5 Travel Souvenirs I'll Always Treasure
What are your favorite souvenirs from your travels?
Can you guess what the image above is?
Ok, let’s be honest. Even if you don’t love shopping at home, you almost always bring home a memento (or two) from your travels. (Don’t we all?)
On Oldways Culinarias, our weeklong culinary journeys, the main focus is food (of course!) – visiting producers of cheese, wine, olive oil and other specialty products as well as cooking classes and amazing meals. We also make it a point to visit major and historical cultural sites. But…we design our programs to include free time, which more often than not translates into shopping adventures.
I’ve been traveling with Oldways for thirty years, and both my office and home are filled with special remembrances of the incredible places I’ve been and the amazing people I’ve met. Here are a few of my favorites.
Puglia: It Takes a Trulli Village
Puglia is the region at the heel of Italy’s boot, bordered on the east by the Adriatic Sea and on the west by the Ionian Sea. Foodwise, it’s famous for burrata, the ear-shaped pasta orecchiette, gigantic loaves of Altamura bread, and for the vast quantities of extra olive oil, table grapes, wheat and wine the region produces. I love Puglia; its cuisine is of the land – delicious and healthy – and so representative of the Mediterranean Diet.
Puglia is also known for so much more than its food, including white-washed hill towns and for very special stone houses with conical roofs. One house is called a Trullo, more than one is Trulli. Whenever I visit Puglia with Oldways, our gracious and generous hosts present us with tiny replicas of the Trulli, along with a clay whistle in the shape of a bird called the Cola-Cola, not to be mistaken with Coca-Cola. I have Cola-Colas at home and in the office. My six-year-old grandson Charlie loves making a lot of noise with it.
Beautifully painted and carved fish from Mexico City’s Sabato Bazaar. In 2003 to 2005, I traveled to Mexico City a number of times for various conferences, and with each visit I made sure to go to the Saturday Bazaar, in San Ángel, close to Frieda Kahlo’s house. Along with a delicious lunch, each time I stopped at the same market stall to purchase different sizes and colors of wooden fish – collecting enough fish to adorn a full wall. It’s a great remembrance of the city, the vibrant market, and the talented artisan who carved and painted these fun fish. It also makes for a fun background (and conversation starter!) during my Zoom calls!
Wall Hanging from Beijing, China
In 2001, just before 9/11, Oldways held a conference in Beijing on traditional diets, with scientists and journalists representing the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In addition to discussing healthy cultural food traditions, we had a full cultural-culinary program -- touring the Summer Palace and Forbidden City, climbing the Great Wall, visiting a fish farm, a cooking school, and the Night Street Food Market, plus some really wonderful meals. Despite this very busy schedule, everyone made sure they had time to shop—and to learn the craft of bargaining. I bought plenty in the Silk Market – placemats and fans and more – but what has endured are two wall hangings, made from paper, delicately cut. My Oldways colleagues and I are still enjoying them, more than 20 years later.
Beware of tea in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
This is not the only rug I’ve bought in Turkey, but it was the first. I purchased it on my first trip to Istanbul and the city’s fascinating, confusing and vast Grand Bazaar. I was by myself and so naïve as to think a cup of tea meant only a cup of tea. Two hours later, I staggered out with a rug that I’m sure I paid way too much for, but it still gives me pleasure every time I see it in our office.
Massimo Bottura’s artwork
In case you haven’t guessed what this painting is….it is a bottle of traditional balsamic vinegar, made by famed Francescana chef, Massimo Bottura, and painted with traditional balsamic vinegar, instead of paint!
At Oldways, we’ve come to know and love Modena, Parma and Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, returning many times for culinary tours with our wonderful guide, Alice Rossi. Here, we learn about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the pasta and other culinary traditions of the region. (You can book a custom trip with Alice, and do the same!)
My first trip was in 1999, and it was a tour was arranged by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, legendary journalist and author of the award-winning cookbook, The Splendid Table, about the region of Emilia Romagna. Among the many wonderful places we visited, we were fortunate enough to have a meal at Massimo Bottura’s famed restaurant Francescana, in Modena. At the time, the restaurant was just four years old, three years before it earned its first Michelin star in 2002 (it now has 3!). It is now billed as one of the world’s best restaurants.
At the end of the amazing meal, the Chef came out and presented each of us with a painting he’d done using balsamic vinegar. This long-lasting treasure still graces my office.
One of the lessons I’ve learned about treasures you collect from traveling is that however it appears in a store or a place, among many others that look the same or similar, it will become special in your own house – a travel treasure, beautiful as it is, and also a great memory of a place.
Question: What is your favorite travel souvenir? Comment below and tell us about it!
Global Recipe: Thai Green Curry with Eggplant and Tofu
In this recipe, it’s all about the home-made curry paste—in Thailand, every cook has his or her own secret combination of spices and herbs to create their favorite. Combine that ﬂavorful green curry paste with light coconut milk, cubes of tofu, and sliced eggplant, mushrooms, and bell pepper to create a delicious meal served over brown rice. You can ﬁnd many of these ingredients in a well-stocked supermarket, and deﬁnitely at an Asian supermarket or online. Recipe and photo by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Insider Travel Tip: Shopping
If you love food and cooking, then you probably also love inviting friends and family to meals in your home, which means you'll need to set a gorgeous table. I love buying beautiful tablecloths when I'm traveling, and there are three good reasons why you should consider this. (1) They are a continuing and beautiful remembrance of a great trip; (2) They cost a lot less when you buy your tablecloth at a market or in a shop when you're traveling, rather than a store in the US; and (3) It's the perfect remembrance to pack. You can lay it flat or roll it up in your suitcase.
Travel to Costa Rica with Oldways
Have you always dreamed of visiting Costa Rica and weren’t sure where to go or how to organize your trip? Join us, and we’ll experience three very diﬀerent parts of this beautiful country: city, rain forest, and the Paciﬁc coast. Plus, we’ll travel with three experts for culinary and nutritional insights during our stay: Walter Willet, DrPh, of the Harvard School of Public Health; Chef Tom Berry, and Hannia Campos, PhD, who grew up in Costa Rica, and has returned to live there after her long career at Harvard.