My kind of Foodie

Up until this point, I have explained my love for travel quite clearly. But my other great passion in life is food. I LOVE food. Food is the only art to touch every one of the human senses. Even if that moment of actually eating is short and fleeting, it has the power to excite, to comfort, to seduce and to create powerful memories that will last a lifetime.

Today, it has become really trendy to refer to one’s self as a “foodie”. For those that don’t know, a foodie is someone that loves food and (claims to?) knows a lot about food. Around the world there is a growing culture of food fans that worship famous chefs like sports fans worship championship athletes. In big cities like New York and London, “foodies” pour out big bucks to get the chance to eat dishes made my superstar chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Eric Riper. And given the chance, I would join them.

High end foodie party

But there is another aspect about the culinary experience that these big city, local foodies are missing out on. Besides delighting all the senses, food has one more gift to offer, if you are willing to take it. Food holds the keys to thousands of cultures across the planet. Cultures vary from country to country, province to province, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood. The best and most enjoyable way to learn about these varying cultures is via your pallet. In my opinion, when traveling, having an open mind and an empty stomach is almost as important as having a passport.

foodie map
Foodie map of the world

Some of my best travel experiences revolve around eating local dishes. I will never forget the wonderful taste of bistecca fiorentina in Florence, or of bun bo Hue in Hue, or of pork miso ramen in Tokyo.

Bistecca Fiorentina in Florence


Whenever possible, I avoid the restaurants that are designed for tourists and try and find where the locals eat. This practice has two advantages. First you will generally find the best tasting and most authentic food this way. Second, it is often the cheaper way to eat. And it is an exciting adventure. A number of times, I have walked into local eateries in a country that I don’t speak the language and when the server asked me what I wanted, I simply pointed at a dish I saw someone else eating. It almost never fails to satisfy.

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Bun Bo Hue being sold on the street side in Hue

I am sure someone from a city like New York will read this and think to themselves that they live in a city that has food from all over the world and that they have any culinary experiences available with a simple call and a take out menu. But sadly they would only be getting the tiniest part of the experiences.

Firstly, while all kinds of foods are available in major cosmopolitan cities, the choices are extremely minimal. Sure you can find the classic Vietnamese “phở” in New York, but could you find any of the amazing dishes from the central and northern regions of Vietnam? Not really. And even if you could, the experience of paying $15 for a bowl of mediocre “phở” in some restaurant in New York, will never come close to the experience of siting on a small stool, in a tinny street shop in Hanoi, eating freshly cooked “phở” that only costs $2, while watching the city go by.

Eating on the street
Eating on the street in Vietnam

So to all the food lovers out there, make sure you have your passports. If you really want to experiences the best food the world has to offer, much of it is far away, in amazingly exotic destinations. And to all you travel lovers out there, make sure you go with an open mind and an empty stomach. If you are one of those travelers that goes to Florence and eats at McDonalds, I promise you that you are missing out on some the best experiences out there.

Spice map
Spice map of the world




The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned

I recently had a conversation with an elderly family member back in the US, in which they said to me, “at my age you never know how much time you have left, so I can’t waste time on things that aren’t important. You are young and can’t understand, but you will someday”. What this person failed to understand is that I, more than most, very much do understand that thought and feeling. It was only a short 3 years ago, on September 15th, 20012, that that point was shoved down my throat in the most violent way possible.

On that afternoon, I was walking with my parents and their good friends, when an out of control car went up on the sidewalk and ran us over. My parents were killed and me and their friends were left badly injured. It is hard to grasp that one can learn something positive from such a tragedy, but I have. And it just so happens, that the lesson learned was one my father used to try share often.

My Parents
My Parents

My father was a very hard worker, working long days and was always at the top of his field. BUT, when he had time off, he always made it count. Probably my parent’s favorite things to do when my dad had time off from work, was to travel. Sometimes they would travel just the two of them and sometimes the whole family. Some of my favorite family memories were from these family trips, be it a local road trip to Washington DC, or a trip across the ocean to Copenhagen.

Some of my parent’s more frugal friends used to say to them, “We wish we could travel like you, but we don’t want to spend the money”. My father used jokingly reply, “are you planning on being buried with that money? What are you saving it for?” While my parents were alive, most people did not understand this lesson and just thought my father was just being hyperbolous. But one evening, after I had recovered enough to leave the US, one of my parents close friends took me aside and said, “I always thought your father was joking when he asked me if I wanted to be buried with my money. But he was right and I wish I had learned this lesson sooner.”

One thing I do not think I will ever get over, is the randomness of the accident. If this random driver had not been so irresponsible, if we had walked slower, or faster, or someone stopped to tie their shoes, the accident would not have happened. This scared me for sometime, but I quickly realized that randomness and mortality are part of life and I cannot let it paralyze me, because if I did, what kind of life would I be living? Instead, I remembered my father’s lesson and use this to drive me forward. Many people like to use the term “carpe diem” (seize the day). The slang “YOLO” (you only live once) is common and overused. But how many people actually understand the weight of such statements? How many people really seize the opportunities before them? How many people really try and find their path to happiness? I hope, someone out there will read this post, and it will help push them in the direction of happiness. I also hope that this explains to people why I choose to live the way that I do.

Live for today