by Tara Davis
Travel has a funny way of generating perspective, doesn’t it?
Whether exposing us to different mindsets and ways of life, opening our eyes to our own faults and privileges, or inspiring within us new goals, thoughts, or desires, it is perpetually important to slip out of that daily life bubble and see something different.
I remember my first visit to Boston. I was 12 or 13, not yet well travelled, and went on a family trip. Culture shock rules by memory, but now I laugh at how rude I found everyone’s abruptness, and how bland and boring I found the food. Even back then, food was a defining part of my travel. These days, my natural evolution has changed my approach and opened my perceptions a great deal. At least, I certainly hope so.
Fast forward many years and travel experiences, to a recent trip to Ecuador, during which one of my primary objectives was to eat all the ceviche and drink all the pisco I could. If I could eat my way around the world, quietly and unhindered, I gladly would, immersing myself in the heart of every culture via food first. All the other things come in time as well.
My current travels find me back in my favorite place (so far)- Scotland. And yes, I LOVE the food.
But even more so, this time around, I find I love that here, people and places still make time and create space in their days for meals to truly be events. In the U.S., that is not so much the case. Food is less experience and more convenience . Sure, we enjoy it, but even our socialization is usually on a time clock. Here, waiting between courses is not a watch checking, finger tapping time, but rather a chance to finish conversations, learn more about dinner companions, breathe in and out… and savor. Food. Life. Each other. And oh my, the food. Don’t underestimate the food, my friends. Stews, curries, pies, haggis.
Even if you aren’t into exotic cuisine, trying something local you haven’t before- a different treatment for potatoes or chili, even- can prove well worth the risk! I leave you with some ideas of how to make a meal more an event, in both recipes and practice.
Beef tenderloin: Rub 1-2 lb beef loin with a mixture or 2 tbsp garlic, 1 tsp each salt, pepper, 1/3 cup dijon mustard, and fresh thyme and parsley to taste. Allow to sit, refrigerated, at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.. place in an oven safe dish, top with ½ cup each olive oil and water and cover. Cook at 375 degrees 40-50 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 145 degrees. Slice and serve with drippings in a gravy boat. This is best passed around the table from a platter, so guests can choose their servings.
Basted potatoes- half 1 lb small potatoes (marble or fingerling). Brown in a skillet with a mixture of 2 tbsp each butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp butter, 1 clove garlic and 1 sprig fresh rosemary. Use a spoon to spoon melted butter from the pan on top of potatoes every 90 seconds or so until potatoes are fully cooked. Serve warm, from a platter, also passed, with shredded parmesan on the side.
Space out courses to allow 5-10 minutes between the end of one and beginning of the next. Refresh beverages and allow guests to relax and enjoy each other’s company without feeling rushed, but not dragging things out awkwardly.
Apple crumble- (This may be made in a large dish or individual serving dishes. You can make it ahead if desired.) Slice 1/2-1 apple per person. For 4 people, soften in a mixture of ½ stick butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp cinnamon. Place apples in the bottom of buttered oven safe dish(es). Top with a mixture of 1.5 cups oats, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and the zest of 1 lemon. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve warm.
Place a container of sweet cream on the table for guests. Offer coffee or tea after dessert, and before digests.