Bringing Pieces of Your Travels Back Home Through Food

A Korea town in the middle of Midtown Manhattan? A Little Tokyo along the busy streets of Makati City, Philippines? Chinatowns everywhere. The globalization of food didn’t let the pandemic dampen its spirits. In fact, home cooks are eagerly learning how to make traditional kimchi as you read this. Somewhere out there, someone is trying to learn an authentic Szechuan dish while another is calling a local branch of Magnolia Bakery to get some delicious tubs of its famous banana pudding.

Do you believe that you can leave a piece of yourself in every place that you visit? And if you believe that, do you think you also bring pieces of these places back home after a tour? Whether it’s that spicy fish cake in Gangnam, that large crispy pretzel from Central Park, or the inexplicably delicious Nasi Goreng from a boutique hotel in Bali, you remember these places partly because their cuisines made an indelible mark on you.

The Concept of the Care Package

Take, for example, the concept of the care package. When you’re in a long-distance relationship, the only thing that holds that relationship together is constant and open communication, as well as the care packages you send each other from time to time. What does a care package mean for a loved one? It’s a box of stuff that doesn’t make sense for some people but totally makes sense for the recipient.

Sarah is a recent immigrant in Canada. She lives there with her boyfriend. From time to time, she misses life and food back in the Philippines. Her family and close friends send her care packages, complete with her favorites: bagoong (shrimp paste), garlicky corn bits, and a box of crunchy nori that she can’t seem to find in Toronto.

In return, she sends a balikbayan box from Canada for her family. Mostly, the box contains food, clothes, and shoes that are either too expensive back home or the family cannot afford. The balikbayan means returning resident in English. It means you are coming home to your country. For many Filipino families, the box takes the place of a loved one who has to migrate or work in another country. It’s this concept of love and devotion that Filipinos all over the world are known for.

Learning How to Cook International Dishes

Korean food kimbap

If you look at social media now, especially Facebook and TikTok, you’ll see a lot of bloggers learning how to cook different dishes. Aside from them, ordinary social media users also want to show off the dishes they made during quarantine. In the Philippines, the most famous dishes during the lockdown were the Korean dalgona coffee and the sushi bake, which is a deconstructed maki that diners scoop with their spoons.

This phenomenon led to an emerging trend in the food retail industry—the ghost kitchen. Also known as virtual kitchens, a ghost kitchen is a professional facility for the delivery-only meals. A ghost kitchen is not a restaurant, but it provides hot meals to those who like the convenience of having food delivered straight to their homes or offices.

The Globalization of Food

You’ve first tasted the infamous Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding when you visited New York. Then, you found out that a store is opening a few hours from where you live in Manila. It’s the same thing with Shake Shack. Yes, that same Shake Shack that you went to Hong Kong for. You’ve skipped the Mak’s Noodle in Central and went straight to the IFC mall because that’s where the famous burgers and shakes are. Why would you do that when you’ve already had this during a recent trip to Dubai?

The nostalgia about certain places can be remedied with food. When you miss your days in Tokyo, pick a pack of instant ramen from the grocery store and turn it into an authentic one by adding spices, vegetables, pork, and egg. When you’re feeling a bit blue and want all-American comfort food, then go to a fast-food chain and get a large burger and fries. Pizza sounds good, too. For those who are passionate about Korean dramas and pop stars and missing the yearly travels to Korea for a taste of that lifestyle, getting your hands on some samgyupsal and japchae will do you good.

Traveling doesn’t only take you places, but it opens your eyes to new cultures and traditions. But more than anything, traveling introduces you to new flavors, many of these you wouldn’t have tried if you did not visit these places. So, when you feel nostalgic about life before the pandemic, remembering these places through food is a good way to reminisce.

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