I have a theory that food always leads me to exactly where I'm supposed to be.
Over the past few years, I've followed my passion for food more and more, because it makes me happy. And in doing so, I've ended up in some pretty random places around the world, and met some amazing foodies along the way too. The only logical explanation is that there is some mysterious food force out there (like a force field, but different) that lures good things and good people in my direction as soon as I say to the universe: "Yeah fuck it, I want to do that, because... food."
And that's where I met Megan.
Australia and America unite!
At the time, Megan was studying EcoGastronomy (as you do) at the University of New Hampshire and had also chosen to come to ESC Dijon. I remember dying of jealousy when she and the other UNH students told me what they were studying back home, which is basically a mix of sustainable agriculture, hospitality management and nutrition. I also decided that they were all awesome, because they were foodies like me, and invited them to my apartment for brunch along with some other international students. Sunday brunch quickly became a weekly affair after we figured out this was the most cost-efficient way to binge on bacon, pancakes and mimosas.
Happy food faces
England, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, Brazil and France
But I couldn't help but notice that while everyone else was sitting down, eating and chatting with each other, Megan usually insisted on staying at the stove to finish cooking so that everyone had enough to eat. And when everyone finished, she insisted on doing all the washing up too. Once, she even come over an hour early so that she could cook apple sauce from scratch to go with Courtney's pancakes. So from the get-go, I knew she was a true foodie.
The Megan & Belinda Dijon Special
And you know how there's always that one hilarious night out that cements the friendship forever? That happened about a week later, when Megan and I headed to the local club for student night, stopping at Mac Callaghan's to fuel up on Irish coffees and mozzarella sticks. I don't really remember what happened after that. All I remember is a lot of electro eurodance music, stealing glowsticks from strangers and falling over laughing with Megan all night long. And I don't know who the blonde girl wearing the giant glasses is either.
The first of many nights at Le Chat Noir
Foodie night in
Aussie sausage rolls for Sunday brunch
Our last night out in Dijon
#6: Lunching in Lisbon
I arrived at our hostel in Lisbon the night before Megan, and unfortunately my dodgy airline had left my luggage behind in Casablanca. Literally all I had were the clothes on my back, my passport, and a hairbrush (my friends will know what I'm talking about). But as soon as Megan arrived the next morning, I forgot all about my worries and gave her an enormous hug. I grabbed a white dress for 10€ from the H&M across the street and we headed out to explore the city.
Streets full of stories
Bacalhau and mango salad
Vacationing in Europe is hard work, so we stopped at a nice breezy spot for iced tea and bacalhau. Bacalhau is salted and smoked cod, a quintessential ingredient in Portuguese cuisine that Portuguese people will proudly tell you can be prepared in 365 different ways for each day of the year. This was the stuff that kept Portuguese explorers alive when they were undertaking long voyages around the world, trading this and conquering that. Along with Brazil, Mozambique and East Timor, the Portuguese actually had a colony in Malacca in the 16th century, the town where I was born.
Now that's some serious looking pastry sellers
After lunch, we headed straight for Pastéis de Belem, a bakery that I had been longing to visit since my arrival in Europe. This place is the holy grail of any foodie who loves pastel de nata, a succulent, flaky portuguese egg tart smothered in icing sugar and cinnamon that is horrifyingly fattening, sweet and addictive. The recipe was born in the 1800s when Catholic monks in a monastery in Belem started using egg yolks leftover from starching garments with egg whites. When the monastery closed in 1834, they sold the recipe to Pastéis de Belem, a family business. The descendants still run the store today.
Any people reading this with a Chinese background will see that it resembles the egg tarts we order at dim sum. Yep. Now you know who we ripped them off from.
#5: Cascaís and the House of Wonders
The good life
Don't get me wrong. The beach was pretty amazing. But not as amazing as this meal:
Strawberry salad, white sangria and a vanilla milkshake
It was completely by mistake that we stumbled across this hidden café called House of Wonders. We walked down the tourist strip until we found ourselves in a deserted square, and saw an arrow pointing up a flight of stairs. At the top we found a rooftop café draped in white sails, overlooking the ocean, and each table had a strawberry pot plant on it. It was at this café that my obsession with strawberry salad began, and also where chocolate cake was ruined for me, forever. Nothing can describe how perfect that slice of cake was. Nothing.
