is vegetarian? No meat?”
They are amused. Yes, no meat. They have developed creative and tasty ways of using tofu in its many forms. Menus are varied, the food delicious and I went back, and back to sample the lot.
Many British people I met had become vegetarian for their travels, they wanted to reduce the chances of gastric problems and maybe it helps. I certainly ate everything I wanted, everywhere, and apart from the occasional quick trips to the toilet it seems my stomach could handle anything.
A young British GP I met in Harare said she always eats the local yoghurt for a day or two when she goes anywhere new – a gentle way introduce her stomach to the local bug culture- sounds feasible – I have no idea if it works but she swore by it.
I finally gave up being a strict vegetarian so I could join with locals and try cultural delicacies such as crocodile, haggis and in Cairo, pigeon stuffed with green rice. My stomach continued its cast-iron behaviour. I put it down to the earthworms I told my parents I had eaten when I was a very young child. True? I have no idea!
So eschew the international fast food places and tourist restaurants that will deliver the same meal as you get at home, and vegetarian or carnivore, go visit the local markets and give your taste buds a scrumptious surprise.