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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?