Reliving our travels through food: Rome, Tokyo and beyond

So much of travel to other places revolves around one main thing: food.

No matter if I travel across state lines or an ocean, I often spend hours and hours researching where to go, what to do and, most importantly, what to eat.

When I dream of my recent travels, it’s hard not to picture my husband, my sons and I savoring a local culinary delight – walking along a river with ice cream, sitting at a sidewalk café with a café au lait and croissant, picnicking in the park with falafel sandwiches, or slurping noodles from a bowl from a seat at the counter. No matter the city, food flavors our travel experiences and our memories like nothing else.

Still savoring our Italian honeymoon 14 years later

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, traveling from town to town and city to city sampling the local delicacies all along the way. When we returned to Chicago, we stocked our fridge with prosciutto, our pantry with Nutella, and our liquor cabinet with sciacchetra. And, I practically swooned whenever I saw quattro stagioni listed on the menu of a local pizzeria or castelvetrano olives in a market's olive bar. It was almost like we could continue to keep the vacation euphoria alive simply by continuing to eat and drink just as we did during our honeymoon in Italy.

A bottle of sciacchetra serves as a constant reminder of Italy...

A bottle of sciacchetra serves as a constant reminder of Italy...

And, it actually worked.

With each taste and sip, we remembered our first meal in the Cinque Terre, our picnic along the wall in Lucca, our pizza dinner in Venice, or our shopping at the Campo dei Fiori market. And, together, we reminisced about amazing culinary and travel experience.

But, like an individual taste or sip, the feeling can be fleeting.

One of the hardest things about vacation is keeping the memories, the relaxation and the joy alive after you return back to your daily routine. But, I believe that food helps you do so - at little bit at a time. At least it does for me. I wholeheartedly believe in its power to rejuvenate my travel soul well after I’ve returned home.

Even now, almost 14 years to the day my husband and I left for our Italian honeymoon, I can’t think of a better way to mark the occasion than with an Italian-inspired feast.

Keeping our Tokyo memories alive - with Japanese treats

The magical power of food to rejuvenate my travel spirit and soul applies to family vacations, too.

It’s been less than two weeks since we returned home from our family trip to Tokyo, and I can’t shake our food experiences from my mind. It’s like my taste buds are waging a battle to stand out from the many wonderful memories that still cling to my thoughts. And, so, I gladly fuel the food fire by sipping green tea, snacking on mochi, eating bread lightly spread with black sesame paste, and reading articles on where to find the best ramen in Chicago.

Transported to Tokyo via a bowl of ramen at Santouka.

Transported to Tokyo via a bowl of ramen at Santouka.

It's also why my family dragged my sister with us on a 20-mile drive to Mitsuwa Marketplace in northwest surburban Arlington Heights last weekend. Mitsuwa is the largest Japanese supermarket in the midwest. It houses a food court, bookstore, liquor store, housewares store and grocery story – all under one roof.

The test for us was to see if we could find some of the very same items we so thoroughly enjoyed during our time in Tokyo.

The bowl of "Tokyo pastries" that is now a permanent fixture on our kitchen counter.

The bowl of "Tokyo pastries" that is now a permanent fixture on our kitchen counter.

After fueling up on huge bowls of ramen from Santouka, we headed into the grocery store. In a matter of minutes, our shopping basket was filled with dorayaki, mochi, canned sweet red beans, miso paste, and even sake.

My husband, sons and I were almost giddy with delight as we picked up many of the exact same items (down to the packaging) that we enjoyed almost daily in Tokyo. And, we proudly regaled my sister with stories of what we ate, how much we ate, where we ate, and when we ate each product we happily showed her.

Today, as I sit at home in Chicago, I’m glad for the global marketplace that makes it relatively easy for us to find a variety of ethnic food products in our hometown - at stores like Mitsuwa Marketplace and Eataly or online. As long as I can continue to eat prosciutto and sushi, sip sciacchetra and sake, snack on olives and mochi, and dig into pizza and ramen, I know my travel memories are only a taste away.

What are some of your favorite foods or drinks that you enjoyed during your travels at home or abroad? Are there any foods or flavors that immediately transport you a certain city or country? Please share your own food favorites and memories in the comments below.

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