Monday Meal Review: New Zealand

THE SCENE

Anthony Bourdain tumbles down a steep sandy embankment on the New Zealand shore, drug down by the weight of his four wheeler. His body twists and flops like a rag doll, swapping places with the four-wheeler in a death-defying dance. He finally manages to leap out of the way, narrowly escaping a bone crushing end by mere seconds.  As the scene replays in slow motion, I white knuckle the couch and hold my breath. One really bad word escapes my lips – consider it a foul-mouthed prayer for his safety – followed immediately by “thank goodness that’s not me.”

Seriously. What a lucky, lucky man. I’ve toppled a motorcycle twice now – once during a track day and once on the street. I have zero interest in a GSXR 750 landing on me, let alone a four wheeler.

But then I think about my reaction. That fleeting, knee-jerk thought: “Thank goodness that’s not me.”

The show was filmed years earlier and half a world away, yet my desire for self-preservation kicks so hard, I find myself a little glad I’m sitting on my couch in Tulsa, Oklahoma instead of in New Zealand by the beach (what!? how could this be??). If I’m not vigilant, watching this terrible accident can, like a wet chalkboard eraser, wipe clean any traces of good from Bourdain’s New Zealand episode and make it difficult for new impressions to form. For a little while, at least. The fun, free spirit of the New Zealanders evoked in a traditional Māori feast, the seafood-laden barbecue, and the pavlova and fresh boar meat which Bourdain, himself, helps prepare – it could all just… vanish.

My hunch is I’m not alone.

Many are driven by irrational travel fears based on rumors, things they’ve seen, or heard about.

“Oh, you want to go there? The worst thing happened to my cousin’s-wife’s-sister’s-baby in that country.”

And, boom, just like that, the would-be traveler is shaken. 

Especially if they’re a novice who, perhaps, has never been out of the country.

Some of you might retort ‘don’t get on a four-wheeler.’ Or ‘keep to flat terrain.’ And you’re right. In this case, this is the easy solution. But what about those intolerably rude people in that one country? Or those lazy-good-for-nothing people in that other country?

While taking proper precautions is always wise, these are insidious rumors – nothing more than high school gossip sessions on a global scale.

It’s ugly, hateful, and often a misrepresentation (and misunderstanding) of reality. And it keeps people from getting out there.

What a thing to travel the world.  To really, really see the world. To feel the dirt on your face. The salt on your lips. To brush with danger and live to tell the story fifty years from now to awe-struck great-grandchildren.

For me the choice is clear.

When the timing is right for us, I look forward to bringing Ava on adventures around the world. And I’m not going to let a little knee-jerk reaction get in my way. In the meanwhile, we’ll continue on our virtual journey. It’s true that stovetop travel hasn’t put me in any real danger, nor has it dusted my lips with the salt of the sea, but I can shut my eyes as I eat and imagine myself elsewhere. In the process I’m learning how people around the world celebrate food while teaching my daughter to appreciate others. This is the best I can do right now and, for many, stovetop travel is the closest they’ll get to experiencing this vast world.

And so my fate is sealed. Instead of tumbling head over heels with a four wheeler, I tumble egg whites in my standing mixer. I whip and I whip, until mountains form, until clouds form above those mountains, and until our smiles are sticky with pavlova. Then I close my eyes and tumble myself through the world, from my little kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New Zealand.

And I cross my fingers for Bourdain.

Until, that is, I can meet him on the dunes.

(Hopefully on foot.)

I’m curious about what you think. What are your experiences with “travel gossip”? Is it ever helpful? What fears limit your travel adventures? What fears limit your stovetop travels?


THE FOOD:

Grilled Sweet Potato & Bacon Salad | Kumara [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Since my last meal will certainly include one or more sweet potatoes, this salad was a sure win. The fact that it has bacon, green onion and honey mustard dressing on it? And it was grilled? I never stood a chance. I wasn’t alone; the whole family loved it. Miss Ava ended up dipping her potatoes and her grilled lamb into the tangy dressing. Mr Picky, who once told me he hated sweet potatoes gobbled it right up (I later figured out that this is because he’d only ever had canned sweet potatoes).

What I love least about this dish:

Nothing. Just be sure to send me some when you make it.

Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Pavlova is so fresh, beautiful and summery. Ava immediately wanted to eat the crackly, yet soft meringue – I could hardly hold her back from biting into slices. Mr Picky was in sugar-loaded heaven and was sure to add extra strawberries to his piece.

What I love least about this dish:

While this recipe might appear difficult it really isn’t. The main concern is making sure you eat it relatively soon after making it, so the outer crust doesn’t have time to soften (although, if it does, no biggie. It’ll still taste grand).

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

From it’s shattering texture to sweet, honeyed flavor, this honey confection combined with French vanilla ice cream is so good I can hardly stand it. I brought this to my writer’s group and sixty year-old men swooned. Since hokey pokey is easy to transport in an airtight container, the dessert is a great addition to any international potluck.

Mr Picky said he didn’t want any, until I offered him a nibble from my bowl. His response? “I’m going to have to have a bowl of that.”

What I love least about this dish:

Just be careful not to overflow your pot (see the recipe photos). Yikes!

Ava’s Corner

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Comments

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    I love your shirt! And your pavlova is beautiful.

    I tend to be a safe, non-thrill seeking but adventurous traveler- meaning, I will go almost anywhere but use common sense (let people know where I am, find shelter when the weather gets bad, don’t overdo things, am aware of my surroundings, etc.). Accidents can happen anywhere, so I don’t see the point of staying home and missing the chance to explore the world because of fear of something “bad” happening. The key is to be careful wherever you are.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks and thanks! I totally agree – I’ll always remember a woman who had never left the country once asked me if I ever felt my liberty was threatened while living overseas. Keep in mind, I had lived in France and Luxembourg. I think her question was based on some sort of media/rumor-driven fear and it made me sad that that was her first concern. Not… what was the food like or something a little more quotidian.

      • Jessica Bennett says:

        With the cost of travel, many people never get to experience the world beyond their own region. It’s hard to have an idea of what other places are like other than what they see on the news or from hearing the one horror story from a friend who visited somewhere (many people like to share those stories). The Internet can help give more insight, but one has to actively seek it. Did you help the woman who asked you about liberty try to understand what it was like living in those countries? When I used to tell people about my trips, I often got responses such as, “Wow, you’re not scared traveling alone?” Or, “Why would you want to go there?” I tried to educate and explain the joy of visiting all places, as each place has value and something different to experience. I’m not sure if they were always convinced, but that’s not something in my control. Hopefully if they hear enough positive stories, it will start to sink in.

        • Sasha Martin says:

          I actually convinced her to come with me to France (she is the mother of an old friend, so we all went). It totally changed her worldview…! It was a great time and I believe she has wonderful memories from those two weeks.

  2. Sharisse says:

    I’ve traveled in Damascus, Syria by myself as an American woman – never had a second of fear. Everyone was kind and reached out to me. Now Syria today would give me some pause, but I suspect that it would still be fine in certain areas.

    Can’t wait to try the Pavlova! I wonder what would happen if you added almond flavoring to it?

  3. Rebecca Davis says:

    Hi Sasha,

    Everything looks really tasty this week. Can’t wait to try it.

    I have close family members that have similar travel-based (or perhaps for them, culture-based) fears. I do my best to stay positive in conversation & not mention certain travel mishaps that may have happened while we were traveling. That is the way of travel…to learn to love the difference. (Vive la difference!)

    These travel nay-sayings do make me sad though. Oh, what they miss!

    Keep up the stove-top love!
    -Rebecca

    • Sasha Martin says:

      You’re setting a great example. Those who have been out there have to set the tone and have a responsibility to think before they speak, as you do. I was glad they showed Bourdain enjoying himself at the barbecue after the accident, as this is key – it “got back on the horse” so to speak.

  4. Collette Lemons says:

    You Pavlova turned out great. i hated missing out on it.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It came out great because of your tips… thanks Collette. We’ll have to do it again, sometime :)

  5. elisa waller says:

    fantastic meal, words and video…so touching! xoxo Love your inspiring ways!

  6. Brian S. says:

    Something I wrote about these travel rumors, fears and phobias. “Much later, after I had spent years in Africa without encountering a single headhunter or fer-de-lance, I realized that these phobias had been masking deeper, more formless terrors — a fear of the alien, the unknown. We all know what Columbus discovered — that you can sail anywhere on earth without falling over the edge, that because the world is round you can always return to the place from which you started. But buried deep within us are pockets of doubt.”

