At 18, I loaded up a backpack with a journal, a Minolta SLR, and a pair of running shoes and spent five months studying Spanish in central Mexico. In the crisp mountain air of the Sierra Madres in Queretaro, I watched indigenous women press corn gorditas into their hands, imbibed guava agua frescas at the local bustling food market, nibbled on jicama sticks sprinkled with cayenne and doused with lime juice, and savored the silkiest, richest mole (32 ingredients!) at my host family's Christmas dinner. My discovery of Mexican culture and the deep, complex flavors of Mexican food launched my lifelong love of cooking and travel.
My journalism career, which started in Salem, Oregon, propelled me further -- to Cuba to write a feature travel story for Gannett's national wire service, and then to Trinidad and Tobago, where I moved to become a one-woman correspondent for the twin-island nation for Associated Press. In these places, food grounded me, and always made me feel at home.
My second career, in international development, afforded me travel to more remote places like Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia where I slurped down spicy mutton soup near the Tien Shan mountain range dividing Kyrgyzstan and China; Kosovo, where I sipped the best shot of espresso ever in a windowless basement cafe with a beatnik vibe; and Moldova, where I feasted on fresh grilled fish stuffed with dill and a chickpea salad at the vineyard of a small-scale winemaker.
At 37, nearly 20 years after my travels to Mexico, I loaded up my suitcase again with a journal, a Canon DSLR, and a pair of running shoes - this time tagging along on my husband's business trip -- to Italy. In the hills of the Lazio region, I rolled out and cut fettucine by hand, foraged for delicate spears of wild asparagus on the hillsides, and braised snails in a simple garlic tomato sauce. Learning the art of old-school Italian cooking gave me an appreciation for quality ingredients, hard work, and how a few simple food items, prepared well, can blow your mind.
The best part of travel is bringing discoveries home. I know I'm successful when the food I've prepared becomes an exciting backdrop to a lively conversation at the table. Come sit with me and enjoy!