One of my favorite things to do while traveling abroad is browse local grocery stores. I love to see the different types of produce, cuts of meat, and packaged snacks line the shelves of a foreign grocery store. I try to pick up something new to try every time I make a grocery store trip (mostly sweet snacks!) to enjoy what the locals eat.
Although, while traveling abroad for such long periods of time, eating out for every meal can add up. I’m always conscious of my budget and spending. So, I try to cook at home, wherever home may be at the time, and eat out only a couple of times a week. Not only does it help make my apartment feel more like a home when I cook, but I also get to challenge myself with new ingredients, especially as someone who is just starting to learn how to cook properly.
However, cooking at home while living abroad isn’t as easy as you may think.
Cooking for Health
Along with saving money, I like to cook at home to stay healthy. I know exactly what I’m putting in my dishes and won’t be surprised by tablespoons of butter dripping on my substitution of vegetables while dining out. Within the last year I’ve been more conscious of what I eat. I’ve been adding more vegetables and less meat to my diet, while trying to stay away from packaged foods.
This isn’t easy while traveling, though. After a long day of either working from a cafe or exploring a new town, I’m exhausted and just want to stop at the first restaurant I find. Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE food! Dining out and trying new, local food is my favorite thing to do while traveling. But it just isn’t sustainable for my health or my wallet.
What I do enjoy doing is adding new ingredients to my cooking and finding local recipes (thank you Google translate!) to try. There is nothing better than using the freshest local ingredients in a home cooked meal.
Going back to a healthy diet – this can be challenging while on the move. You’re so tempted to grab a quick bite to eat while waiting for your bus connection. I always try to pack some snacks with me, especially when I know I’m going on a long bus ride. While I said I try to stay away from packaged foods, there are actually some healthy non-perishable food out there.
Substituting Ingredients and Appliances
Living in someone else’s property for a month takes some adjusting at first, especially when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. You have to learn the tools and appliances they do and don’t have and how to work them.
I have a funny story about trying to get my stove to work while in Croatia and trying to boil water what I thought was on a high setting, but was actually the lowest setting of them all. My mistake!
There are some appliances I have to do without and others that I can substitute to make some of my favorite meals. For example, I’m a sucker for homemade pesto, especially over gnocchi. But if my host doesn’t have a food processor, I learned that I can use a blender instead!
The same also goes for ingredients. When making my some of my favorite meals from home, I can’t always find all of the ingredients I need abroad. So, I’ve learned what I can and cannot substitute (experimentation is key!) and in turn have become a better cook because of it.
Taking a Cooking Class
As a newbie in the kitchen and someone who wants to be better, I love taking cooking classes while abroad. My favorite one so far was in Thailand where we made a 5-course meal consisting of Pad Thai, Coconut Milk Soup, Spring Rolls, and more. They taught us how to shop at the market, what kind of ingredients we needed, and sent us home with a recipe book. When I got back to the US, it was so hard to find some of the ingredients I needed because well, I was abroad!
Nowadays, you don’t even have to in traveling in the same country to learn how to cook local cuisine. A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking an Italian cooking class while living in Mexico right online!
What I’ve Learned
So, what do I want to say? I want to say that cooking at home while living abroad has a lot of benefits, but is also challenging and tests your creativity in the kitchen. For me, food opens up a whole new world while traveling. It’s a universal sign of coming together with people, no matter what the culture.
With each country I visit, I add another favorite dish to my palette and one to my recipe book. I hope that once I do finally settle down that I’ll have a recipe book so full of international dishes my wanderlust can be satiated just a bit in the kitchen.