Cultures, food traditions and healthy eating: insights from our nutrition Expert!
November • 4th, 2019
by Expat in the City Team
Why the food tastes different when you are on holiday
Have you ever experienced that: you come home from vacation, rave about the local kitchen and therefore would like to implement it at home as well. In your enthusiasm you want to convince your loved ones of the exotic taste explosions. But no matter what kind of cuisine it is - Mediterranean or Persian cuisine, Ayurveda or any exotic food - you quickly realize that it does not taste as good at home as it does in the respective country, even though you exactly stick to the recipes. Before you doubt your cooking skills, let me explain the reasons for that and why they make sense.
The human omnivore can get along well with different diets. But to thrive optimally, we best adapt to the environment in which we live.
Therefore, some populations can live very well with a predominantly high-fat diet, e.g. the Inuit in Greenland, who basically live on seal bacon. Others thrive better on copious amounts of carbohydrates, such as the Indians in Central America. They mainly have corn and beans on their menu. And for others, a very high-protein based diet is ideal, such as for the Massai in Africa, who consume a lot of animal blood, meat and milk. For millennia, people have been feeding mainly on the food that was readily available in their environment.
In the age of globalization, where food from all over the world is now permanently available, we sometimes lose the sense of what is actually growing seasonally in our region. Because that is what not only tastes best, but also can get best digested. Exotic fruits from distant countries are often harvested immaturely and need to travel a long way before they get on our plates. Apart from the environmental aspect, flavorings and important nutrients also get lost that way. This explains why, for example, a mango in India tastes different than a mango from the local supermarket.
In addition, some culinary delights that we love on vacation have meaning in certain countries but don’t make sense in our climate. Let's just think of freshly squeezed orange juice, which is served for breakfast in Mediterranean countries, for example. Apart from the fact that the path of the oranges from the tree to the juicer is manageable over there, the orange juice in the morning in these hot countries serves to cool down the organism - something we do not need very often in the northern regions.
In order to get the best taste and the full nutritional value, I recommend to stick to regional and seasonal products. This has several advantages: your diet becomes very diverse, because you only eat what is seasonally growing and therefore have to constantly vary. In addition, you support local farmers to grow healthy food.
Our tip: Viktualienmarkt - a farmers market in the heart of Munich where you can find the best selection of regional, seasonal and also exotic foods
I still remember how happy we were as children when strawberry time finally arrived. In autumn we gathered mushrooms and berries, and during winter we ate the rest of the apple and pear harvest.
Nothing against strawberries in winter, but maybe you have already noticed that freshly picked, regional strawberries taste much better in summer than they do at Christmas time. If you like strawberries in winter you can freeze some ripe fruits in summer to enjoy them in the cold season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often underestimated, but actually they are a good alternative to fresh food. The main reason is that they are immediately frozen after having been harvested ripe, so that they not only taste good but also contain almost all of their nutrients.
Of course, there are also some products which do not grow in Germany, such as Kiwi, Pineapple, Papaya and Co. Recipes made with these ingredients make it worthwhile to first look for alternatives that have similar nutritional values but are equal or often even more intense (a good example are domestic flax seeds instead of Chia seeds from South America).
For some ingredients, however, there are no alternatives, such as for the olive oil in the Mediterranean kitchen. The Mediterranean diet is well known as one of the healthiest diets in the world due to different nutritional and lifestyle factors. Part of it is the famous olive oil, which is used in almost all dishes and which has an anti-inflammatory effect due to its high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. When using olive oil, it makes sense to pay attention to the quality. The highest grade of the olive oils is "extra virgin olive oil". This olive oil is "cold-extracted", that means that the temperatures during the production of the olive oil must not exceed 27°C in order to preserve the heat-sensitive, valuable substances.
A daily intake of 2-3 tablespoons of high-quality olive oil is recommended to stay healthy and live long - at least, if you want to believe the centenarians in Sardinia or on the Greek island of Ikaria, which after all, belong to the oldest people in the world (more about the longest-living people in the so-called "Blue Zones®" you can learn in my seminar "The secret of longevity - how to become 100years old and stay healthy").
If you are looking for a really good olive oil for your salads and Mediterranean dishes, I can personally recommend the oil of the German-Greek family Sgouros from Corfu (www.sgouros.de). This family puts a lot of love in the personal production of their olive oil - and you can taste it!
Last but not least, it is often a special feeling which we associate with certain foods from the respective country. Just think of French wine at sunset by the sea, homemade pasta with the Italian Mama, fresh coconut in Asia, gyros and tzatziki in a Greek taverna – the list could be endless. By getting these dishes home, we also want to preserve special feelings connected with this food, and by preparing certain dishes we warm up our memories. That's nice and can definitely make us feel good. Nevertheless, it will never taste the same as in the country of its origin, because a sense of life cannot be reheated. So please do not despair if your food does not taste exactly as it did in the country where it originally came from. Enjoy it as well as the feeling you associate with it.
Much more important than imitating the perfect taste experience, however, is that you find a diet that suits you best in your special situation while you stay curious about foreign cultures and people. And the best way to get to know them is through their kitchen. Because where are wars won? Not on battlefields, but in the kitchen and the hearts of the people.
If you have not yet found the perfect diet for you in your individual life situation, then feel free to contact me and together we will find out what suits best for you personally.