It's a great way to learn patience (have you tried to fly anywhere, lately?). It's good for learning about your limits (and whether or not you are willing to push past them to get to the rim of a volcanic caldera). And, assuming you're going more than a couple of hours' drive from your home, it's great for learning new languages (yes - even if you stay in the same country - just consider the differences between the accents in Brooklyn, New Orleans, and Seattle).
I have to admit that I typically have travelled places where I know enough of the language to get around without too many issues. I studied French in college, so I most often travel places where I can use either English or French. (I feel the same way about travelling in the UK - that I know just enough of the language to get by...) I can muddle my way through German and some Italian. But I've never studied Spanish - except for menus and phrases like "Donde esta la biblioteca?" (which shows up in more movies than you'd expect).
Even so, for the past couple of weeks, Christopher and I have been in South America. The land of "Vamanos!" and "Si, gracias." Luckily, we had some great guides. And, along the way, we learned a lot of words - many of which had to do with food.
NOTE: All of the food words listed, below, get their stress/emphasis on the second syllable instead of the (more common in English) first syllable.
We learned about Manicho - an Ecuadorian peanut-filled chocolate bar.
We learned that babaco is a delicious member of the star fruit family.
That Cusqueña is a popular brand of beer in Peru.
And - a discovery that just might have rocked my culinary world - we learned that salsa ají is an amazing vinegary sauce that can include onions and cilantro and, frankly, I now want to try on everything. (The second-syllable stress is especially important on the last one, because an "ah-HEE" sauce is nothing like "AH-he" tuna.)
There was so much information to process while we were travelling - and there is still so much to sift through. (Like why the TSA opened my TSA-approved suitcase lock - but did not replace it on my luggage. TWICE. Instead, when I collected my suitcase at each end of my trip the lock had simply been removed and the suitcase sent through unlocked and not entirely zipped closed. What's up with that?)
I'll admit, though, that upon our return home we were pleasantly reminded that delivery pizza for lunch after about 24 hours of travel (well... a bunch of that was just airport sitting) is amazing. And so is having ice cream for dinner while hanging out on the couch with the pup. Even if I did start to say "gracias" when the woman at the grocery store gave me my receipt.
For those of you waiting for actual food writing - thanks for putting up with these interim posts. Recipes and photos will be back ASAP. (Hopefully soon I'll be including a recipe for ají.)