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On Knowing Food

For the last 5 years, I’ve been fixated on the question, “what is my relationship to food?”

Growing up, food was always at the forefront. I spent the first 18 years of my life sitting around a table with my family, eating a delicious, simple meal prepared by my mom. For years, and still now, I watched her churn out perfectly flakey salmon and quajado and Hungarian mushroom soup and chicken marbella that made the whole house smell like sweet prunes. I had the great joy of eating my Noni’s keftez and Spanish rice, thick with tomatoes and chickpeas, and crispy roast potatoes for holidays or special occasions. My 86-year-old Papu still whips up currant scones or French madeleines on an ordinary Saturday, just ’cause.

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September at Spannocchia

After six weeks of temples, motorbikes, sticky rice, tiny islands, night buses, and fish sauce — I find myself in a very different part of the world: Tuscany.

I am currently a farm intern at Spannocchia, an agrotourism specializing in salumi, wine, and olive oil. Along with 7 other hard-working, food-loving twenty-somethings, I share this beautiful 12th century estate with visitors from around the world. Part villa, part organic farm, Spannocchia integrates historic preservation with cultural and ecological enrichment and education.

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Hoi An, Vietnam

On our 16-hour train ride to Hoi An, we traded personal space and volume control for a three-tiered bunk bed and Korean soap operas. As two small Vietnamese children plopped themselves onto our beds to chat with their grandma at 7am, we couldn’t help but smile.

After the long haul from up north, we were thrilled to settle in to the charming town of Hoi An. The streets lit up with lanterns at night, and the gorgeous coastline was only a bike ride away. We filled our days with market strolling, cooking classes, dips in the ocean, and endless searching for the perfect fabric. Our tailor, Louise, didn’t disappoint.

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Hanoi, Vietnam

With our dried mangos, taro chips, and chocolate coconut cakes in hand, we said goodbye to the Land of Smiles and made our way to the airport for Hanoi. Our first morning, we braved the 100 degree heat and strolled through the Old Quarter, making frequent stops for carrot passion fruit smoothies and iced coffee. The coffee in Vietnam is rich and black, just the way I like it, but they have interesting variations, too. We stumbled upon a beautiful cafe at the back of a silk shop, up a long flight of spiral stairs, overlooking Hoàn Kiếm Lake, where we enjoyed iced coffee with sour yogurt and took in the view. Later that day, we tried egg coffee — similar to a cappuccino, but made with egg yolk that’s whipped to a foam and drizzled with honey. Woah.

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Pai, Thailand 

Three very windy and bumpy hours through the mountains landed us in beautiful Pai just north of Chiang Mai. We walked across a rickety bamboo bridge to a small tent that was to be our home for the weekend. Our tent sat right along the Pai river — butterflies, snails, lizards, and a view of the lush, misty mountains included.

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Chiang Mai, Thailand 

There are few things that put me to sleep quicker than being tucked into a tiny compartment in a moving vehicle. After hearing stories about the two-level night buses that blast Korean pop music videos until the wee hours, we were relieved to snuggle into our private berth on the night train to Chiang Mai. Eight hours later, I woke up to the sun pearing through the curtains and the wonderful sound of someone offering me coffee (I was born with the gift of sleep).

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Bangkok, Thailand 

After 11 hours over the Pacific and 3 at the Taiwan airport eating taro cakes in the Hello Kitty terminal, we finally arrived in hot, sticky Bangkok. Our limbs felt heavy as we pushed through the humidity with our trusty packs in stow, marching toward our apartment with the address บ้านเลขที่ 34/8. “No one will know it,” our AirBnB host kindly told us. “Just walk along the green fence past the massage shop.” Perfect, we thought. I’m still not sure what that ‘slash’ is for.

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A Weekend in the Methow Valley

While a bit of a drive, the Methow Valley in northeastern Washington is stunning. Since there is still some snow in the mountains (all of these tulips almost had me fooled), we picked a place that would be good for camping, but in a sit-and-drink-scotch-by-the-wood-burning-stove-in-a-modern-Danish-shipping-container kind of way.

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