By Hannah & Chris of Love, Play, Work
If you are excited by the prospect of trying new dishes and flavours, eating ‘like a local’ is one of the very best things about Home Exchange. Here are our top 5 tips on getting the most out of your culinary experiences as you travel.
Shop at local markets
As tempting as it might seem to head to the nearest Walmart, local markets not only offer a vibrant and exciting alternative but also contribute to the local community. Market produce is much fresher, plus if you find a farmers market or food festival you can be treated to locally crafted artisan breads, speciality cheeses, home-made pickles, or organic wines. Our current Mexican Home Exchange is situated a few minutes from the harbour and the daily fish market. We’ve been delighted to find that the fish is hands-down the freshest we’ve ever tasted and perfect for seafood barbeques. Plus, it’s a fraction of the price we are used to paying!
Buy fruits and vegetables you don’t recognise
It’s easy to get complacent with the routine of grocery shopping, but living like a local can turn a mundane activity into an adventure! There is such variety of fruit and vegetables which often don’t make it to the shelves back home. A great way of spicing up your grocery list is to make a point of buying at least 3 fruits or vegetables you don’t recognise. It’s usually pretty obvious once you’ve peeled the skin what you need to do with it, but if in doubt, Google is a wonderful tool! Just recently we have added cactus to a casserole, chayote to a salad, and jicama to a stir fry, none of which we have ever tried before.
Take a local cooking class
We hugely recommend doing this. Not only do you get to try delicious new foods, you also get to learn how to make them yourself! Many classes offer a whole day experience where you get to scour the markets with a knowledgeable expert, learning where to shop and what to look for. You get the inside scoop on some real local gems. From there you’ll learn new recipes you can recreate for yourself, using ingredients which you may otherwise have overlooked. We learnt a huge amount from a cooking class with a local chef in Puerto Vallarta. She taught us to spot the very freshest ingredients, how to combine spices to achieve that authentic Mexican flavour, and how to include subtle chilli flavours to complement dishes from cocktails to desserts. Another benefit of this sort of class is the understanding you can gain of the unique role food plays in the area’s culture and history; fascinating for any food and wine buffs.
Eat where the locals eat
This can seem a little daunting if you don’t know what to order or don’t speak the language, but most people are very helpful when it comes to pointing out what’s good on a menu. A good Home Exchange information packet will usually offer a few recommendations to get you started, which is where we learnt about a wonderful place in our local village. Nothing fancy; the food was served from a hatch in an open air kitchen and the plastic tables were precariously balanced on the cobbles of the street, but the home-made tacos served with molten hot dipping sauces and pickled vegetables were the best we’ve ever tasted.
Accept invites to dinner
The neighbours of Home Exchangers are generally eager to help you find your way around, and if you are lucky, you’ll get an invite to experience dinner ‘local style’. In central Oregon we were treated to a crawdad boil – a casserole which simmers for hours before being unceremoniously tipped out onto a table for the guests to dive into with their hands. This evening of traditional fare was rounded off with toasting our first ever s’mores over a crackling fire.
Sharing and tasting new food can lead to some wonderful experiences, and the more adventurous you are the more memorable they will be! Not only would we have missed out on these culinary treats if we had stayed home, we’re pretty sure we wouldn’t have had so much variety if we had we stayed in a hotel either.
About the Authors
We are Psychologist Hannah and IT expert Chris and we’ve spent 5 years traveling the world whilst running our own business. Home exchanging has been a big part of making that happen! You can learn the 7 refreshing ‘get there quick’ shortcuts to creating your own location independent lifestyle from our loveplaywork.com homepage. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates.