- Written by Andrea Gross Andrea Gross
Sometimes we watch sausage being stuffed or ice cream being swirled. Other times we amble through markets, take a food class, or attend a wine festival. One way or another, food nearly always is an important part of our travels.
And why not? Culinary travel is about more than what people eat; it’s about how they live.
Here, food-based experiences in three diverse spots: Georgia, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Shrimpin’ in Georgia
Captain Larry Credle powers up the Lady Jane, an authentic shrimp trawler that’s been refurbished to hold 49 passengers.
“Let’s go shrimpin’,” he says with a grin as we leave the pier in Brunswick, Georgia, to go on a shrimp-catching cruise (www.shrimpcruise.com) in St. Simon Sound. The crew lowers a huge net until it lies near the bottom of the sound. Then the boat moves forward at about 2 knots an hour while the net drags along behind, scooping up everything in its path. (Note the origin of the word dragnet.)
After about 15 minutes, the crew raises the net and dumps the contents onto a big table.
Passengers crowd around to touch and hold the catch, which includes shrimp, bluefish, jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, and even a small stingray, a mini-version of the one that doomed Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter).
Then we return them to the water or toss them to the seagulls that are hovering nearby.
Midway through the cruise, First Mate John Tyre brings out a huge pot of boiled shrimp. We dig in with abandon, knowing that we’ll never again enjoy shrimp this much.
From Farm to Table in Wisconsin
Linda Harding isn’t satisfied just teaching folks how to cook. She wants them to understand food, to know what’s gone into the growing as well as the preparing of it.
It’s for that reason that my husband and I find ourselves standing in an organic vegetable garden at Blooming Hill Farm (www.thekitchensage.com) in Plum City, Wisconsin.
As owner Mary Maier-Abel walks us through the fields, Harding, who has an extensive culinary background, extols the virtues of farm-fresh produce. “Food that’s freshly picked and simply prepared allows the flavor to shine through,” she says.
After a thorough but all-too-short tour of the farm, we head back to Harding’s home, a delightful 1902 house that she’s refurbished to be both comfortable and efficient.
Under her guidance the five of us, all admitted novices, have no trouble whipping up a masterful meal from local foods: wild mushroom duxelle on crostini; farm-fresh salad with beets and blue cheese; rosemary- and garlic-roasted leg of spring lamb; oven-roasted heirloom potatoes and vegetables; and a positively yummy apple crisp with black walnuts.
Afterward, we sit down and enjoy our efforts. This, we agree, has been an experience that we can truly take home, both around our hips and in the form of recipes for later!
Going to the Market in Seattle
Seattle’s Pike Place Market (www.pikeplacemarket.org), one of the oldest continuously operated farmers markets in the nation, is colorful, crowded, and caffeinated, as befits the prime attraction in the city that birthed Starbucks.
There are men hawking fish that, they promise, can be delivered to your home before spoiling, performers strumming guitars, people talking in a multitude of languages.
And while the odor of fish predominates, it’s mixed with the strong smells of curry, kimchi, coffee, and chocolate. As for color, the flowers, which change seasonally, are startlingly bright, the vegetables are overwhelmingly supersized, and the fruit is incredibly sweet.
We let ourselves be swept along with the crowd, and as we do, vendors ply us with samples: a handful of dried fruit, a slice of apple, a chunk of cantaloupe, a taste of jam, and the best chocolate-covered cherry I’ve ever tasted.
We’re not really hungry, but in the name of research we order a halibut sandwich from the Mixed Grill. Delicious! Four hours later we decide we must try some fish and chips from Lowell’s. Incredible.
We think we’ve seen it all, but just to make sure, the following day we take the Savor Seattle Tour (www.savorseattletours.com). In a space of two hours, our guide serves up bits of market history as well as tastes of more than 20 foods, from freshly made doughnuts to several kinds of piroshky.
I roll home thoroughly sated.
Photos © Irv Green unless otherwise noted; story by Andrea Gross (www.andreagross.com).