Eating local? Go where the crowds are!

Present City: Thailand 

Present Activity: eating lunch 

Present Thought: I NEED to update the blog…and this is something important that new travellers should know. 

If this place actually looked like this when I came, this would have been a BAD idea. 
But I actually waited until the lunch crowd cleaned out to capture the shot – all of those tables were full to the MAX with probable locals when I first walked in. 

So here’s what I know: this is a wise food choice. If it was known to make you sick or give bad food, these people would not be here. 

Looking for good food in your new city? Go to the crowded stalls, the lined street vendors, the bustling restaurants. 

And you’ll probably end up with deliciousness like my hot chicken soup…

My very first Independence Day (aka the Pie Blog) 

The United States and Canada share the world’s longest stretch of unguarded border.  They’re our largest trading partner, our closest neighbour, and a major influence on our entertainment, economy, and tourism.  Some of my closest friends are American.

But I had never celebrated Independence Day.

So this year when invited up to our American friends in another UAE emirate, I was extremely excited to learn that our gallivanting northward would fall on the FOURTH OF JULY!!!

I didn’t know how to brace myself.  So I did what any Canadian going to a fourth of July party would do and scrummaged through my closet for red, white, and blue…

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Outfit in check, and with Ken by my side, we made our way to our friends’.  I’ll be honest, I had some expectations.  Firstly, I dreamed that there would be plenty of USA paraphernalia.

My second expectation consisted of me hoping for PIE!  My vision of the 4th of July includes some sort of pie, typically apple I assumed, so I was crossing my fingers… (what delight when I found out that I was to bring gluten-free pie crust!!!!

And my third expectation was that it would be an amazingly good time because Americans like to celebrate their country and Americans are known for their hospitality!

Indeed, my first dream was made true!!!!  Little Uncle Sams (I learned who he is and he isn’t actually real!), a red-white-blue fake bouquet, and ‘stars and stripes’ plates adorned the table.  Our friend sizzled up some amazing BBQ steaks…but beforehand there were weiners, Devilled eggs, guacamole (though my husband’s contribution so may or may not be ‘authentic’), AND I had my first pork knuckles!!!  And let’s not forget the beautiful Californian wine!

My expectation of pie was also fulfilled…with Stef as the baker extraordinaire, we cut up what seemed like a mountainous assembly of Granny Smiths…

I don’t take ANY credit for how beautiful this crust looks, ALL Stef.  She uses about 1 kg of Granny Smith apples and since these pies were PERFECT that’s what I’d recommend in future.

So the pies turned out amazingly well, and of course we did little slits and designs

a) because it’s necessary for even baking, and b) because you HAVE to celebrate the 4th of July with stars and stripes (flags on the left pie, a star in the middle of the right)…voila the gluten-free and glutenous versions…

If you’re already salivating, imagine when I tell you that THIS actually happened as well…img_5920That’s right…RED, WHITE, and BLUE homemade ice cream!!!!!!  (I had nothing to do with this – again, all Stef’s culinary genius)

So basically we served up (well, Stef served up and I took credit for my apple peeling…) the most scrumptious of scrumptious apple pies with absolutely lovely homemade ice cream.  AND we did in true patriotic American style 🙂

THIS WAS THE VERY BEST APPLE PIE AND ICE CREAM I’VE EVER TASTED! EVER. THE END.

But what about my last expectation? that “it would be an amazingly good time because Americans like to celebrate their country”.   YES, YES, and YES!!!!  Of course any time you’re with great friends you have a great time, but I did have an inner sense of warmth and cheer knowing that I was able to celebrate this very special day alongside two of my dearest friends.

Americans have a lot to be proud of.  They’re such a diverse country, geographically, culturally, beautifully…It was such a privilege to celebrate the fourth of July and to finally taste true blue (and red and white) authentic American apple pie!  I’m going to celebrate next year, me thinks 🙂

So this week…bake a pie and let the American culinary experience inspire your baking art!  (yours won’t be as good as Stef’s, but you can try!)

