A month ago, we hinted that our new look was just the first of many new features we would be rolling out here at Twenty Years Hence. Today, we are proud to unveil the newest addition to our site: Chewing the Fat!
We’re foodies from way back, and more often than not, when we’re not planning our next great meal, we’re reminiscing about the best (& worst) things we’ve eaten. It seemed selfish to keep all this joy to ourselves, plus, one of the best things about food is how great meals can bring people together; in this spirit, we decided to start an interview series in which we chat with other travel- and food-obsessed friends and readers (and maybe even you!) about their greatest food memories and moments. For us, food is an integral part of understanding any culture, including your own, and as such it’s a critical part of travel. Be it an extended jaunt around the globe or a quick stopover in a new city, there’s no better way to rub elbows with and gain insight into the locals than to sit down to a meal with them. But food can also tell us a lot about ourselves, too; it is our hope that by chewing the fat with our interviewees, we hope to get to know each of them a little bit better, too… not to mention adding to our list of foods to try as we make our way around the globe.
We’ll be featuring a new interview every two weeks from people who have as much to say about food as we do, and we are certain it’s going to be a very interesting series! To give you a taste of things to come, we’ve interviewed ourselves first. We’ll kick off the rest of the series in two weeks with a fresh interview from someone new, so stay tuned!
We’re a big fan 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?
Steph: I feel really lucky that we have been to some places with truly delicious food since we have been together—even our trips back in the States were pretty epic, whether it was honeymooning in Charleston, SC & Savannah, GA, Thanksgiving in San Francisco, or our first real foodcation to Puerto Rico. On this trip, the food in Asia has definitely not disappointed and it’s tough to pick just one destination, but when I think back on one country where the word “food” immediately springs to mind, it has to be Hong Kong. I am pretty sure we blew most of our budget there eating our way through the city, but I have absolutely no regrets. The dim sum, the dumplings, even the vegetarian food… everything had such deep flavors, and I was constantly amazed at how some of the staples from Toronto’s Chinatown could be transformed into elegant and lighter versions that were just as delicious. There were also so many new dishes that we got to try here and it seemed harder to find a bad meal than it did a good one. By and large if we went back to Hong Kong, I would be sorely tempted to just follow the exact same food trail we did the first time!
Tony: Steph said it all, really. I guess, without anything new to say, I’ll throw out Taiwan as a close second for me. The night markets, the vegetarian fare (who would’ve thought?) and the breakfast food were just stellar, and run hot on the heels of Hong Kong as my favorite food country.
And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?
Steph & Tony: It pains us to say this because we loved everything else here so much, but the rumors about food in the Philippines being underwhelming are true. We didn’t know much about Filipino food prior to visiting and were really excited to explore the food scene here, especially because we had heard that Filipinos love to eat (one popular greeting, Kumain ka na ba?, literally means “Have you eaten?”). Sadly, we realized that most meals in the Philippines are either heavily processed and unhealthy, like fried chicken, spaghetti (with lots of sugar added to the sauce), burgers and pizza. And let’s not forget the unavoidable grilled chicken/pork/seafood with rice places; it’s cheap and gets the job done, but there are few meals that are more boring than this, especially day in and day out. Overall we found Filipino cuisine most closely resembled American fastfood, but even worse for you (if that’s even possible!). We can’t really figure out why this is the case as like Malaysia and Singapore, the Philippines has a lot of ethnic diversity in its origins, and yet the food scenes could not be more dissimilar!
What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?
Steph & Tony: We’ve eaten our fair share of organs and offal (and enjoyed most of it), which many people would consider daring. But for us, by far the weirdest thing we’ve consumed thus far on our trip was Pangolin while visiting a tiny island in the Philippines. Our host didn’t actually know the name of the creature they had prepared, but said it was an anteater and started drawing it in the sand. We were internally aghast as pangolins are extremely endangered. Alas, the critter had already been caught and cooked, so we felt refusing to try the dish that had been specifically prepared in our honor would achieve nothing but potentially insult our dinner hosts.
Our guilt was further compounded because the pangolin was actually really delicious. The meat was slightly sweet and we could definitely understand why it is considered a delicacy. Still, that will be the last time we eat pangolin if we can help it. Next time we’re back, we’ve been told we can look forward to some monitor lizard!
Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s and other fast food cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?
Steph: Since leaving on our trip I have frequently experienced intense cravings for Cheetos, which is kind of strange because I seriously never ate these back home. Sometimes I can justify this as “cultural research” because certain countries have weird Cheetos flavors that I am pretty sure you cannot get back home: broccoli & cheese Cheetos procured at one of the temples in Nikko, Japan comes to mind!
Tony: I’d say french-fries are right up there on my list of guilty pleasures. I’m picky about them though, I don’t actually like McDonald’s fries, or most fast-food fries for that matter. As such, I’ve had about three servings of quality fries since leaving the States. While I still enjoy a good fry, my inability to get properly prepared fires has definitely had an effect on how much I crave them.
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?
Steph: If we had launched this feature a few weeks ago, I surely would have said any kind of sandwich whatsoever, but now that we are in Vietnam, sandwiches are much easier to come by than they have been in the previous 8 months. So instead I am going to say a real Mexican taco, preferably chorizo or asado, served with some tortilla chips and a big bowl of guac. How has Asia not embraced the avocado?!?
Tony: I’m definitely with Steph on the Mexican food front, authentic Mexican food is crazy delicious and doesn’t seem to exist outside of the Americas. I also have moments when I’d sell a little part of my soul for a really good hamburger, with the right fat content (20-25%) and no weird crap mixed in with the meat (you can keep your flour and oatmeal thankyouverymuch). And no, fast-food burgers do not count.
If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?
Steph: If we’re talking Toronto, I’ve been away long enough that I admit I don’t really know the food scene that well there anymore. BUT, the one thing has remained a constant ever since I was a kid has been the street meat you can get there. Simply put, Toronto hot dogs are possibly the best ones on the planet (and yes, we’ve tried the ones in Chicago and New York… ain’t got nothing on a Toronto dog!) and so I always tell people to get one when they are in town. Go to a guy with a cart with the red & yellow umbrellas, pay your $2.50, and then go hog wild with all the toppings. You can put shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños, bacon bits… the works! I don’t care what the health reports say, I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of these things and never gotten sick, nor have I ever taken anyone who likes a hot dog to one of these carts and seen them leave disappointed.
As for Nashville, it’s gotta be lunch at the best meat & three in town: Arnold’s Country Kitchen. They’ve got two James Beard Awards and for good reason. Their fried chicken is amazing and they may just possibly do the best rendition of fried green tomatoes known to man. The only issue I have is that I can never pass on the pie (pecan all the way!) but by the time I reach dessert, I am stuffed! Just make sure you visit during the week because they’re closed on the weekends… and to be safe, cancel your afternoon plans, because after you’re done you’ll be headed for a serious food coma.
Tony: I’ve lived in Nashville long enough to consider it my hometown now, but if you went to my real hometown of Rochester Minnesota, I’d say go somewhere else. However, in Nashville I’d take you to El Tapatio for some of the best, most authentic Mexican food I’ve found in Nashville’s substantial Hispanic community. Their tacos are second to none and they have all the delicious meats you could want (tongue, goat, chorizo, pastor, you name it). The food is cheap and plentiful and delicious, the true trifecta. If you make it there without me, have a torta sandwich in my honor, their’s are the very best!
Did you like what you read here and are you interested in being featured in a future installment of Chewing the Fat? If so, 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.