Travel: Food Inspired by our Travels

 

French Restaurant in Honfleur #TasteofTravel

Restaurant in Honfleur, France

What’s the best part of a holiday for you? Lounging by the pool with a cocktail? Swimming in a perfect sea, on champagne sand? The spectacular view at the top of a canyon, or the rush of adrenalin as you ski down snow-capped peaks?

I’ve been lucky enough to experience all of these, and more, and still have a bucket list I could never hope to complete. But you know what all of those pleasures have in common? Food.

Whether it’s a thickly-buttered warm baguette, oozing strawberry jam, after a long hard day on the slopes, or the fresh aroma of coriander and spice from an Asian street-food vendor, every great travel memory I’ve ever made has involved food.

Ethiopian Street Food #TasteofTravel

Ethiopian street food in Brick Lane

My Travels Inspired Menu

I decided to come up with a 3-course menu inspired by my travels, and I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled to pick. Not for want of inspiration. Gorgeous dishes bounced out of my memory in quick succession. Probably the most compelling was this one:

Aged 22 I travelled on a shoestring to Australia, via Hong Kong. Whilst staying on Kowloon, we wanted to visit the New Territories, and boarded a bus to Lau Fau Shan, a then tiny village built on a beach of oyster shells. It was a fascinating experience, which lasted all of 30 minutes, before we’d seen and done everything there was to see and do. There were 4 hours until the bus came back…

I’ll never forget the primitive alleyway in which every villager was shucking oysters on the street. They refused to have their pictures taken, and we felt guilty for intruding as tourists on this very simple way of life.

We began to grow hungry, and wondered how on earth we were going to fill the time. Then the weirdest thing happened. Out of the vast expanse of dust appeared a large, shiny, black Mercedes Benz. It turned a corner and disappeared down a dirt track. Then came another one, and another. We followed them.

It was my first taste of real Chinese food – not the lurid red-coloured takeaway dishes I’d seen my parents eating, but steaming dumplings, fragrant slivers of beef, glistening in black bean sauce, something called sticky rice which I’d never heard of, and yes – some of those oysters, fresh from the sea. It was the cheapest meal I’ve ever ordered, and it was the start of a desire to ‘eat local’ on every trip I’ve ever made since.

Dim Sum #TasteofTravel

Sadly, my camera from those days predates the digital age, so I couldn’t share photos even if I wanted to. My holiday food highlights are numerous – freshly-made Gazpacho in a Catalan vineyard, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to wash down slivers of tuna on the terraces of the Napa Valley, and rich, earthy game dishes in the Kruger National Park. But when it comes to choosing a menu, I’m a purist, and I wanted each course to flow into the next. For that, I had to go with my French connections:

Taste of Travel – A French menu

Crayfish starter #TasteofTravel

My starter: a fresh plate of Crayfish.

There’s nothing better than fresh seafood, and we happened across this glorious platter in a stunning restaurant at Les Sables d’Olonne, on the western coast of France. I remember the sun beating down on bright, white yachts in the harbour, the medium-cooked steak and green beans in garlic that my children both request whenever in a French restaurant, and the dew on our carafe of house white.

But what this dish really reminds me of is my son’s adventurous tastes. At 7, his favourite food is still chilli squid; he tasted lobster thermidor this Christmas, and requested it for his New Year’s Eve dinner; and he shared this plate with his Dad, learning to peel off the shells and remove the heads to taste the delicate pink meat of crayfish and langoustines. He’s a mini-gastronome and I love it, despite the restaurant bills of future family celebrations!

Cheese Fondue in Savoie #TasteofTravel

Main course – Fondue Savoyarde.

We took our first ski trip as a family this year, and I wanted the children to sample some of the gorgeous flavours of Savoie food. When I think French skiing, I want cheese. Raclette melting onto hot potatoes and cured meats, the sheer indulgence of Tartiflette, and a hot crêpe on the slopes, steaming with lemon juice and sugar. A cheese fondue is not a weekly staple; there’s just way too much fat in there to make it a healthy option. But we had shellfish for starters, so I can justify filling up my family with cheese once in a while. Besides, they’d learned to love skiing, and that deserves a treat in my book!

Macarons #TasteofTravel

Macarons – a tiny treat to finish.

Wherever we go in France, my daughter begs me for these bite-sized bits of heaven. She can spend hours choosing the perfect combination of colours and flavours (while I can’t resist photographing them). Little nuggets of almond-filled meringue, sandwiched together with jams and creams, caramels or ganaches. We found these in Honfleur, in Northern France, during a wander around the shady food market on a hot day. One for now, one for later, just enough to finish a rich dinner.

Macarons will always be our thing, me and my girl. I bought her a recipe book one Christmas, so we could share the pleasure of creating our own. We haven’t managed perfection yet, but we keep trying, every New Year’s Eve, and enjoying the mistakes together. One day we’ll manage it. Until then we’ll keep going back to France for our special treat.

They say smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory. I say food is at the heart of every one of my travel memories. Is it the same for you?

63 thoughts on “Travel: Food Inspired by our Travels”

  1. Woah – you’ve got me feeling hungry! I love the fact that you and your daughter have your own food. I have something similar with my son – we both adore mussels. He’s loved them since he was 3, and we polished off a big bowl of them together earlier today!

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  2. You’ve made me very hungry Helen.

