Travel is not just about places. It’s about activities too.
What is one thing that people of all nations, colours, and creeds have in common? We all eat. Food unites us all and a worldly traveller takes advantage of every bite to soak up all that a culture has to offer. From street food prepared for the masses to home-cooked family recipes perfected after generations of fine-tuning, food is the pulse of a culture. Food fortifies, it brings us together, and it is celebrated and cherished. Eating like a local is an important aspect of getting an accurate look at a culture. I’m talking about immersing yourself in a place and a way of life and eating what and how the locals eat.
What is perhaps even more rewarding than eating like a local is understanding the ingredients and care that goes into the preparation of the local cuisine. Cooking classes abroad are a great way to immerse yourself in a food culture. Learning to cook overseas allows you to bring a piece of a country and its culture home with you to enjoy with friends and family for the rest of your life.
“Eating like a local is an important aspect of getting an accurate look at a culture. I’m talking about immersing yourself in a place and a way of life and eating what and how the locals eat.”
Experiencing local food through cooking. I’m still yet to experience this myself out there, I badly want to do it soon. Really. I was watching travellers participated in several cooking classes all over the world via YouTube and blogs I followed, and it seems that they’re having lots of fun and an equally delicious experience. I saw how they learned to make succulent barbeque in Bali, spicy fish curry in Penang, luscious stuffed eggplant in Pattaya, and preparing Balot in Manila. While each class was uniquely different, each experience included instruction by a chef or the cooking experts native to the country, class participation in preparing the food, and a feast shared with fellow students at the end. In addition to learning how to prepare tantalizing authentic cuisine, a cooking class abroad encourages travellers to try new foods and cooking techniques, teaches respect and understanding for ingredients and indigenous cooking methods, provides a full sensory food experience and is time spent in a personal setting with locals, as well as people from other parts of the world. Through informal conversation over food, coffee and wine, cooking classes abroad provide great perspective into other people’s lives and meaningful insight into the local cultures.
Be ready for impromptu lessons. Learning to cook abroad doesn’t always require planning, a lot of cost or money, or even involve a deliberate curriculum. Far from it as sometimes cooking classes are impromptu. Inquire about ingredients and food preparation, and oftentimes foreign cooks will be so flattered by your interest you’ll receive a lesson complete with juicy information illustrating the cultural importance of specific foods.
“Learning how other people live is one of the main objectives of travel. Sometimes it is not all about places, but more towards the activities.”
Participation brings understanding. Learning how other people live is one of the main objectives of travel. Sometimes it is not all about places, but more towards the activities. The difference between an average tourist and a well-seasoned explorer is participation in a country’s way of life. A tourist travels to observe whereas an explorer travels to actively learn about people and their cultures. An organized cooking class abroad presents a great opportunity to learn the significance of regional ingredients and time-honored methods of indigenous cooking that the typical tourist can’t discover by merely sampling local fare at a restaurant. I was watching YouTube the other day on this. You know, at Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA) in Koh Samui, Thailand each student is given their own cook station with a stovetop, wok and cooking utensils. All of the cook stations are side by side and encircle an expert Thai cooking instructor. Each student follows the instructor and actually prepares his or her entire meal by themselves.
Thai food is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and (optional) bitter. Though an emphasis is placed on the balance of the five flavors, Thai food is celebrated for being particularly spicy. It can be adapted and made milder for those with sensitivity to the incendiary flavors of Thai chilies. However, if your taste buds can take the heat, Thai people believe chilies clear the sinuses, boost the immune system, ward off illnesses, and improve cardiovascular health. In rural areas just about every family grows their own chili bushes and tables aren’t set with salt and pepper shakers but instead with diced chilies swimming in a dish of fish sauce. The chili is revered and used widely in Thai cooking.
Cooking is a full sensory experience. Whether it’s the fragrance of chilies in a Thai kitchen, the smell of curry fish in Malaysia, the jovial laughter of fellow pupils, the sight of a full basket of freshly baked bread in Singapore, or the feeling of warm fragrance rice in Indonesia, a cooking class abroad provides a full sensory experience. In order to grasp ideas and concepts, such as cultural understanding, we perceive new information through experiencing the tangible qualities of the world, relying on our senses and immersing ourselves in unfamiliar situations. We learn by feeling, touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Cooking abroad is an opportunity to experience food on a deeper sensory level than the average tourist may be able to.
Be open to trying new things. Travellers are generally adventurers who are not strangers to trying new things. A cooking class abroad encourages travelers to broaden their horizons even wider and try new food, drink, and culinary preparation methods. A cooking class is a perfect environment in which curiosity grows and adventurous eaters become even bolder.
“Cooking abroad is an opportunity to experience food on a deeper sensory level than the average tourist may be able to.”
Experiencing a new world altogether. A cooking class abroad brings more pleasure and knowledge than merely sampling traditional cuisine in a restaurant overseas. Try new cuisine, learn about regional ingredients and their cultural significance, experience foreign food with all five senses, and most importantly spend time in a personal setting with local people who are willing to share a valuable piece of their lives with you though food. A cooking class abroad is an excellent opportunity to meet new and interesting people that share a passion for food. Learning about how other people live, think, and eat opens up your eyes to the surprising and amazing world we live in. If you like to travel and you like to cook, try a cooking class on your next trip abroad. Food is an expression of culture and fully experiencing it will help you gain deeper insight during your travels. By participating in a cooking class abroad you’ll surely learn more about food, yourself, and the world than you ever thought possible in a mere few hours.