November 9, 2011

My Intense Love Affair

Those who know me well can tell you that two of the things I enjoy doing most in life are traveling and eating. To say I love doing these things would be a massive understatement. I'd call it an obsession or refer to it as an intense love affair, bordering on dysfunctional.

For starters, there is no country in the world that I would not like to visit at least once. Not one. I've never understood why others find this so difficult to believe. I might be inclined to visit some countries before others and some might do very little to tickle my fancy, but I'd still like to go there someday. I truly believe every country is worthy of being seen and deserves a fair chance.

While some may be content with learning about other countries and cultures through books, movies, documentaries, email forwards with power point slides, or stories from people who have been there, I'd prefer to experience things for myself. For better or for worse. No doubt a talented writer through careful selection and arrangement of words has the ability to create such vivid descriptions that transport a reader so they feel like they are practically there. The same is possible with many other art forms, like film and photography. But in the end, one is still living the experience through someone else's perception, which could never be as fulfilling as experiencing for one self and being able to form our own judgment and opinions. Is this not what life should be all about?

I'm often asked how come I'm not married or have children yet. This is one of the most annoying questions a person could ever ask me and I always consider answering something along the lines of "THAT is none of your damn business". Lucky for those who ask, most of the time I'm in a good mood and able to hold my tongue. Most of my friends from childhood, high school and university are either married and/or have started families; maybe even have 2 or 3 kids by now. Some are happy and others not so happy, although the last will hardly ever admit it. Perhaps they don't even realize they are unhappy because they just don't know any better. Most are relatively content with where they are and the choices they have made, but some undoubtedly have regrets. Well, I too have made my own choices. A conscious choice to take my sweet time. Instead of working to support a family, I work to save up so that I can travel the world. That makes me happy for now, and I'm willing to take my chances and live with the consequences. And just to make it clear, I've had no shortage of marriage proposals over the years so that must mean there is nothing wrong with me.

Then there is food and anything that has to do with it, which always manages to put a smile on my face. Whether I'm growing it, looking at it, buying it, cooking it, eating it, writing or talking about it, learning about it, or advocating it as in the case of organic and non-GMO products. Food is one of my little pleasures in life and my stomach is unequivocally one of the ways to my heart. Many of my most memorable experiences usually include sharing food or some sort of culinary adventure with friends, family and significant others. This saturday coming up, me and one of my dear girlfriends, signed up for a 2-hour Indian cooking class. And coincidentally, while in India about two years ago, I did a 2-day class with my partner at the time, who shared this interest for food and cooking. An amazing experience that will live with me for a long time.

Back when I had a nice big kitchen, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday was to head down to La Boquería, a fresh food market located in the very heart of Barcelona's Old Town and considered one the best in Europe, where I would happily lose myself for hours; walking up and down the aisles, letting my eyes feast upon the myriad of colors and shapes in front and all around me, taking in all the different wonderful and not so wonderful smells, sounds, and most importantly touching anything I could get my little hands on, whether I was allowed to or not; pulling my old-lady trolley bag through the bustling crowds and filling it with all sorts of local and exotic goodies with which I would later happily experiment in my kitchen. But no day in La Boquería would be complete without a delicious sit-down lunch in one of the many unpretentious tapas bars or restaurants, where I was always sure to find simple yet well-executed dishes made with the freshest, best-quality ingredients available. The way it should be.

Although don't get me wrong, I love ostentatious fine dining just as well. A 6-course tasting menu at a 1 or 2 michelin star restaurant would not easily fail to provide an unforgettable dining experience. Nothing like a bit of molecular cuisine to shake up the taste buds and delight the senses, as long as the chef doesn't get too carried away. In that respect, I'm lucky to live in Spain, known for its unparalleled gastronomy and innovative cuisine. Home to some of the best chefs in the world, including Catalan-born Ferran Adrià, considered number one for many years, and who coincidentally opened his newest tapas bar (Tickets) walking distance from my house. It's practically impossible to get a table but rest assured as soon as I am able to go, I'll let you know how it goes.

But my love is boundless and covers the entire food spectrum. Some of the tastiest dishes I've had, the FDA (or equivalent in other countries) would certainly not approve of. Sprinkled with a little dirt, marinated with sweat, infused in car smoke, or with a portion of flies on the side. It's all good when it comes to street food. Sampling local cuisine as locals eat is one of the most interesting ways to really get in there and fully experience another culture. I would go as far as saying that it's a must, although you need to make sure you choose well and take the minimum necessary precautions. If you come from a developing country like me, chances are you have developed some immunity to such delicacies, but even then every country has its own elaborate concoctions of germs and bacteria, so one must be very careful in order not to end up in the toilet or in the emergency room for half the trip.

Some friends have been asking how come I hadn't written about food and some of the places I've visited yet. Guess I just haven't gotten around to writing about all the wonderful things I'd like to write about. This is mostly due to lack of time, not lack of want or will. But now that the subjects of my intense love affair have been properly introduced, expect to hear more, both often and plenty.

When I started writing this, my original intention was to share some thoughts with you about my most recent adventure. One that quite unexpectedly turned out to be a superb culinary experience as well. The idea was to start by giving you a short introduction on how I feel about traveling and food in general, but as you can see, a few paragraphs easily turned into an entire article. And if I don't stop now, it could just as easily turn into a book.


  1. Very nice.. Would love to read more about your world travel and food love affairs. It is very interesting to read that someone that went to high school with you has such an intriguing life style. I've chosen the path of starting a family and while I'm very happy where I'm at I can't help but wonder what if.. But I guess one day when my kids are grown my husband and I will decide what path we would like to take and certainly traveling the world is on top of my list.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    I think one of the most difficult things in life is to live in the NOW. We tend to obsess over the past and worry too much about the future. No matter what decisions we make, we will always think "what if" we'd made a different choice. I do it myself constantly. If you were blessed with your own family, cherish and enjoy every minute with them. I'm sure you already do. But yes, children eventually grow and leave the nest so keep those dreams alive! PS: I have to admit I'm very curious to know who you are :)

  3. Once while in Laos slowly and painfully succumbing to heat stroke I stopped a child vendor, purchased and ravenously ate an ant infested banana that sure enough nearly killed me the next day. My only regret to this day is that the sickness prevented me from enjoying a delish meal on my next stop lol. I particularly enjoyed this entry! Keep writing you're doing great!

  4. Of course you would girl! You're a seasoned world traveler yourself so you know exactly what I'm talking about :) You mean like little ants crawling around inside? Damn! We're glad to have you alive and well :) Thanks sweetie, hope you keep reading! Big kiss

  5. I enjoyed reading this sooo much.. and for several reasons:
    - I love the topic, food and travel, oh the pleasures in Life. Nobody better than you to write about it.
    - Because I know you so well dear friend, I spent the entire reading moment smiling and nodding, remembering all the moments we have shared talking about all this
    - Because of the way you kept me totally entertained, wanting to read more and more. Flow..
    I want to read more!!! :)) Muaaa

  6. You know me well darling so you know exactly how much I enjoyed writing this one :) I'm glad you enjoyed it too! More to come soon.. Muaaa!