    I have happy memories of Raclette in Tignes and will never forget when we ordered something in French that we weren’t sure about and were brought a plate of raw meat, thank goodness it was followed shortly after by a pot of hot oil :-0

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    • I was asked by my parents to order something with fish in it once on a day trip to Cherbourg when I was 14. Of course, I was totally fluent in French (not). We ended up with a dozen raw oysters each!

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    • Thanks Samantha. I’m so happy that my children are at an age where they’re interested in experimenting a little with food. It makes family dining on holiday such a special time.

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  3. Oh my I’m now so hungry. I love macarons too.
    This was on my to do list, looks like my getting organised this year has failed already lol.

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  4. Yum, my stomach is rumbling just at the thought. I totally agree, food is a huge part of travel and experiencing the country, and the street food is sometimes the best – dumplings in Xi’an and avocados right from the tree in Madagascar.

    My two-year-old is even inspired to be less fussy and try new things on holiday too. Well sometimes…

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  5. I haven’t traveled much in my life – I’ve never been abroad but seeing your photographs of all of these wonderful dishes certainly gets the taste buds going. Squid is something I have had and I love it!

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    • The great thing about all this food though, is that you don’t have to leave the UK to get it. We’re so lucky to have such a cosmopolitan food scene now.

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  6. I read this this morning, and have been exceedingly hungry for the entirety of the day! What a fantastic piece of food writing Helen, thanks so much for the mention! Whilst I might not have time to enter the competition, I wish you the very best of luck! Love the fact that you have me sussed completely – I do actually pick destinations for the food alone, hence my trips to Japan, Vietnam, Italy etc. Talk about Greedy! 😀

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  7. Oh I wish I had eaten before I read this post! French food is so wonderful and macarons are just the best thing ever. I have never understood why the French are all so thin as I never stop eating when I’m there. Lovely menu choices

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    • I know, they have such restraint. But then I guess they’re surrounded by wonderful food all the time, so there’s no need to eat it as if it were going out of fashion like I might!

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  8. I now desperately want to travel . . . and eat!
    We’re taking our first proper family holiday to France this summer – I’m already excited about the food! (Is that wrong?)

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  9. trying the locaL food is the best part of a holiday for me. We loved Honfleur and the pots of mussels, we even bought oysters to eat back at the holiday centre

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  10. *Mouth waters* I’ve lost count of the number of times hubby and I have gone the length and breadth of a holiday island/destination to find the best paella or seafood – our favourites.

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  11. Using my very limited French I helped my father order some snails on a trip to Northern France. A bowl of welks turned up! Some how I’d missed the bit on the menu about sea snails.
    The garlic mayonnaise that came with them helped with the error.

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  12. our holiday tend to focus around food too! the first thing that spring to mind is this wonderful dish that they make in my mums home town la laguna which is essentially ham egg and chips except it’s chorizo, layered with fine slices of fried potato and lashing of egg. incredible!

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  13. I with you on the food being the memories that sticks the most from holidays! Ah the ice cream we ate in Savoca was heaven itself. Good luck lovely x

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  14. You had me at thickly-buttered baguette! i couldn’t agree more that a holiday is all about the food. I just can’t look forward to somewhere with a dodgy buffet as the only source of nourishment. This menu looks fantastic, good luck with the competition!

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    • Thank you. We’re venturing into an all-inclusive soon for the first time in years. But I’m well-assured that the buffet-based restaurants are anything but dodgy, by my Space In Your Case colleagues. Can’t wait!

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  15. I’m not a massive fan of fish but I do love to try new foods when I get the chance and eating is most definitely a great part of travelling! France is perfect place to go for that isn’t it!! Those Macaroons looks gorgeous x

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  16. you certainly eat like kings on your holidays! I’m not a big fan of fish & seafood but I’m with your son on chilli squid, and surprisingly all my kids eat squid too which I never thought would happen.

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  17. You have just made my stomach rumble!

    Food is a massive part of our lives (it seems like my lot never stop eating), so finding holidays where the food is good, is a MUST!

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  18. Oh God – now you have me both hungry and reminiscing on past travels! Food is so important in anywhere I go. My best foodie experience was backpacking in Thailand. Eating sumptuous Thai curries on perfect island beaches every evening. Amazing.

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  19. France makes me think of family holidays, and travel in general now makes me think of the husband and the time we spend together. And some of the best food we’ve eaten has been local street food, he taught me to realise that great food is everywhere and you should embrace local culture every where. Put his post made me hungry!!

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  20. What a lovely read, really nice to hear about you and your childrens food stories, cant believe what a unique pallet your 7 year old boy has !

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  21. Oh, your photos are really making me look forward to our trip to France next week. We are off to Normandy for a short break and can’t wait to get back to the local delicacies. Love the sea food!

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  22. So beautifully written Helen and scrumptious, the lot of it. I, too, like to eat local when I travel, but, just so you know, next time you’re in Brighton, there’s a tiny little French place whose main product is those macaroons … and you won’t be disappointed. Those markets in Hong Kong are unforgettable, aren’t they?! X

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    • Yet another reason to visit Brighton! I do try to make my own here – J has a book of amazing macaron recipes – but they’re never as good. Must visit soon x

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    • I’m raising a family of foodies here 🙂 I wrote this ages ago but made it sticky, because I like to see it every time I log on. Can’t bring myself to let it go!

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