The Food Ninja Challenge is being hosted by my friends Rachael [Fuji Ninja], Paula [Bella Ninja], and their friend, Linda [Salty Ninja]. I think it's pretty clear that I'm a Food Ninja. When I first took the plunge to travel internationally, I didn't choose the mainstream vacation destinations like London, Paris, or Rome. Nope, I chose places like Belgium, Prague, and Vienna. Why? I wanted to see what types of food they had going on. Chocolate, mussels, waffles, beer, schnitzels - all wonderfully tasty bites of things that I've eaten before but needed to try first hand in the home countries.
I discovered that the more I traveled, the more I needed to soak up the local culture through the food. Whether it meant that I ate in a restaurant where no English was written or spoken or eating mussels [something that I really don't care for, a reminder of the dirty, smelly shellfish that clung to the Venice Pier when my brothers and I used to go fishing...yuck].
My decisions on where I went began to exclusively stem from the question, "What can we eat there?" Some things I loved more than others [beer vs mussels], but everywhere I went, I found that my enjoyment of the city went up based on the freshness, passion and deliciousness of the food.
My friends thought I was nuts [except my travel buddy, Erin - she was on the same track I was on] to base my travel on food. I thought they were nuts NOT to take food into consideration. Its never enough to just merely SEE a country, you need to experience it through taste, touch, and smell.
Eventually, I made my way through Italy, France, and Spain but by then my goals were to discover the people behind the food through cooking class, tours of the factories and farmlands, or just getting lost [many, many times] in the region where some of my favorite foods come from.
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to discover different countries through its food - consuming, making, or learning...something that I hope I never have to stop! The Hana Ninja, coming to a country near you!