When you travel overseas, most likely you’re excited to learn about the culture of this new city. It’s part of the fun of travel, and it makes for a particularly eye-opening experience. Learning broadens our minds, and it helps us understand a new, and perhaps better, way of living. No one thing fully immerses the tourist like a cooking class, however. These experiences really bring the authenticity of a city to you in a way nothing else can – you actually get to engage with the culture by consuming its food. This special experience has a ton of benefits, even more than a great bite to eat.
Most cooking instructors are local to the city where you’re visiting. That means that you have a human bridge between yourself and the culture. Take advantage! Instructors love to inform students about food histories, traditions, local and regional specialties, and anything else you’d ever want to know. So make sure to engage. This person expects you to learn from them, and they’re happy to inform you about their country. Most locals tend to have that trait, in fact.
Finding the Best Products
There’s food, and there’s great food. In many cities around the globe, shopping happens at weekly or bi-weekly market where farmers come to sell their products. Some markets are better than others. Your instructor is going to take you to the best. It may be a visit to the produce stand, and then down the street to the butcher, and then the cheese shop, the bakery. What you’re going to find are the highest quality products in the city, and more than likely, your shopping excursion takes place in a neighborhood you’d never find on your own. What great exposure! Instructors also show you how they buy produce, which may be informative if you’re not used to shopping at a stand.
Now it’s time to cook! While instructors are cooking, they showcase their techniques, which may not be like your own, so listen up! And don’t be pigheaded – maybe they do something that doesn’t make sense, but maybe it’s a much better method of, say, pounding meat, than your own. Instructors also explain what they’re doing with the food and why. If you’re using ingredients that don’t grow where you live, you end up learning about the agriculture of the region. Some items might be strange substitutes, but it could be a matter of availability, or maybe it’s not the local palate’s preference. Insight into choices that are made, from ingredient pairings to grinding methods, often clarifies confusing culinary customs.
After you cook, you get to eat! The best part, no doubt (unless you’ve made a mistake!), but you should eat slowly and with care. Try to taste each ingredient, and understand why they go together. Determine if you even like the flavor, you might not, and that’s totally fine. What matters is that you’ve experienced something new.
Have you ever taken a wonderful cooking class abroad? What did you make?