Brigadeiro cake and fresh strawberries
#4: Motorcycles and Duck Fat
Home for a week
After a year of talking about it, I finally did it. In July this year, I sat on 3 different planes over a span of 30 hours and landed in Portland, Maine where Megan picked me up from the airport. I took a couple of days to get over the jetlag and dehydration (I had stopped over in Jeddah Airport for 6 hours where I basically lost the will to live), but after that, I was up for some serious food adventures. Meg called up Bill and Ben, and 20 minutes later I was being whisked around Portland on a sightseeing joyride.
Then we got hungry.
"Hand cut Belgian Fries fried in duck fat with your choice of dipping sauce"
Between the four of us, we demolished a couple of milkshakes, ginger beers, and two whopping huge servings of fries, one served with garlic aioli and another served as poutine fries, a Quebecois dish doused with gravy and cheese, topped with a runny egg.
Half way through our meal, the waiter came over and asked us how our meal was going. I exclaimed: "Are you kidding me? This is the best shit ever!" The guy stared at me, puzzled for a second, and then his face split into a huge grin:
"Well aaaaaahhhhhh'll be damned. You must be from Ah-stralia! Girl what awn earth you doin' here in Maine? You know ah lurve Ah-stralians, y'all have such a cute accent, what is it you guys say down there?"
At this point I was close to tears laughing at how amazing his Tennessee accent was that I couldn't answer. And then he jumped up and down flapping his arms around and yelled "DINGO STOLE MAH BAY-BEE!", and then the entire café was staring at me, and then Meg and the twins started laughing and then I was interrogated on all the intricacies of Australian culture for a good five to ten minutes.
My favourite waiter in Maine
Putting one of these in my café one day
One thing's for sure, the Letendre sisters know how to party. Megan's sister Jenny is a DJ at Oasis, and I think within a 9 day period we must have gone there at least 3 times. After a big Saturday night out, we all headed to Denny's, a 24-hour diner.
They'll never know how excited I was to go to Denny's. As an Aussie girl brought up in Perth, I grew up watching American shows, watching beautiful American people go to American diners to get their American breakfasts. So for me, this was like walking into a TV and BEING ABLE TO EAT THINGS INSIDE OF IT.
#2: Independence Day
Sticking to the national colours
This was an unforgettable experience. On the morning of the 4th of July, I tagged along with Megan's dad to the nearby lobster shop. Don went up to the counter, and a few minutes later, handed me a sack the size of a small person that was actually filled with steaming lobsters. When we got home, Donna had prepared corn, potato chips and melted butter for our Independence Day feast, and Megan gave me step-by-step instructions how to correctly de-shell and eat a whole lobster. It was like eating a small, red, deliciously juicy alien. And boy, was it fun.
#1: Camp at Lake Arrowhead
And suddenly I'm on The Parent Trap
Beautiful Lake Arrowhead
Megan doing what Megan does
My first s'more
But all the waterskiing and bacon and s'mores aside, my favourite thing about going to Megan's camp was being a part of those few days where everyone spent time enjoying the simple things in life. I really have to thank Megan's family for all their hospitality during my stay. If you guys are reading this, I hope you know how grateful I am for everything you guys did for me.
Bacon wrapped scallops
My "Real Foodies" series is about foodies who inspire me, and Meg is one of them. I love the fact that she studied food at university because it's something she's genuinely interested in, not because it will make her rich. I love that she's generous with food and doesn't stinge on quality, whether she's cooking it, buying it for others or having it herself - a person who knows how to enjoy food knows how to enjoy life. I love her adventurous streak, that she never once hesitated to eat something new I offered her while we were traveling together in Europe, or weird Asian stuff that I cooked for her. But if there's one thing I learned from Megan, it's that a Real Foodie is not just someone who loves to eat. A Real Foodie is someone who loves to see other people around them enjoying food too.
And I was lucky enough to be one of those people.
Until we eat again!