In this Globavore Interview, we hear from Brianne Miers. Brianne is a Boston-based nonprofit consultant and travel blogger with a particular interest in sustainable travel. Her blog, A Traveling Life, focuses on how to balance a professional career with a life of travel. She’s got lots of market and restaurant recommendations to whet the vegetarian appetite.
1. Who are you and how does food play into your travels?
I’m a part-time travel blogger from Boston (USA), and I try to travel as sustainably as possible — a big part of that is learning about culture through food as well as supporting local food vendors, cafes and restaurants.
2. You’re at your favourite eatery with three companions (fictional, living or dead). Where (and when!) are you and who are you with?
I’d love to hang out with a few of the early bad-ass female adventurers like Amelia Earhart, Nellie Bly and Freya Stark. I think we’d just crack open a few beers and have a picnic together.
3. What are your favourite foods?
I eat any and all fruits. I especially love traveling in Southeast Asia, where there is such a phenomenal variety. (Ed.’s note: I’m a fruit bat too! Passionfruit, raspberries and cherries especially. And SE Asia is my favourite part of the world (not just for the fruit!))
4. Is there anything that you’d never eat? What is it and why?
Well, I’ve been a vegetarian since I was about 13, so meat is off-limits. However, I sometimes turn “pescatarian” when I travel and eat fish in places — like the Philippines — where being a strict vegetarian is difficult.
5. What do you crave but can’t get whilst on the road? How do you satisfy the craving?
I usually crave salads, to be honest. Vegetables are typically served steamed or cooked most places where I travel, and it’s also not always safe to eat raw produce. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about it!
6. What food are you embarrassed to admit you like to eat?
I eat a lot of granola bars when I travel! I usually bring a huge bag, so I know I always have a snack if I need one. Also — this is more embarrassing — I bring Crystal Light ice tea packets with me. I don’t drink soda, and sometimes I get tired of water.
7. What / where do you dream of eating, but haven’t yet had the pleasure?
I’ve always wanted to eat at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. I’ve also been wanting to check out a few vegetarian restaurants in New York City especially Dirt Candy since I have the cookbook.
8. Strangest meal?
I’ve never eaten anything too strange — as a vegetarian you can’t get too creative — but I did have a nibble of a tarantula leg at a roadside stand in Cambodia. It tasted like a barbeque potato chip.
9. Ever had food poisoning while traveling? Any advice to share?
I’ve never had food poisoning (knock on wood!), but I’ve definitely had more than my share of tummy troubles. I recommend bringing packets of rehydration salts as well as Imodium and charcoal if you’re going to be traveling where food safety is a concern.
10. Have you fallen so much in love with a foreign dish that you learned to make it at home? What’s the story?
I took a wonderful paella cooking class in Barcelona with Barcelona Slow Travel. The first course was gazpacho, and I’ve never liked gazpacho, but I loved this version. I’ve yet to recreate it, but I have the recipe!
11. What’s the first thing you eat after returning home from a long trip?
I like to get back to my “normal” foods right away like cereal, salads and veggie burgers.
12. Favourite foreign ingredient you wish your home supermarket carried?
Probably cheap and plentiful spices — I see bags of spices like saffron on sale at markets for just a few dollars when they cost a fortune here in the U.S.
13. Country / city where you’ve found the best food? Details please so we can check it out too!
My favorite country for eating is probably Vietnam. It’s generally easy to eat in Southeast Asia as a vegetarian (although fish stock and fish sauce are used a lot). The soups are wonderful, and they differ depending on the region. In Ho Chi Minh City, I had a wonderful vegetarian pho at a fun place called Pho 2000, where President Bill Clinton once ate, and in Hoi An I sampled cao lau, which can only be found there.
14. Country / city where you’ve found the worst? What made it so awful?
I had a really hard time eating in Uruguay. Needless to say, there weren’t many vegetarian options, so I was stuck eating potatoes for most meals. My friends loved the steak though! (Ed.’s note: ohhh that’s too bad! I was really impressed with the variety and quality of foods I found in Montevideo, there were tons of veg options available!)
15. What are your favourite markets for a) eating b) finding unusual things and c) for photography?
A few of my memorable market experiences have been the Bazurto Market in Cartagena, Colombia, the Kota Kinabalu night market on the island of Borneo in Malaysia and the fish market in Kochi, India. Two fantastic markets that I frequent here in the U.S. are the Boston Public Market and the Easton Public Market in Easton, Pensylvania — although they don’t sell anything too unusual!
16. If money were no object, where (and what) would you eat?
See number 7!
17. Do you have any food regrets?
Having a restricted diet I do feel guilty not about not fully being able to participate in a culture. Food is such a big part of everyone’s lives, and it’s a great way to connect with other people.
18. If you could invent any ice cream flavour, what would it be? (yes, I am looking for ideas to add to my ice cream repertoire!)
I love jellybeans, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen jellybean ice cream!
19. What do you love and hate about food writing (yours and/or in general)?
I definitely don’t consider myself to be a food writer, so I always struggle with describing the taste, and I feel like I use the word “fresh” too much. As for others’ writing, I always have to laugh when I read descriptions of wine. I usually can’t taste any of the flavors they mention.
20. You’re having surgery tomorrow and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll lose your ability to taste (oh the horrors!). What would you choose as, essentially, your last meal?
I think I’d have to go back to my Italian roots and say it would be my mom’s spaghetti sauce. It’s delicious in its simplicity and is always so comforting.