My very first journey outside of my home country of Australia I traveled into the wonderful country of the Philippines. I remember so much of the anticipation of the journey. The planning of a lot of the details were begun months in advance. The internet in those days was almost non-existent, certainly not for us mere mortals. I would visit book stores and libraries, researching for hours about the country, and the areas that I intended to visit. For me the preparation was all a part of the enjoyment.
Sad that there are many people today that will possibly never experience the simple joy of exploring the local library searching for information about a foreign country. There were so many other aspects of the preparation that just no longer seem to apply to overseas travel. I remember that I had to go to the foreign exchange and purchase some travelers cheques prior to leaving for my journey. I’m not sure if travelers cheques are even still available anymore.
In the days prior to easy internet availability we would go to the Travel Agency to book all of our flights and accommodation. There was no way that we could do it all ourselves online. Online didn’t exist. The positive side to this was that we had to go to the travel agency, we had to talk with real people that were sitting in front of us. We had to discuss the various different options that were available to us. In short, we had to communicate with real people, and utilise some people skills and communication (of the personal verbal type) skills.
I remember so very much about that first foray to a foreign land. I remember getting slightly ripped off by my first taxi driver in Manila. I realised later that he ripped me off by about an extra 200 Peso. At first I was annoyed, then I thought about it for a couple of minutes. I realised that with the exchange rate, it was not really a lot of money for me, and would probably help to feed his family for several days. No real harm done.
Most of all, I remember the smell, the aroma of the land of the Philippines. In the early evening, the smell of food being cooked on open fires, and over the hot coals of the charcoal. The smell of chicken and pork cooking in the night markets. The aroma is almost beyond description, and it certainly got my saliva glands working overtime on that first journey into the land that taught me so very much about life.
The fish. Oh my, there was so much fish, and so many other types of seafood being cooked. Almost all of the cooking was done on open fires, waiting for the fires to become a bed of hot coals, when the cooking would start. The burning coals would add yet more aroma, and even more flavour to the food. There were some vendors that were using gas for their cooking requirements, and a very small number that were using electricity, but the vast majority were using old fashioned open fires. My personal opinion was that the experience was so much better with these wonderful vendors using open fires.
My experience in both Thailand and Malaysia was similar. However, there is nothing that will ever replace the initial first impression that was made on my very first overseas journey starting in the Philippines. All of my travels since that time, I will always remember that very first journey, when I smelt the food cooking upon an open fire. There is no trigger stronger for the human brain than the sense of smell.
In Malaysia the food is fantastic, I am a lover of the cooking styles in Malaysia. Learning about the history of the country, and of how the spice route had to travel around the Malaysian Peninsular all those years ago. This knowledge teaches us why there is so much influence from both India and China in the cooking ingredients used in Malaysian style cooking. The smell of a Malaysian curry being slowly simmered on an open fire is truly magnificent.
I relate all of these experiences to try to explain and share. To try to paint a mental picture so that others may experience the same or similar joy. It has been a few years now since my last journey into the wonderful lands within the Asian Continent. My last journey had me travel into Thailand again, for I’ve traveled there many times in the past. The aromas and the flavors were sensational. The memories will be with me forever.
In more recent times Beth has again woken the sleeping giant of a love of both flavor and aroma. Together we have been experimenting with our cooking. We have experimented with both open fires and gas. We have experimented with different recipes from other countries. I can only say that we have enjoyed every second of it to this stage, and plan on enjoying a lot more in the future. We find it very enjoyable to try cooking a recipe that we have never previously attempted. Even when we make some slight errors, they are really not that big. We have never yet had to throw food out because it was so bad that we were not able to eat it.
Maybe you too can try to experiment. There are many great guides here that are available for you to test yourself with. You do not need to try to cook a seven course meal. Start with little baby steps. Find a recipe that seems interesting, half all of the required ingredients, then make it as just a snack. Most important of all, enjoy the experience. After you get the opportunity to share some of the wonderful cooking styles with your friends and family, they will all be thanking you.