"If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted on the Sistine floor."
– Neil Simon
Taking risks is part of everyday life when you live in a foreign country. Simple tasks become difficult with different customs and a language barrier. When applying for orders overseas, military members and their dependants should have to prove they are "worthy" of the experience. Why move to a new country for three years and never experience it? Why return to the states with three years of shopping at the exchange on base and going out to eat at Taco Bell? Luckily I have made a friend who is not afraid to venture outside the "gate".
Today we visited Kamakura, home of the Great Buddha. We also had a great lunch at a little cafe where I had an amazing eggplant gratin. Now I admit, eggplant gratin is not very Japanese, but some of the best food I have had has not been in it's country of origin. The best Indian food I have ever had was in Amsterdam, the best Thai was in Bath, England and the best Mexican was from El Burrito Jr on PCH. Now I have not been to India or Thailand but I have been to Mexico, and in my opinion, the Mexican food there is horrible. My extensive exposure to Japanese food has led me to this conclusion of why food is always better away from it's homeland. Traditional Japanese food consists mainly of rice and fish, inexpensive...raw...sometimes cooked...but mostly raw...fish. Japanese people do not sit down to a feast of Maguro (tuna) and Shime-Saba (mackerel) every day. The Japanese food we have grown accustomed to in the U.S. is of the Benihana variety complete with a fiery onion volcano and a chef flinging shrimp tails into his hat.
I do not think it is the most traditional items which grace the pages of menus in places foreign to the origin, but the best, or most widely palatable items that best represent the culture. For instance; when you think of Japanese, you think sushi or teriyaki...Indian, you think masala or curry...Thai, beef with coconut or lemongrass...Mexican, anything in a tortilla. Unfortunately the greatest representation of American food worldwide is McDonald's. I think America would be better represented by Boston Market...that's real American food.
To sum it up, today I am grateful for gratin in Japan, masala in Amsterdam, pad thai in Bath and super burritos in Los Angeles. Just think, if we were only exposed to the "everyday" food of foreign countries, would we enjoy it as much? Doubtful.