Posts Tagged ‘cuisine’

Q&A With Our Study Leader for Spain and Portugal

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Barbara York headed Smithsonian Journeys International Division until 2004. Here, she speaks with Study Leader Lana Harrigan about the food and culture of Spain and Portugal, among other things.

Barbara York: As someone who has an interest in food, do you find food a particularly good way to explore and understand a culture?

Traditional Paella Valenciana. Photo: Flickr user benjieordonez.

Traditional Paella Valenciana. Photo: Flickr user benjieordonez

Lana Harrigan: Absolutely. I’ve always been drawn to good food, but I’d never really understood—until I began to travel—that it is an essential conveyor of culture. In our food and drink lie glimpses of our history as well as our culture. In America, the Boston Tea Party is a perfect example. A simple beverage became a symbol of political oppression and a nation’s desire for freedom. With our high-speed lives, fast food has become an icon that defines one aspect of our current culture. Spain, on the other hand, still stops for lunch. When my fellow Smithsonian travelers and I sit down to a two-hour lunch of traditional foods in a shadowy restaurant, nestled amongst the narrow, twisting streets of medieval Córdoba, we truly experience Spain, its history, and its culture. When I eat bacalhao in Lisbon, it conjures up Portuguese history and fishermen braving Atlantic waters in their brightly painted boats. When I bite into a morsel of roast leg of lamb glazed with honey and dates, Moorish Spain comes alive. If food were only calories for survival, all cultures throughout history would not have gone to such lengths to prepare special food for special occasions. In all my Smithsonian lectures, I mention the food of the peoples who settled the Iberian Peninsula. Knowing what and how people ate in times past is another way to know them—and to connect with them across the centuries. (more…)

Food For Thought

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Linda Stevens is Field Notes Coordinator for Smithsonian Journeys. Combing the Institution for interesting projects happening around the world, she prepares these research notes especially for travelers. Today, she shares some experiences from her own travels. Learn more about Linda here. Click here to see more research notes.

Hawaiian lei flowers. Photo: Courtesy of Flickr user babasteve

Hawaiian lei flowers. Photo: Courtesy of Flickr user babasteve

I never set out to collect cookbooks; it just sort of happened when I wasn’t looking. I had the standard ones on my kitchen shelf, but a Smithsonian Journeys trip to Hawaii in 1987 sent me off in a whole new direction.

My husband’s talents in the kitchen did not even cover making coffee, so before the Hawaiian trip departed, I alerted all my local family and friends that I would be gone, certain that they would take the hint and extend a dinner invitation (or two) in my absence.

The trip was a delightful exploration of the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. One of the highlights of the trip was a luau at a private home in Hawi on the island of Hawaii. Earl and Audrey Veloria and their son, Kaleo, welcomed us to their home for an afternoon and evening of preparing the luau feast, lei making, singing, dancing, story tellingand eating!

Earl had already dug the imu (underground oven) in which our luau was to cook, and he had lined it with hot rocks. It was our job to help him gather banana leaves and lug them back up the hill to the imu. Audrey brought out the food and placed it on the imu. Earl showed us how to cover it with banana leaves, then shovel dirt over it and sprinkle with water to create the steam that would cook our feast. (more…)