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Food, The Universal Language

Food creates a world to share our love, sorrows, dreams, and experiences. Eating together is a time of laughter, tears, and reflection, and it affords us the opportunity “to open the door” and share our lives with one another. Traveling to far and not so far away destinations entices us to taste new flavors, and it lures us to engage with those with whom we dine.

Many cultures express themselves through food. Food is not just meant to sustain life but is an expression of who we are. Cultures share food to honor guests. Breaking bread has been a time-honored tradition involving many forms of socialization. Food awakens our senses to the environment and elicits an emotional and physical response.

One of the first inquiries Acanela has from our expeditioners is “What are we eating today?” “What is your favorite food here?” These comments sometimes elicit laughter. Food selection always varies, but you will hear “Oh yeah that is my favorite too.” I had this chef once… and so the camaraderie begins. The wonder of food.

So what are the favorite foods of Italy, Spain Greece, Vietnam, and Japan? My hope in the rest of the article is to give you a brief introduction to dishes you will want to experience on your visits to these countries. Let's get started!


Italy, a country in which food represents life, where families gather together frequently. Let me introduce you to Bottarga, smoked eggs from gray mullets which are salted, pressed and air-dried for six months. Bottarga is served grated over pasta. Once considered a poor man's meal, it is now looked upon as the Italian caviar, not to be ignored by any traveler who wants to experience a meal described as “glorious.”  And, of course, our discussion would not be complete without Italian wine. I hesitate to select a favorite wine because Italians say all the wine is “magnifico.” Davide Tanis, an archaeologist from the University of South Florida, writes of ancient pottery discovered in the cave of Monte Kronio in Agrigento Italy dating some 6000 years! For 6000 years, Italians have been making some of the finest wine in the world.So, I will leave it to you to travel to Italy and discover your favorite wine!


Spain, the second largest country in Europe, is famous for their Tapas, but we will leave that for another day. Paella is Spain's specialty. Paella originated in Valencia, created with rabbit, chicken, seafood, aromatic saffron rice, and vegetables. There are many variations of this dish; ingredients are indigenous to the regions of Spain. Spaniards enjoy their largest meal midday incorporated with a siesta; meals are a leisurely experience, a time to savor the food and company.


So, we arrive in Greece. Greece derived from the Latin name “Graecia” the literal meaning “the land of the greeks” who are passionate about their traditions. Greek interests include food, wine, music, and religion. A national dish of Greece is Moussaka, known as the Greek version of lasagna. The ingredients include fried aubergine, minced meat, and potatoes topped with a creamy bechamel sauce and baked until a beautiful golden brown. Vegan Moussaka is also well received by vegan travelers. It’s a no wonder that so many travelers dream of visiting Greece!


Vietnam, a country I have always found to hold a mysterious quality, and steeped in myths and traditions.  One of the most recognizable symbols is the Vietnamese Dragon a symbol of clouds, rain, thunder, and lightning. Gift giving is a time-honored tradition both personally and professionally. Vietnamese respect balance and rules and this is reflected in the cuisine as well. The food is considered to be some of the healthiest food. Vietnamese food encompasses five principles: spices, organs, colors, nutrients, and senses which Vietnamese claim provide for a healthy dish. Anthony Bourdain wrote, “You don’t have to go looking for great food in Vietnam Great food finds you.”. For this reason, I am unable to select a dish to feature, so I will leave you to discover a favorite food on your culinary journey to Vietnam. Acanela will await your verdict.


One more country waits for you on this journey of food, Japan. Japan means “Land of the Rising Sun.” I have chosen an ingredient in this last segment because it is so delicious on its own when cooked to perfection no recipe required. Kobe beef. Kobe is a region in Japan raises Wagyu cattle. The beef is unique in color and marbling which results in “literally melting in your mouth.” No knives needed when eating a Kobe steak. Japan, an island nation, is the birthplace of sushi which has become a favored dish around the world. Who else dreams of traveling to Japan and tasting the world’s original sushi?

Travel offers many wonderful destinations of incredible sights, food, and most importantly people. My wish for you is to experience the joy of ”breaking bread” around the world. Allow food to open the door to engage in a very personal experience on your travels. For me, I think of life as an appetizer… try a little of everything and find the joy in all.

Join us on one of Acanela’s world-class culinary tours soon!

Article written by Rosalyn Sheehan Wan