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Exactly… fear of the unknown is exactly right. This is perhaps the little way GTA can help – by cooking meals from around the world, we’re making country more “known” … instead of a big question mark, people now know a little bit about each place. This hopefully bring us all just a little bit closer.

  7. It can be helpful to hear about others’ travel experiences, but I take everything with a grain of salt, especially if it’s not first-hand information, and try to get as many opinions as possible – for every one person with a bad experience, there are often many more with a good one. If they’re all bad/scary, that’s when it’s time to take it seriously.

    If I listened to every bit of travel gossip I heard, there would be nowhere “safe” to go… and I make a point not to share the bad stuff with my mom before I go on a trip :-) She worries enough as it is.

    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Mary, this is true – and sometimes, no matter how beautiful/wonderful/kind of a place they went to, there are people who will choose to focus on the negative.

  8. We moved to the UK from NZ with our then 11 year old son, 8 years ago and it was Terrifying. We didn’t know a soul!

    Since then we’ve travelled a lot – all our money goes on exploring new countries. I had to pretend to be brave at first and then, all of a sudden, I just was. We’ve couch-surfed all over Europe, staying with people we’d never met before and I’m really thankful for the experiences we had as a family.

    The big thing we learned is that people are nice. They really really are.

    I’m incredibly proud that because of his experiences our son felt comfortable enough at 18 to travel to India and live there, on his own(!), for 5 months. He’s currently coming to the end of a 3 month trip to Brazil. He’s found work, places to live, learned new languages, made life long friends and become an amazingly self-assured, confident and happy young man. He’s also learned to budget like a crazy person :) The boy takes pride in finding the tastiest, cheapest local food.

    Next up? Who knows, the world is a big place…

    • Sasha Martin says:

      “I had to pretend to be brave at first and then, all of a sudden, I just was. ” < <<< I love this. This is my reality, not just in travel but in so many areas of life. I might have to frame that! :)

  9. I think comparing travel fears to high school gossip is so accurate! I am also young, American and female and travel alone (at least on my last couple of big adventures). My next big trip is to India and I am amazed by the negative responses I have received….why would you ever want to go there…don’t eat local food…someone I know was sick for months after going there…it is so stinky/crowded/dirty…etc etc. It makes me so sad that people focus on negative things or all the things that may go wrong. Travel for me is an adventure, both good and bad but that is also what makes it so incredible. However, the most amazing part about traveling to me is meeting other people just like myself that have the same desire to explore life and the world!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Gosh, how sad! You are going to have a fantastic time, though! And the memories will keep you company for many a year. Much better than sitting with fear of the unknown!

  10. Well, I live in NZ, and I can assure you as far as places to live go .. it’s fairly safe! Especially if you are in the deep south of the south island as I am.
    You picked out some lovely NZ flavour combinations there. One of the things that I read today in a food magazine about NZ was that because we are a relatively young country we are mostly unbound by tradition – so we look around at what the world has to offer and then make it our own with a antipodean twist.
    Lovely recipes and write up – thank you :)

  11. We were set to go to Iceland just two weeks after the big volcano erupted. With all of the media coverage of the fire and ash, not to mention the reports of people being stuck in airports for days, we nearly canceled our trip. I’m happy to report that we went anyway. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and we met two wonderful people who have become our friends. We ended up visiting them in The Netherlands a few months ago.
    We would have missed all of that if we had believed the hype.

    (And no, we did not eat any rotten shark!) :)

  12. Christina says:

    Actually, this applies to less-than-desirable areas of the USA too. When we decided we wanted to move to the inner city, we were told by black friends to avoid the Hispanic section of town, Hispanic friends said to avoid the black section of town, and white friends said to avoid it all together (I guess the Asian friends had no opinion, or they were smart enough to know we wouldn’t listen.) We ended up living for 10 years in a neighborhood with whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, & too many rednecks. I would move back in a heartbeat, and I have no regrets raising a family there. I never felt unsafe, even with drug dealers & other felons in the neighborhood. (You learn really fast who the criminals are.) Sure, there are areas where people travelling after dark risk their safety, but drive-by shootings can happen *anywhere* like in very, very rural Kansas, far from the criminal element (personal experience there.) You meet the most interesting people when you move into “less-desirable” neighborhoods & life is always an adventure.

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