At twenty dollars a pop, the t-shirt is the most soulless souvenir I can think of. Even when rolled up tightly, thick jersey takes up way too much space in already bulging suitcases. Several years ago, I dropped the tourist act and decided to give myself and my loved ones something more creative, affordable, and – ultimately – more meaningful.
I’m here to say it – the world’s best souvenir for your family & friends is an herb or spice from your travels.
When I think back to the trips I’ve taken over the years, what stands out the most is the food. And, if I want to swim in the memory of a place, there is no better way to do so than with food souvenirs. Personally, I prefer herbs and spices for their small size and expense. Oils, wines, and other goodies can all be shipped back home fairly easily, but take up a lot of room in the suitcase (and may cause trouble at customs).
Just like Proust and his famous madeleine, I’m a believer in food’s power to evoke memories. When I first started bringing back spices, it took me months to garner the courage to use the precious souvenirs. Frightened of losing the memories, I would only open them up to let the aroma guide me back to that special time and place. One whiff of sweet, spicy, or woodsy and I was back … back to that hot salsa served with a beachside breakfast in Cabo, the grilled, oregano and paprika rubbed lamb kabob in Greece, or my high school trip to Tunisia, where I ate plate after plate of fresh tomato salad with parsley.
Right now I can’t travel – I have a little baby girl and I want to wait until she can remember the trips. Until she’s old enough, I’m letting my spices be my guide. I’m taking a virtual voyage, down memory lane and beyond – cooking one meal for every country in the world. 195 countries, 195 meals, 195 weeks. With a cooking project like that, you can bet I’m glad I bought those spices!
To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.