Were it not for these Chewing the Fat interviews, I’d probably never know what day of the week it is anymore. Instead, to brighten your Friday and send you off into what will hopefully be a delicious weekend, we’re sitting down with Talon Windwalker, the man behind the fantastic family travel blog, 1 Dad, 1 Kid as well as a new food-centric travel blog, Travels 4 Yum.
A real jack of all trades, Talon is a single parent, author, writer, former hospice chaplain, Zen monk, ultra runner, snowshoer, endurance cyclist, certified endurance running coach, scuba instructor, photographer, and lover of traveling, languages, cultures, cooking and food. He and his son, who was 9 at the time, left the US in May 2011 to embark on an indefinite journey to travel the world slowly while living as nomads. As of September 2013, they’ve lived on 6 continents and 18 countries.
Pretty incredible, no? Talon is a great example of how having a kid doesn’t have to put a damper on your jetsetting ways, but can actually enhance the experience. But what about when it comes to mealtimes? Thankfully, Talon holds nothing back as he dishes the dirt on how to deal with picky palates when traveling abroad, finding home on the road through food, and so much more! If you’re a family preparing to hit the open road (and even if you’re not), this is one interview you won’t want to miss!
We’re big fans of “foodcations”—on more than one occasion we’ve taken trips motivated solely by the desire to eat our way through our destination. Of all the places you have visited in your travels, if you were limited to only eating the food from one country, which place would you choose and why?
It’s REALLY hard to limit myself to just one country, but if I absolutely had to it would be Thailand hands down. No other found is as flavorful, and anything that is spicy is a real plus for me. Sometimes they can take something that has such a simple flavor and turn it into something amazing.
And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?
Morocco. We lived on an oasis in southern Morocco for a couple of months, and the food just isn’t that varied. They seem to have a handful of dishes, and thus ends the repertoire. It was good for a few days, but after that it got old quickly. Although, I do still love camel meat.
I was VERY surprised because in the States I adored Moroccan food. I just assumed that actually being in the country would open me to a whole new range of food, and it just didn’t. Perhaps the food is more varied in the north where the culture is less influenced by the Berbers.
What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?
I’ve tried so many! From grasshoppers and a beetle to camel meat and a guinea pig, as well as “parts” like eyes. I really enjoyed guinea pig and camel meat which surprised me. Especially the guinea pig. Just didn’t expect to like that as much as I did.
We also had lizard while in Vietnam, and it was pretty tasty. Even my son ate it which stunned me.
Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s or other fastfood cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?
I don’t really crave fast food. Mostly I get cravings for things like steak or pizza. Also, I’m, unfortunately, a big fan of sweets, and I begin to crave candies that I can’t find. Like licorice. Asians just don’t eat the stuff! A friend was kind enough to mail me a care package with some Red Vines in it which helped welcome me to Australia. Thankfully, the land down under is also a fan of licorice, and I’m able to find almost all of my favorites here. Which isn’t doing good for my bank account or my waistline.
I also get crazy cravings for bagels. When I found a place in Bangkok with real NY-style bagels I went a bit crazy.
Sometimes you don’t know a good thing until it’s gone! If there were one food from back home that you could eat RIGHT NOW, what would it be?
A bagel with salmon cream cheese.
If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?
Razor clam chowder, Dungeness crab, and sourdough bread with lots of butter.
One common parental struggle involves dealing with picky eaters come mealtimes—is your son a finicky eater or is he rather adventurous, and has traveling changed his eating habits at all? Which countries have been the best & worst when it comes to catering to a child’s palate? Are there any infallible kid-friendly dishes that can be found pretty much anywhere on the planet?
He is Mr. Finicky which sometimes makes me crazy because my palate is extremely broad. Unfortunately, he’s been able to find hamburgers and fried chicken everywhere in the world. He also thinks macaroni & cheese is a food group. He prefers my homemade stuff, and we’ve been able to make it almost everywhere. In Asia, it has been a bit harder to find cheese, though.
We know that you’re a passionate advocate of taking cooking classes when you travel. What are some of the things you look for when choosing a cooking class and what’s been your favorite cuisine to tackle in the kitchen?
I prefer cooking classes that include a market tour so you can be introduced to produce you may not have known about otherwise. You also get some wonderful cultural insights. I also like to be involved in the food prep, so classes where we’re invited to use locally available cooking instruments are going to be an attraction for me.
Naturally, a Thai cooking class was a big attraction for me, and I’ll be doing more of those. But my favorite cuisine to learn so far has been Nyonya cooking in Malaysia. I want to go back and take more classes. It’s not only excellent and healthy food but has some very interesting cooking principles.
One way that you save money while traveling is by housesitting whenever you can. Do you find that when you’re housesitting your eating habits change at all? For instance, do you feel obligated to cook more because you have a kitchen at your disposal? If so, do you try to cook local dishes, or do you use it is as an opportunity to make food from home that you miss?
I never feel obligated to cook at home. In between housesits we often don’t have a full kitchen. Actually, we’ve had some housesits that didn’t have a kitchen either. So for me it’s a real luxury. Especially when I have an oven. It’s incredibly rare in some of the places we’ve traveled. My son loves my cooking, and I love to cook. However, if it’s a place we haven’t been before, we still do eat local dishes because that’s a huge part of the travel experience for us.
As you and your son make your way around the world, you have been compiling a list of places that you might use as a semi-permanent home base. What are some of your top contenders, and to what extent does the local food scene play a role in your decision? Could you ever see yourself settling long-term in a location that didn’t have a diverse, vibrant dining scene?
I absolutely adored Morocco, but I couldn’t live in a small town there because of the lack of diverse food. I need a place that has access to a wider range of ethnic foods as well as more diverse food items to use in cooking. We really enjoy Asia, but it can be very limited in food choices as well, unless you’re in a large city like Bangkok or KL. We also adore Europe and Latin America. So far I’d say top contenders would be KL, Saigon, France, and South America. Yeah, that’s a pretty wide range, but we have so many places we really loved it’s hard.
Food is a big factor for us for sure.
Thanks so much to Talon for taking the time to sit down and gab about grub with us! Hopefully one day during our travels our paths will cross so we can share a meal together (maybe if we’re really lucky, Talon will whip us up some of that divine Nyonya food he learned while in Malaysia!).
Like what you read here and want to be featured in a future installment of Chewing the Fat? Great! We’re always looking for new people to dish about dining with! You don’t have to be a long-term traveler, or even have your own blog to participate; all you need is a healthy appetite and an appreciation for food. Contact Us letting us know that you’re interested in taking part in this series, and we’ll get back to you with all the information you need to get started.