Thursday, July 26, 2007

Patatas Bravas and "Bar-theeeeh-lona"

Hey everyone, say "hola" to Julie, because she is currently in Barcelona! My girl tried the mayo I couldn't be happier for her because people, in case you didn't know, the mayo in Spain is transcendent. It's good like the motherfuckinghazelnut from Italy, good.

[Incidentally, it is a bit weird to be writing a shout out to someone who can't even read this blog yet. But when we make it public, there's not a doubt in my mind that she'll start at the beginning and read all the way through. So Jules, when you get to this post, know that I was thinking about you while you were gone, that I did, in fact, check the weather every day, and that I'll be wearing my lucky bean until you get back, just in case.]

I went to Barcelona many years ago (ohmygod I just realized that it was TWELVE years ago!) with my dad and my brother. Actually, I went with my dad to visit my brother because Andy was doing a rotation there while he was in medical school. Remember those doctors who have done some world traveling that I talked about before? Well one of them is my brother, Andy, and while he was in med school he decided not to let four years of a grueling education and absolutely no money stop him from seeing bits and pieces of the world. Andy, in case you never knew it, that's always been an inspiration to me. Have no money? Have a desire for a change of scenery? You can make it happen, kiddo.

Anyway. Barcelona. I often credit Barcelona with what I call my "food-awakening." Kind of like a sexual coming-of-age experience, but with food. I never knew that olives, plain old ordinary olives, could taste like THAT! I didn't know that I would eat ham! Tripe? Sure, I'll try tripe. And SANGRIA is awesome (particularly when you're 16)! I still remember the bright red tomato sauces, the crusty fresh bread, the salty ham and fish, and the fresh briny taste of the mussels. Really. I STILL remember it. In fact, I haven't eaten lunch yet and just thinking about it is making my mouth water a little bit.

Before Julie left for Spain, she would call and tell me that she planned this part of her trip or that she was so excited to see this thing, and inevitably, at some point in the conversation I would tell her, "you have to eat this. You have to try that. Don't miss this, even if it sounds weird." Every time, I could practically hear her smiling at me on the other end of the phone, "okay, sure, I'll try it."

I think that since that very first trip abroad, travelling has always been, at least a little bit, about food. Food, for me, is a window into people's lives. What we eat is so directly tied to how we live our lives, where we come from, and even to a certain extent, where we're headed. I wanted to Julie to try the mayo because I knew she would probably like it. And I also know that she doesn't generally like mayo, but that to miss out on eating it while she was there would be to miss out on a tiny piece of Barcelona. And with an opportunity of a lifetime, why miss out on something so consequential as even the tiniest piece?

When I think about our trip, I often fantasize about the curries, and the new vegetables, the street vendors, and the liquor, and all of the food that's out there that I don't even know that I'll love. Of course, this is probably why my dad emailed to tell me not to eat the traditional raw fish in Thailand because, as he said, "if anyone was going to eat it, it would be you." Right-o! I'm excited to try these things because not only are they a tiny piece of the place that we'll be, they're also a window into those people and cultures out there that I don't even know that I'll love.

So with that, Bon Appetit, Julabelle! The next time we're all in DC and go to Jaleo? It will get to have a whole new meaning for you because in every single delicious bite you'll get to taste a bit of this adventure that you're on. And really, what could be more important than carrying a bit of adventure in every bite?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't Drink The Water

Every single time we go on a trip, my dad starts sending warnings of what we should avoid, oh, about 4 months before we go. It's sweet and endearing, and I like it, because it's really nice to know that someone looks out for me that way. His advice is usually pretty spot-on, because he reads about a million health newsletters a day, and because he's generally knowledgable about global politics and war-torn nations. I don't always take the advice, but I always listen to it, and when we're on that trip, I can hear his voice in the back of my mind, warning me against being too friendly, too optimistic, too American, too vulnerable.

By way of example, when Matt and I went on the cruise to Cancun, it wasn't long after the September 11th attacks, and my dad became solidly convinced that our ship, OUR SHIP!, was the very next target of terrorism. He managed to convince me too, albeit briefly, and for a few days I contemplated asking Matt if we could change our plans. We didn't change our plans, and we got engaged on that boat, and we came back in one piece, sans food poisoning to boot.

When Julie and I went to Ireland, even though we had no plans of going to Northern Ireland, my dad spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with me, explaining the long-standing conflict between Ireland and the UK, warning me that "Lizzi, this is serious. Do NOT go there. Promise me." I promised, and we didn't even go much farther North than Dublin (mainly because we didn't have enough time) and we came back in one piece. Also? We ate no beef while we were there, just in case.

This trip is different. It's bigger. There are a bunch of countries to worry about. There are millions of people, literally the world-over, who could harm me, according to my dad. I don't know why he lets himself worry so much, but I think it's something that he can't turn off, now that he's been a parent for over 35 years. Today I got the first official "Don't Drink the Water" memo. There've been other, verbal warnings, along the lines of "be careful in India because you don't want to offend people." Or, "maybe you shouldn't let people know that you're Jewish." Or even, "please don't eat chicken in southeast asia. Only vegetables. COOKED vegetables because you're going to get sick from the water. Oh honey, don't drink the water."

Today's warning was an actual article. The first of many, I'm sure. It was about a really disgusting-sounding parasite in Thailand. The parasite, fluke, works its way into freshwater fish, which are then ingested by humans, who get the parasite and find themselves at an increased risk of developing liver cancer. LIVER CANCER! He didn't have to tell me twice that "it's serious stuff." I got that from the Liver Cancer part of the article. You only get the parasite if you eat the fish raw, and there's a special dish in Northern Thailand that we should avoid. So basically, in Southeast Asia, we are being warned to eat only vegetables. COOKED vegetables. And fish that comes from the ocean that's also completely COOKED and not even a little bit raw. Got it. Cooked vegetables. Really cooked fish. No water. No chicken.

Should be a good time!