A Taste of Home and Distant Lands

One of the most enjoyable things about travel is the opportunity to try new foods in the places you visit.  Each flavor becomes a reminder of a particular moment or place.

I remember sitting at a long table with a new acquaintance and a room full of locals at Pizzeria Bella Napoli in Verona, Italy.  The decor was unremarkable, but happiness brightened the atmosphere.  With every bite of the pizza from the wood-fired stove, we ingested the joyous spirit of the family gatherings and graduation celebrations taking place in that back street eatery.  Our new friend was a colleague’s cousin whom we had met only that morning and she had graciously guided us around the city.  She was pleased to share secret spots such as a wishing well and this well-loved pizzeria.

Other meals have also imprinted upon my memory:  a breakfast of migas in Mexico; simple black beans with Salsa Lizano at Moon Shiva in the cloud forest of Monteverde; our wedding feast, surrounded by family and friends who had lovingly cooked their favorite dishes from countries around the world and brought them to be shared by all.

On our recent trip, I discovered Alsatian and Swabian regional specialties such as Tarte Flambee and Maultaschen Soup.  The Tarte Flambee was a simple French version of pizza with a paper-thin crust, a variety of toppings such as smoked salmon or fresh vegetables and sprinkling of fresh cheese.  Maultaschen is a Black Forest favorite similar to ravioli with a spinach and pork filling in beef and onion broth.  This soup will always remind me of a special day in Stuttgart, spent with a long-lost, newly re-found “cousin-in-law” and her family.  At the end of our trip we met once again and my new cousin presented me with a special gift:  a book of Swabian recipes to awaken memories of our first meeting and to celebrate our new friendship and the beautiful Schwarzwald that she calls home.

Salmon Tarte Flambee

Salmon Tarte Flambee

Schwäbische Maultaschen

Schwäbische Maultaschen – A Black Forest Tradition

At home,  family food traditions include Pizza Fridays, waffles on Saturday, Papa’s pancakes on Sunday.  My daughters look forward to dinners when they return home and enjoy inviting friends to share from time to time.  My regular shopping safaris take me to supermarkets in Chinatown, the family-owned Lebanese deli, the local farmer’s market and the large specialty grocer to hunt for new and interesting ingredients.  And sitting down at my table is a journey to distant places and a celebration of a small circle of family and friends at the same time.

As we traveled through Alsace, we stopped to visit a winemaker that is a fervent devotee of biodynamic viticulture.  Surprisingly, the showcase at the entrance highlighted each variety and vintage, proudly displayed with a glass container full of the rocky soil that the grapes had grown in.  Biodynamic growers use very specific and spiritual growing methods and interfere as little as possible with the natural fermentation process.   As a result, the wine becomes a unique expression of a particular place and growing season and biodynamic viticulture views the vineyard as an interconnected, living system.

Food and wine, family and friends – an interconnected, living system.  I like that.

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