Thailand: Come hungry

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If you’re into food, I’m not sure there’s a better travel destination than Thailand. From a culinary standpoint, this country is a goldmine. Not only is the food here delectable, it is also astonishingly affordable. I arrived in Bangkok in mid-December, weary from two months of travel in India. Within moments, however, the culinary delights of this new country had me reinvigorated.

Before I even checked into my hotel, I began sampling the street foods – pad Thai, mango sticky rice, fresh fruit shakes. The sheer volume of fruit in Thailand is enough to make your head spin. Mango, banana, pineapple, papaya, watermelon… the list goes on and on. I began to feel incomplete if I went a day without a fresh fruit shake.

My travels in the “Land of a Thousand Smiles” took me to all the usual tourist spots – Bangkok, the islands in the south, and Chiang Mai in the north. If you ever get to Thailand and are as fanatical about food as I am, then the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai is not to be missed. They close down Ratchadamnoen Road to traffic and pedestrians can stroll from one end to the other, buy a silk scarf or other regional handicraft, and sample an array of local foods from sweet to savory.

On the savory end of the scale, there was grilled corn-on-the-cob, skewered fish and chicken on the grill, pad Thai made-to-order, and a unique selection of deep-fried insects. I never got daring enough to try these, but friends who did said they were simply “crunchy.” I’ll take their word for it.

My travels through Southeast Asia will take me briefly back through Thailand. Needless to say, my stomach is already grumbling in anticipation. So if you’re looking for a food-based holiday, consider Thailand…

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To travel is to eat

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If you’re anything like me, then you believe that one of the main reasons to travel is to experience new cuisines. I’ve had my fair share of variety on this trip so far, and I haven’t even left India yet. I began my culinary adventures at an ashram in Varanasi, where the food was reliable, but not very exciting. By the end of my month-long stay there I was happy to leave curried vegetables and white rice behind. Since then I’ve sampled many other kinds of Indian cuisine. This country is enormous, so it’s not surprising that there is a wide variety of food.

Even though I’ve not traveled to the south, dishes from this region are delicious, dosas in particular, a kind of crêpe filled with potatoes and other vegetables. I am also now a full-fledged fan of Tibetan cuisine, which I discovered in Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. There is one restaurant in particular there, Gakyi, which serves momos (dumplings) to die for, and Tibetan brown bread that I now crave daily. I tried to ask for the recipe, but to no avail. Guess I will have to experiment when I return home.

On more than one occasion, I have been told that Kashmir is a must-see destination, and Kashmiri food alone was enough to convince me. Favorites from this region include Kashmiri naan, naan filled with dried fruit and nuts, and Kashmiri tea, a delightful concoction of tea, black or green, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and a hint of saffron. This I have been shown how to make by my Kashmiri friends, and I plan to make it a staple of my diet upon my return.

One of the best ways to learn about a culture is to experience its cuisine. It is also a great way to connect with people. Everyone eats, and there is nothing like sharing a meal to bring people from all walks of life together. So as you travel, don’t forget that to refuse a meal or a taste of something new, you might also be missing out on a chance to connect with new friends. Bon appétit!..

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Food, Inc. is thought provoking

My wife and I had heard snippets in the media and from friends and colleagues about the movie Food, Inc. We finally rented it and sat down to watch it. The movie is of that genre of semi-documentaries made with a clear bias and a core message to deliver (think Michael Moore).

Nonetheless, like many people we found Food, Inc. to be thought provoking. Much of what is presented is doubtless factual, and most of it is at least mildly disturbing. Although I think of myself as someone who maintains a healthy diet and lifestyle and who knows something about food and the food industry, I was surprised to learn about the makeup of the modern food industry.

Although I think of myself as someone who maintains a healthy diet and lifestyle and who knows something about food and the food industry, I was surprised to learn about the makeup of the modern food industry.

Who would have guessed that four manufacturers control over 80% of the meat industry? Or that corn and soybeans are such predominant, government subsidized crops in the U.S. that they appear directly or indirectly as ingredients in virtually every food you’ll find on today’s store shelves? Or, perhaps more insidiously, that one chemical company has a virtual monopoly on the GMO seed supply used to grow almost all of today’s soybeans?

If you’re interested in food quality and food safety for yourself, your family and your community, you may find Food, Inc. to be informative and even galvanizing. And if you’re interested in influencing how food is grown, stored, and transported throughout this great country of ours, vote with your pocketbook whenever you make food choices.

Watch the Food, Inc. trailer

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