Thank you to my friends for letting these Canadians crash your national holiday – we loved it!!!!

Foodie Friday: APPLE PIE (tomorrow!!!)

Hi all,

So Monday was the 4th f July which marked my VERY FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY celebrated with two of my very closest friends who are American.  It was WONDERFUL.

But my husband has the photos I took on his camera.

And my husband is in Serbia.

So when he’s back, which is tomorrow, I will be posting about APPLE PIE!!!!

In the meantime, maybe bake an apple pie today in honour of the Foodie Friday and American post and see how yours competes with my friend’s.

SPOILER: my friend’s was way better!!!!!

See you all tomorrow….

On the Art of Thinking

Do you remember when you used to just sit and think?

You weren’t idly staring at your phone screen, thumbing down a newsfeed.

You weren’t flicking through channels or reading a newspaper cover to cover.

You weren’t mindlessly eating dinner whilst watching YouTube videos.

No.  You were just sitting and thinking.  Not meditating.  Not practicing.  Nothing too fancy or too ‘in vogue.’  Just pure, simple thinking.

Maybe about the day.

 

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          Rodin’s Le Penseur                   (picture courtesy: Wikipedia)

Maybe about your dreams.

Maybe about your family or your friends or the next vacation you wish to take.

Maybe you were drafting a poem to write, a song to sing, or that next play you’ll have to execute on the field or rink.

We rarely see anyone thinking anymore.  If a task is too hard to grasp, we’d rather just quickly look up the answer or the ‘how to’ online.  I watch my students as they immediately leave classes at break time and at lecture’s end, eyes glued to their phones, leaving behind the processing and reflecting piece that is so helpful in the learning cycle.

We don’t want to sit alone, eat alone, wait alone…breathe alone.

Do you remember when we used to sit and think?

It was before SIM cards and data packages and WIFI and wikipedia.

Long before newsfeeds and tweets and emoticons were even words.

Long before email overflowed us, social networks overexposed us, and the internet seemed to own us.

Do you remember when we used to sit and think?

We still do…but it’s only when we’re forced to…which is often when our screens tell us that our data package is out of range.

Travel truly is our greatest escape.

TOP FIVE Things I Love About Canada: HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!!

Happy Canada Day, dear readers!!!!!
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In honour of this day we are taking a slight break from Foodie Friday (don’t worry, it will be published tomorrow) to bring you my…

TOP FIVE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT CANADA:

  1. Multiculturalism is written into our constitution.  We literally have a Multiculturalism Act and Section 27 of our Constitution states, “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”  Yes, while other countries are worrying about multiculturalism we seek to EMBRACE it…not only culturally, but legally.  We might come from extremely different backgrounds, but it is the fact that we are “Canadian” that unites us.

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    No, this isn’t a street sign in Iceland…it’s an Icelandic sign in Manitoba, where the largest settlement of Icelanders outside of Iceland resides!

2. Our French and English heritages.  Canada boasts two very distinct cultural-linguistic heritages that are represented not only in our Official Languages Act, but are also showcased throughout the country in music, art, and culture.  Most people think of Quebec because it is our official French province, but all provinces have francophone Canadians, not to mention New Brunswick which is our bilingual province.  The bringing together of two very distinct linguistic cultures into one beautiful country is something that makes Canada unique and amazing.

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A street sign in Ottawa at the Parliament Buildings.  Our country has very clear language laws.

3. Our peaceful heritage.  Yes, we are continuing to righting the wrongs of our treatment of First Nations peoples, and no, we have not always been perfect.  But Canada does have an international reputation for our peaceful nature for a reason.  For example, it was our former Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, who really initiated peacekeeping as an item line within the United Nations.  Culturally we are peace-finders and peace-makers.

