Collecting Treasures in the Belly and the Hand

By: Liz Tarpy

It's interesting to hear what people collect during their travels. From postcards to original artwork, the choice of what to carry home reveals an intimate peek into the traveler's life. As a food professional, it's not surprising I hanker for edible souvenirs. Unfortunately, they don't last any longer than the time it takes to eat a sausage sandwich on the cobbled streets of a German village, or lick the buttery crumbs off my fingers from an unbelievably good French croissant. A bottle of Italian olive oil might make it out of the country, but its lifespan is only as long as the number of home-cooked dinners it lasts for. Although the foods may be long gone, the memory lives on.

In my more recent travels, I've added a non-edible goodie to seek out, to have something tangible to remember my trips by. It started when I was the chef for a writers' workshop in Provence. While shopping for the evening meal, I was drawn to the bearded man selling Opinel pocketknives under a red canopy at the open-air market. The beautiful handles in an array of wood — cherry/de cerisier, maple/d'erable, oak/de chene — caught my eye. On a trip to northern Germany, I found a paring knife manufactured by the Robert Herder Company in Solingen, a town famous for its knife-making tradition, particularly thin carbon-steel blades. I had never heard of the company or the town, but the beauty in the craftsmanship was compelling. These knives now cut the food to make the meals that (hopefully) create a delicious memory in the minds of my dinner guests.

We want to know, what do you collect when you travel?

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