Travelling Vicariously Through Food: an Ode to Multiculturalism

It’s long been a dream of mine to see the world through the lens of a cooking pot. I’ve spent countless hours fantasizing about the spice stalls of Marrakech, bargaining for fresh fish in French markets, and even tasting the most bizarrely delectable fruits of South East Asia. I want to understand the culture of a new place by tasting it.

I mean what better way to get to grips with a country than through the complexities and history of its food? Personally, I think it’s the only way to really immerse oneself, which is why I’m always open to anything. Grilled cockroaches, roasted grasshoppers and chocolate coated ants? Why not? I think these delicacies open a window into a different way of life and allow you to rethink your prejudices. Surely, it would be closed-minded to refuse a regional cuisine?

But let’s face it; the most exotic place I’m likely to end up is the World Food aisle of the local supermarket. I don’t mind perusing the plantain or picking up a few avocados for a hastily made guacamole, but I would love to throw caution to the wind and gather the family together for a one-way ticket to the Middle East.

Then again, I’d just as easily swap my kitchen’s freestanding oven for a two-piece hob in the back of a camper van. Sure, there’d be quite a bit of screaming from the booster seats, but what’s life without surround sound? And yet, I’m a realist and this realist knows that RTW travel is not an option for me. It’s all very well and good to denounce responsibility and take to the skies with the rebellious freewill of a careless drifter, but what if you’ve got kids and mortgages and pets and elderly parents? It’s just not going to happen for this travel-hungry mum.

A Multi-Cultural Cook Off

Luckily, my native England is a veritable gold mine of exotic foodstuffs and I can vicariously experience the rich diversity of humanity through food (apologies, waistband). Our culinary culture has pinched many influences from all over the world, creating a kind of empirical casserole that is quite unlike any other. Although this has had an unfortunate impact on grassroots British food – which is famously bland and unimaginative – the variety of worldly goods on offer is astounding.

Indeed, multiculturalism has been an absolute godsend for me and my wanderlust. From the oriental market to the polish green grocers, the average town centre has been transformed into a global food bazaar and I think it’s criminal to ignore the potential of these places.

Ever since I had my own kitchen and invested in a decent oven, I’ve harboured a fervent interest in the cultural heritage of food, and have spent many a weekend tracing the history of paprika or the agricultural significance of wheat grain. Sad, I know, but we’ve all got our quirks.

Shopping locally is also a wonderful way of experiencing new foods and giving some experimentation a go. Even on a budget, there are so many independent delis and markets popping up all over the place. There’s virtually no excuse to not try something new. Expensive, yes, but if I don’t have the freedom to travel then I’ve got to splash my hard earned cash somehow and whilst I can’t eat my way around the world, I can reinvent worldliness in my kitchen. This not only has a beneficial impact on me, but on my kids too. Since I started spicing up their supper with unusual ingredients, they’re more willing than ever to try new flavours and learn about the culture behind their chorizo jambalaya. I’d take that over bangers and mash any day of the week.

By June Burch – a wife, mother and travel-obsessed foodie.