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4. The Geographic Diversity. You can go downtown Toronto and take in a cultural show, a world-class museum, or a sports game before tasting exquisite fine dining – all in the fourth largest North American City.  Or you can drive for an hour and a half and enter Algonquin Park – an almost 8000 km squared nature reserve where you could canoe and camp for days seeing nothing but moose, deer, and other wildlife – but absolutely no humans.  We are on three oceans and boast the most fresh water for any country, thanks to our many rivers and lakes.  From mountains to valleys, snow to humidity, ice shields to forest, we are truly geographically diverse!

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(picture courtesy: http://www.voyageurrequest.com)

5. Most of us are looking out for each other.  Car out of battery?  A stranger will stop their car, get out their booster, and help you.  Entering a restaurant from the blistery cold outside?  The person leaving will first open the door for you and wait until you are warmly sheltered.  Looking a little lost? Someone will help you with directions.  Yes, Canadians get our friendly reputation for a reason…most people are thinking of the other person and genuinely will go out of their way to help!  It’s the reason why it’s somehow appropriate for you to say “sorry” if someone bumps into you…and the reason why most Canadians actually know and have a relationship with their neighbours!

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it’s even encouraged!

Now check out this video to learn How to be a Canadian, thanks to CBC Comedy!

Happy Canada Day!!!!

 

 

Foodie Friday: Canada’s Maple Seared Salmon

Experiential travel is all about experiencing – mindfully engaging and learning about new places, new cultures, new communities. Our conceptions of travel have changed since the discovery of the airplane and the perceived decreasing size of the globe.  Indeed, globalization has created a world where thousands more of us are travelling annually to different countries and different cultures.

Travel used to be simply moving next door, or down the road, or to the city centre.

My Oma actually made her local newspaper for being the first person in town to make an international call when she called home to the Netherlands after first emigrating to Canada.

Times have changed!

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We are starting our Foodie Friday tour with my country, Canada.  Look at that place!  SO MUCH WATER!!!!

But how we experience has not.  We still experience with our senses.  And one of our greatest senses is our sense of taste (and with that, of course, our sense of smell).

I am blessed to be in a position to travel across continents so often.  But you don’t have to travel as I do to experience.  In fact, you don’t even need to leave your kitchen!

WELCOME TO FOODIE FRIDAY!!!!!  Every Friday I am going to present to you a new dish from a different country of the world. Why?  So that regardless of your ability to travel beyond your kitchen, you can practice experiential travel within it.

So stay tuned every week for a new recipe idea and the pictures of my own creations. For copyright reasons, exact recipes will not be provided (I’m a travel blogger not a recipe developer) but I will give you plenty of ideas to go out and find your own recipe that suits! (if you’re unsure, http://www.allrecipes.com is a great start! or message me :))

And what better place to start for FOODIE FRIDAY #1 than my own home and native land, Canada!!!!!

FOODIE FRIDAY #1: CANADA’S MAPLE SEARED SALMON

Geography lesson: Canada is surrounded by 3 oceans and the United States.  Canada also holds over 20% of the world’s fresh water (ref: ec.gc.ca).  So fish and seafood is a pretty common staple.  If you’re from one of the coastal regions, food of the sea will probably shine in your diet.  If you’re from the mainland, you’re still more than likely to be close to a lake and/or river and eat what lives within.  And we don’t let the seasons stop us either – ice fishing is a prevalent activity wherever there’s a lake that can freeze over (which includes my hometown, the beautiful Orillia).

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some ice fishing huts on Lake Couchiching in Orillia (courtesy: Orillia Packet & Times)

Suffice it to say, salmon is plentiful in Canada and it certainly is a star of a few quintessential Canadian dishes.

You know what else is even MORE quintessentially Canadian?  Let me give you a hint: its leaf stars on our flag…it’s also part of the name of Toronto’s hockey team…

yep – the maple tree!

