This post is going to be a little bit different as I'm not writing about food, but about writing about food. Feel free to come back to this post later if you're hungry.
Blogging and "Adverturegramming"
One thing I have noticed in the "adventure-gram" culture I find myself a part of is the obsession with discovery. It's not so much about knowing and experiencing something great anymore, it's about getting credit for finding it. We hold the treasure up high with the pretext of sharing it with others so they can experience it too; but let's be real, the flags we plant to champion our "discoveries" are in long inhabited lands with weathered flags all their own. Now, we never claim the thing itself as our own, but we seize the fame of having discovered it. Instagram is a great testament to this. Food and travel magazines do this. I do this. We want insider knowledge. But it's not enough to have it, we have to be the first to share it, to expose it before someone else does. It's not really about the the discovery anymore, it's about the discoverer. As writer G.K. Chesterton once mockingly said of himself:
"I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what has been discovered before."
Truth be told, my delve into the adventuregraming world started off as a joke among friends, it then became an experiment, then an obsession. To be clear I never would have kept it up if I didn't genuinely appreciate the artistic talent involved in these types of accounts. The photos are amazing. The quotes are inspiring. But getting into it, I felt like we're missing something. We don't read books anymore, we just read quotes. We don't form part of communities anymore, we just snap the good parts and ex the areas we don't see value in. We talk a lot about the love of things but it feels a little hallow. We only love places long enough to steal a quick pic and write a few words about how it made us feel (or, looking back on it a few days later, how we imagined one might feel in that place). The fact that we spend more time typing out hashtags then comments shows where our priorities are. To some degree it's impossible to avoid some of these tendencies, and they aren't all bad. I don't mean to over-exaggerate or impose too much philosophy on a trend or aesthetic, it has its place and I enjoy it. But if that's all we're about, it's kind of baseless.
This blog is, as I stated in the description, about food, the friends who have shared their lives and culture through that food, and how both have now become a part of my own life. These are things I will experience regardless of the existence of Wero Kitchen. To me, this blog is a fun outlet to organize experiences, recipes, and life lessons people have taught me. I will always travel, I will always cook, I will always take photographs. This is merely a public memoir of these things, because I think you will enjoy them too. I usually don't create anything new, I just show you what I find beautiful. I enjoy sharing these experiences from places you may not be able (or want) to go. The goal is somewhat of an anti-conquest. I go across the world (or down the street) to surrender my sensibilities and my tastebuds, and the treasures I take back with me are the ones I've been given as a gift.
Food and Friends
When looking for flavorful things, I started in the home and on the street not because I expected to find them there, but because I did find them there. I like home cooking because I spend time in people's homes. I like street food because I love city streets. The first time I had paella in Spain was in a home, not a restaurant. The home set my flavor expectations for the dish. The same with mole, the same with carnitas, flautas, tacos al pastor, etc. I experienced all these things on the street with friends or in the home first, and they set the standard. Restaurants are catching up, and doing some cool and innovative things, but the essence of these foods will always be with their origins.
THE dignity of the street
There is a dignity to the street and the home that is experiencing a resurgence now. It was never lost, but it's in the spotlight now. TV shows, magazines, newspapers, even movies are dedicated to it, restaurants paradoxically offer "street food" on their menus. Some may lament this, saying it's becoming commercialized (yes, I have seen the "street taco" packs in the refrigerated aisle of the supermarket, whatever that means). But it's not a bad thing, it's a great thing. Trends, whether we like the word or not, pioneer development and creativity. Granted, a lot of people on the bandwagon will only be there with a lemming status and there is a lot of bad food to be avoided, but that doesn't change the fact that a bandwagon moves forward. And besides, if someone tries something new just because it's trendy, they are still trying something new. As new dishes pop up on the scene, they become part of the culture of that community. Sure that changes the dish somewhat, but the dish also change the culture and the environment, and that's exciting.
how to find the best food
There is an old Hebrew proverb that says it's better to eat a bowl of vegetables with someone you love than a delicious steak with someone you hate. There is a lot of truth in that. If you want to find good food, that's where you start. When you find a chef who cares about other people, you find a good chef. A chef who is trying to make a name for himself can make amazing and delicious food, absolutely. But there is something about pouring out your best for someone else, for their sole benefit, that adds a depth of flavor. That's why when I go to Mexico City, I don't stay in Polanco, the zona nice with the shining glass buildings and clean buses and secure areas. When I go, I stay in Neza where the cumbia from the neighbor's buzzy speakers shake the walls and the beat is punctuated by gun shots and stray dogs barking, because that's where my friends live. I've had near strangers open up their homes to me, sleep on the couch to give up their beds for me, prepare food for me when they don't have enough to feed themselves. They don't do this because I'm honorable, but because they are. They don't do this because I'm cool, but because they are. And that's the secret to finding the best food. Find the best people, let them be your guide, and enjoy the journey.