What if you could start your day as an international jet-setter, jaunting your way from one corner of the globe to the next? How would you feel about lounging on a tropical beach tomorrow morning, swinging in a hammock while calmly inhaling the salty ocean air, sipping at a bright and refreshing fruity beverage from a huge hurricane glass? How much fun would it be to wake up to the buzz of a bustling metropolitan city the very next day, the sorrowful moan of an accordion floating on the cool breeze to tickle your ear, while the crispy crackle of your freshly-baked bread and the first few sips of your hot brew gently rouse you from the previous night’s slumber?
The common cliche reminds us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s the time of day to refuel and recharge your resting body in order to prepare it for the tasks ahead. It’s the opportunity to provide it with the necessary nutrients to sustain your energy and fix your focus for the coming day. Why not make this particular meal time the occasion to prioritize your preference for a life of travel. Use this as your chance to prepare your palate for a new culinary adventure!
We often look at food as a litmus test of a person’s past, a tale that tells us where a person has been. Her inclinations at the table might speak to a particular continental origin. Certain staples such as big bowls filled with rice might indicate the Asian origin of her parentage. Large quantities of corn, on the other hand, could connote a culinary tradition cultivated in Sub-Saharan Africa or in Central America.
Homemade Smoked Salmon Benedict, prepared with local Albanian ingredients
Never was our table more loaded with corn than during our time in Mexico. The steaming stacks of freshly pressed corn tortillas were such a toothsome delight, we ate almost no other staple grains for the entire first month of our residency in that country! It was not uncommon to find a toasty, towel-lined basket at the center of our breakfast table every single morning.
However, it wasn’t only in Mexico that you might have found corn on our table. Rice was quite obviously the staple at the center of our Japanese dining experience. Locally grown and freshly polished, we quickly learned that many of our neighbors didn’t just grow their own grains, they also considered it their patriotic duty to consume the same at least three meals per day. So it was a curious cultural exchange that brought them to our cooking workshops, where we taught the techniques for turning ground corn into the traditional flatbread that encases a tasty taco. The planning and the preparation for our family’s Mexican Migration were already in the works many months and more than 11,000 kilometers away.
Warm and hearty Mexican Enchiladas, topped with Fresh Salsa and Crumbled Cotija Cheese
Mealtime is a time of community, a time of experiential exchange in which food plays a central and vital role. Conversations over a shared repast don’t just center on the contents of the meal, but the very language used to name and describe a table’s offerings can be its own rich and complex lesson in history, culture, and peoples previously unknown to us. The table at which you sit can become a veritable smorgasbord of vocabulary and terminology that can transport your brain to the heart of a new location, even if your body hasn’t yet hopped on a plane to catch up.
The life of an expat is often about putting yourself into new and challenging positions. As a traveler, you are constantly expanding your horizons by stepping into unfamiliar environments, surrounding yourself with strange-sounding speech and immersing your taste buds in unique flavor and textural combinations. Why not spend your next session of slurping up soup for sustenance and practicing these same chameleon-like skills from the comfort of your current home?
Take advantage of your next trip to the market to pick up a new-to-you ingredient from the region of your future home. Seek out a trusted source for a recipe that’s common in the area, but that you have yet to personally sample. Wrap your tongue around the names of the items until they begin to roll off with a sense of ease. You can utilize familiar preparation techniques, or you can stretch yourself and try a new-to-you cooking method as well. Play with your food until the exotic becomes your new everyday. Smell and handle and manipulate them until the unknown becomes so well-known, it’s simply another facet of your complex character.
Some mornings our breakfast harkens back to the flavors of our childhood, packed with the aromas of our earliest memories and warming our stomachs with a comforting nostalgia. On a lazy weekend morning like today, our bountiful breakfast gradually glides into more of a leisurely lunch. It reaches beyond our present experiences toward our hopes for a tomorrow we have yet to envision. It’s our reminder that the basic sustenance before us today has the power to fuel our dreams. And that we have the capacity to funnel our imagination through our very own hands to create that reality, not only in our kitchens each morning, but in our lives every single day!