It’s gratifying to hear people with more knowledge, experience and authority than yourself say the same thing you’ve been saying all along.
Today I participated in a teleforum with James Oseland, editor of Saveur magazine and author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking From the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, who spoke on researching and writing on foreign food cultures and how to respect people and their traditions while doing so. Having spent some 25 years living and traveling in Indonesia and writing on its cuisines, he knows a fair amount about the subject.
And he made the same point that I constantly explain to those who question me about the significance of culinary travel: that when you show curiosity about and enthusiasm for the food and food traditions of another culture, you honor the people of that culture.
Ask anyone, “What’s your favorite food your mother used to fix you when you were growing up?” and you’re almost guaranteed to send that person down a singularly happy path of remembrance. I can’t think of a better, more personal way to build good will with people of other countries and cultures or even other regions of our own country than to take a genuine interest in their foods and their food traditions.