Out of which comes the beautiful, natural, flowing natural gold – MAPLE SYRUP!  How much is maple syrup worth, you ask?!  In 2013, the world’s largest agricultural heist occurred – $18 million worth of maple syrup was discovered (read more here!)

Maple syrup is a very big thing.  I have friends who tap it.  I have a husband whose family is in the business.  It is loved by the English and the French alike – indeed, sirop d’érable is exquisite!

Anything with maple syrup is going to be delicious. But salmon seared with a maple syrup glaze…so good!  And quintessentially Canadian!  Let this be your next fishy meal and let the sights and sounds of the Great White North waft in your kitchen!

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All the ingredients I used: look at that yummy litre of maple syrup!!!!  Thanks to my in-laws for always ensuring we have a constant supply!

Alright, so there are oodles of recipes that you can find online about maple syrup and salmon.  With this I’m not really a recipe follower per se: basically, the more maple syrup, the better!  But maple syrup IS sweet, so you DO want to balance it with some acidity (totally using words that I learned watching Master Chef!!!)  Basically, get a bowl, and throw in some garlic, onion (minced) and then some maple syrup and maybe some soy sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce (which ANY Canadian will have in their home as it is a KEY ingredient to our signature drink the Caesar – our take on the bloody mary!)  Make sure your soy sauce is GF if you are like me 🙂

Then some sort of mustard (Dijon or regular are great too).  And some salt and pepper.  And then stir, stir, stir….

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So now you’ll want to marinate for at least an hour.  But if you ran out of time because you JUST decided to make this, have no fear!  I’ve done the same and it still turns out delicious because, well, anything with maple syrup will always turn out delicious…it’s a Canadian truth and when have we ever lied to you!?!??!!?

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Here they are marinating.  I put them skin-up so that the juices can get into the fish. 

And now you cook…stove top first just to sear..then 20 minutes or so, 350 or so…

And at the same time, be steaming up your veggies or roasting them.  What you’ll see is that I did broccoli and sweet potato.  Yes, if you want to be authentic find something Canadian as a veggie, but anything is great.  But make sure you have some veggies cooking (you’ll see why in a minute!)

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This is called maple syrup SEARED so make sure you actually sear it on the stove top first before putting in the oven!  And if you don’t have an oven, just keep cooking it on the stove, covered with a lid 🙂

Et…

VOILA!  So with the extra juices that you’ll have from the salmon pan, put them over the vegetables you just cooked and you get lightly flavoured vegetables.  And enjoy your dinner a la Canadiana 🙂salmone5

How to…Help Yourself When You’re Injured/Sick

My current reality is that of dealing with an injury (see Exhibit A).  This reminded me how important it is as a traveller to be prepared to be your own first line of defence when contending with injuries and illness.

Yes, doctors and hospitals and health clinics are important, but often it is yourself – your very first line of defence that can speed up a successful recovery.  Similarly, travels in remote areas away from hospitals may force you to become your own initial “nurse”.

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Exhibit A: my current state (which happened on the way to the airport…you never know when and where injury might set in!)  And just as “ICER” tells me, as soon as we got to the airport, we sought out ice!

Here are a couple of acronyms that every traveller should know:

BRAT:

Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast.

Stomach ache? Flu? Onset diarrhoea?  These foods are gentle on your stomach and easier to digest.  Since you need to stay nourished, a combination of these foods can help.  Also, it is almost impossible to find a culture that does not have at least one of these items.

ICER:

Ice. Compression. Elevate. Rest.

Possible sprain? Can’t move your muscle? Major pain?

ICER tells you exactly what to do and in what order.

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This little book has been extremely helpful, especially when I am going to remote areas.  It’s light and easy to pack – I always have it in my first aid kit and recommend something similar.

No, I’m not a medical doctor and no, I don’t think this information should replace professional advice.  But travellers need to be proactive in supporting their own health.  You are your own first line of defence.

Stay healthy…stay travelling!