My earliest food memories are of fried chicken, french fries, homemade cakes and pies, and not much else. Not because mom didn’t cook. She may be more known for her culinary skills than anything else. Unfortunately, I was notoriously the pickiest of all eaters. I rejected every collard green, every pot of gumbo, and especially every chitterling (or should I say chit’lin?).
That all changed when I turned 11, the year dad got a job in Saudi Arabia, and I got a passport.
My time in Saudi, and my passport, allowed me exposure to places and foods I’d never heard of. One Christmas vacation spent in Mombasa taught me to love, love, love seafood. A spring break in Crete gave me a brand new appreciation for all foods Mediterranean. A weekend visit to Taif taught me that bananas and fish actually can go together, and very well.
These days the smell of mint takes me right back to Saudi, where I first fell in love with the street vendor’s lamb shwarma and broasted chicken. I know that experience is why mint and cumin are among my absolute favorite flavors today.
Prior to getting my first passport, I never would have thought I’d grow up to be a foodie. Now, when people ask about places I’ve been, I vividly describe the food. For me, the chance to experience another culture through their food is a huge highlight of the trip. And the chance to visit someone’s home and have a real home cooked meal of another culture… jackpot!
Who knew the key to changing “I can’t get this child to eat!” to “All this child wants to do is eat!” would be a little world exposure?
I’m glad to say that these days I love collards and all other greens, along with sushi, okra, escargot, and the list goes on. I still won’t go near chit’lins, but I think my passport has trained my palate well. I’m also proud to credit my experience with why I have a 7 year old with a fondness for seaweed, Brussel’s sprouts, and calamari.
I was fortunate to have these experiences to shape who I am today. If you’d like to help a little girl get her passport and shape her destiny, visit The Passport Party Project and help out in any way that you can.