If you are a food lover, you are likely to pick up culinary souvenirs during your travels.
The consumables have expiration dates—like my block of aromatic chocolate from Oaxaca; tin of goose liver from Budapest; jar of parmigiano reggiano “crema” with white truffles from Bologna; and bag of Geechie Boy Yellow Grits from Charleston. But other souvenirs have joined the ranks as permanent members of my pantry.
One of the many joys of traveling is finding new foods, recipes, tools and techniques to incorporate into your cooking repertoire at home. Some are useful; others are decorative. Almost like photographs, they allow travelers to re-experience tastes and sensations that remind them of special places they’ve visited.
Some of my personal favorites include the rice scoop I purchased at a market near the port of Coquimbo, Chile. Carved by hand out of wood, it scoops out the perfect portion each and every time, leaving a pretty impression in the middle of the rice on your plate. It has a long wooden handle, which you can’t see in this photo.
Another is the tin santo of San Pascual, the patron of kitchens, that I purchased at the Santa Fe School of Cooking in New Mexico. It hangs on one of the walls of my kitchen, making me feel like the patron saint of sheep, shepherds, cooks and kitchens is looking over us.
It’s hard to resist buying “just one more” of the flour sack dish towels that appear in virtually every gift shop and cooking store. The originals have a history: These towels were once were made from salvaged fabric from flour or grain sacks that was bleached, washed and trimmed. Now the towels are made to look like the originals but they’re still soft, light and easy to pack. They also make great gifts. I usually opt for the ones with designs reminiscent of the destination; this one came from the Charleston Tea Plantation but I have others from Provence.
Blogger and Journalist Naomi Tomky (www.thegastronome.com) recently wrote a terrific article entitled, Take it With You: The Best Culinary Souvenirs on SeriousEats (one of my favorite culinary sites for travelers and food lovers) that inspired this post. Passionate about eating and traveling, Tomky wrote about one of her favorite culinary souvenirs, a green mug:
Three years after the trip, the mug’s Provençal colors still remind me of market where I bought it, of nibbling charcuterie and wonderfully gooey cheese on the cobblestone plaza facing the vegetable stalls, drinking carafes of rosé at a tiny bistro table as we browsed our purchases. I use the mug nearly daily—it’s wonderfully comfortable to hold, and the thick walls help keep my coffee warm as I daydream.
She also laid out her advice about which culinary souvenirs are worthwhile and which might be better to avoid.
But when it comes down to it, splurging on any souvenir–culinary or something else–is so personal.
I asked several other boomer bloggers about their personal favorites in terms of culinary souvenirs:
Susan Manlin Katzman, Sweet Leisure
The other is a pig-shaped porcelain pitcher made in Italy, and so very Italian in spirit. I bought it many years ago and kept it filled with flowers in a kitchen window for a long time. Now it’s on a kitchen book shelf, adding fun to a row of vintage cookbooks. It always makes me smile—as does thoughts of Italy.
I adore my lion-head nutcracker. I bought it in England at an antiques market. Unfortunately, I mourn the fact that I passed up a similar, much older one but did grab this one when I realized my mistake! In fact, this nutcracker has started me on a tiny collection of them.
Michelle da Silva Richmond, The Restless Voyager and About.com Cancun
When I was a child, my grandmother – who was from Quebec – would use this “ancient gadget” to bake potatoes on top of the stove. She told me that she had brought it from Canada. She’d place this “flat iron” on the open fire and occasionally flip it over, producing the best-tasting potatoes I’ve ever had. I’ve never been able to duplicate them – and I’ve never seen another contraption like it.
Donna Meyer, Nomadwomen – For Experienced Women Who Travel
Juergen Klein, dare2go
We are not Americans, but travelled extensively in the USA in 2006. Among many other places, we visited the Amish country in Pennsylvania. In Intercourse (that’s really the name of the town) we found this warren of a householdgoods shop selling all sorts of amazing kitchen gadgets; for us an opportunity to combine two things, get a few things we found useful for our camper kitchen (Remember: Amish don’t use technology and not many electrically powered tools = perfect items to use in an RV where you don’t have much electricity either) and get close to the Amish without being conspicuous. We really enjoyed this. And the most cherished kitchen knife we own came exactly from there. It has a nice thin blade, perfect for vegetables and onions, remains nice and sharp, and it can be re-sharpened really easily on the bottom of a china cup or plate (the unglazed rim). It has been with us since 2006, travelled all the way to South Patagonia, then through Europe and Turkey to Australia, remained our favorite knife there and came with us for the second trip through South America.
Pretty amazing for a simple kitchen knife.
Suzanne Fluhr, Boomeresque
Have you collected any kitchen treasures on your travels?
This post is part of a linkup with Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery.