Introducing: The Gent Goes Global
Hello y’all! If you’ve read The Kitchen Gent for any length of time, you can tell I love where I’m at. I’m so passionate about local restaurants, bars, food, and ingredients. Louisville is my home, and after years of dreaming of getting out as a kid, I’ve grown to love it and want to support it in any way that I can. But, aside from food and Louisville, I have another passion: the world.
Now as vague as that sounds, let me explain. I love the cultures of the world. I’ve been longing to travel since I was young, and my one wish is to be able to see the entire world before I die. I studied anthropology and international studies in college, because I wanted to learn as much about the world as I could. I’m lucky to have found a partner that loves travel as much as I do, as seen by our choice in honeymoon (in which we visited Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, and the UK). I love to combine my passions for food and travel whenever I can, and I’ve seen every episode of every food show on Netflix that incorporates elements of culture. Chef’s Table, Somebody Feed Phil, Ugly Delicious, Parts Unknown – you name it, I’ve seen it.
What I’ve learned from these shows, my studies, and my observations is that food is an essential part of any culture. We as humans interact over food. We talk while we dine. We teach others how to cook. We express our feelings through a baked good or a home-cooked meal. We can’t survive without food, and so we’ve turned food into one of the primary ways in which we relate to one another. Each culture has developed their own cuisine, springing from ingredients available to them. When humans began to move around, they brought ingredients and foods with them and influenced the cuisine wherever they landed. Middle Eastern immigrants to Mexico created the al pastor style of taco, modeled after the same way of roasting meat that they used to make shawarma. French colonizers brought the baguette to Vietnam, which lead to the development of the báhn mì. Vietnamese people in turn immigrated to America, and those that settled near New Orleans used ingredients that they were familiar with to develop Viet Cajun cuisine – a popular hybrid cuisine in that area.
One of my goals is to travel the world. I would love to see every country and taste all of the foods that they have to offer. I want to understand how and why foods became popular in certain places. I want to study ingredients and know why they work well together to create a dish that is a symbol of an entire culture, that brings up memories and feelings of pride and even creates conflicts. I want to be a disciple of Anthony Bourdain, traveling and eating fearlessly, and seeking to understand rather than just to say “I went there.”
Sadly, I may never reach every country in the world. At 24, I’ve visited nine countries, which is more than I thought possible when I was a kid, but I’m nowhere close to being on my way to reaching my goal. There’s money, global conflicts, and paid time off work to take into consideration. (Plus, now I’m a dog dad, so leaving my boy alone to backpack around Eastern Europe for a month is not something that I would want to do any time soon.) Fortunately, I have a number of tools at my disposal. My hometown of Louisville, Kentucky is more diverse than people give it credit for. There are a lot of multicultural restaurants to visit, and immigrant neighbors to talk to. For proof just see my #LocalFoodieFriday series, which features a number of my favorite non-American places to experience food. With the internet at my fingertips, I can also do plenty of research to learn more about cultures other than my own. Just because I can’t always travel doesn’t mean I can’t always learn!
So here’s the plan: I want to cook and bake my way around the world. I want to explore the cuisines of every culture. I never want to stop learning, and I want to publish my studies here for you to share in. My hope is that my eyes will be opened to something that I am voraciously curious about, and that you may find something interesting in it too. I want to spread knowledge of cultures so people can better understand them. We live in a world that is so connected but threatens to become more fractured by the day. I believe the antidote for this divide is knowledge. The more we know about others, the more we understand and the less we fear. I’m excited to do this as a personal project; and, if I can convince someone else to be curious about the world while I’m at it, then it will be even more worth it.
So this is where you come in, my dear readers. I need your help. There’s a lot of countries, with a lot of food between them. I could spend years of my life researching Indian food alone. So here’s my question to you: what are some recipes that you love that represents your culture? Where should I start to learn about the food traditions in the country that your family hails from? If you’re from a family that has lived in your country for ages, do you have any recipes from the “old country” that have been adapted to the country that you live in now? What can I learn from you?
If you have a recipe or dish that you want me to research and try my hand at making, please feel free to contact me! Comment below; message me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter; or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you! Sometimes I may ask to make certain alterations to a dish (making a vegetarian version, removing nuts for my husband’s food allergy, using a ready-made product so people can recreate it more easily at home), but I promise to always try to be as authentic as possible, and honor the traditions behind the dish you suggest. I’m so excited to start this journey around the world, and I hope you’ll come along with me as we cook and eat and learn about what makes us different, yet the same.
Until next time, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living!