Tips from The Kitchn

5 Things That Traveling Taught Me About Cooking

Image Credit: Cambria Bold

I caught the traveling bug in college and quickly went from nervous traveler to someone who traveled every opportunity possible, even if it meant going by myself. Every time I think I understand a type of food or cuisine, traveling to the place where it originated always reminds me that I know just a fraction about it and there's so much more to learn and explore.

These travels have shaped so much of who I am today, and I'm so grateful for the life lessons I've learned — including some things related to the kitchen and food!

1. Cooking souvenirs are fun and practical.

Since I've moved around a lot and mainly lived in big cities the last 10 years, I've learned to live with less since space is always at a premium. There's always the urge to souvenir shop when traveling, so I channel that into a more practical focus and mainly buy souvenirs that I can use in the kitchen or on the dinner table.

Our kosher salt sits in a beautiful little porcelain bowl that we brought back with us from Bali on our honeymoon, and it brings back fond memories every time I reach for it.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

2. You don't need much to make a great meal.

Traveling really forces you to make do with what you have, whether it's an ill-equipped rental kitchen or no kitchen at all. Whether it's some cheese, bread, and wine for a picnic under the Eiffel Tower or a little roast chicken and salad I picked up at a grocery store in Rome, I'll never forget these simple meals. Not stressing out about food helped me really enjoy where I was and the people I was eating with, and it's something I try to remind myself of even when I'm back home.

3. There isn't always a right or wrong way to use an ingredient.

It's amazing to see how the same ingredients are used in such different ways around the world. Lettuces eaten raw and in salads in one place are braised in other countries, and neither way is wrong! I enjoy grilled zucchini as much as I enjoy it stewed in olive oil until meltingly tender, and traveling has always reminded me to keep an open mind and try cooking things in new and exciting ways.

Image Credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink

4. It's okay to make the same dish over and over again.

Sometimes I feel like what I'm cooking at home is boring and repetitive, but traveling has reminded me that there's something endearing about that. So many travelers reminisce about eating in someone's home and how delicious the dish that's been made the same way for 50 years tasted.

Well, that's only achieved if you keep making it over and over again! It creates not only confidence but taste memories and nostalgia, and I hope that my kids fondly remember some of the dishes that are in regular rotation in our house and want to make them one day for themselves.

5. One of the best parts of traveling is returning home and cooking again.

Traveling and not cooking, or even cooking in a rental kitchen, always makes me antsy to go home and start cooking in my own kitchen. As much as I love travel, there's this moment of satisfaction when I pull out my well-used cutting board and start chopping onions for soup the day I get home.

I appreciate the everyday rhythms of prepping, cooking, and cleaning just a bit more because I've been away from it for awhile, and it's such a great feeling to know where exactly everything is and be in control of what you eat again.

What has traveling taught you about cooking? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!