I’m certainly not in the Anthony Bourdain or M.F.K. Fisher food adventuring league but I’ve eaten some interesting food in many places around the world.

In the past thirty years, I’ve eaten meals in forty-five different countries and enjoyed most of them. One that stands out as perhaps the best meal I’ve ever eaten wasn’t in Paris or Rome or San Francisco but at The Wheathill, a tiny restaurant in the small town of Bangor, Northern Ireland. It was deceptively simple, slices of perfectly cooked chicken breast with mushrooms and spinach. The chicken was tender, moist and delicious. We were told that it was locally grown chicken, brined and then cooked sous vide. Delicious.

Usually it isn’t the food that is memorable, it is the people who have shared their homes and lives with me. Food is a universal way of bonding with others and I’ve enjoyed some wonderful meals and experiences.

Saki toast in Kyoto. 2005

In Japan I was invited to stay in a Minka, an old traditional Japanese home with sliding walls and tatami mat flooring. After a chilly day visiting temples where I had to remove my shoes and walk barefoot on icy floors, I was warmed by a bath in a deep steaming tub before sitting down to a feast prepared by my hostess Toshie, in a tiny, tiny kitchen. Tofu, mustard greens, meat  and noodles, all separately boiled in a pot at the table. There was also rice with slices of pickled mushrooms and vinegar as well as cucumbers and tomatoes.

Breakfast in Russia, 2008

I’ve been on very few organized tours but in Russia, I took a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Along the way the travelers were divided into groups of eight and taken to breakfast in a private home. Natasha and Mama lived in a huge gray concrete apartment block. Despite its dreary exteriour, their tiny apartment was warm and welcoming. They served porridge and blinis with homemade jam for breakfast. Neither Natasha or Mama spoke a word of English but we seemed to communicate. After the meal Mama brought out song sheets and led us in singing. That led to much laughter and fun.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 2004

In Kyrgyzstan I joined a Habitat for Humanity work party. We were rehabbing old apartments for several families. I spent two weeks scraping paint off from window casings and scrubbing walls. What made it fun was getting to know the Kyrgyz people. They prepared lunch for us each day. Often it was al fresco, served on the grassy dirt in the courtyard. They laid down a long tablecloth surrounded by rugs and mats for us to sit on They prepared the food in their own homes and often carried by bus, to our work site. The food was always fresh, hot and plentiful. There were bowls of fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, apricots, sweet cherries and raspberries), cucumbers and tomatoes with dill, and two kinds of bread were always spread the length of the cloth. Meals were sometimes a clear, spicy soup with big chunks of potatoes and carrots with a beef or lamb bone and a bit of meat for flavor. Other times there would be a traditional noodle or rice dish with bits of meat. Everything was served on china dishes accompanied by tea served in china cups.

I’ve had great good fortune in being able to travel and experience different cultures and foods.