Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kitchen Souvenirs

Summer vacation has unfortunately become a distant memory.  The planet has circled the sun and it's new position has brought about the fall of the year and it's routines.  Time marches on and the future is unknown.  But the things I have done, the places I have visited place a bookmark of sorts in the book that is my life.  My most well well-worn bookmarks are the vacations my husband and I have taken, traveling the world to the extent our budget allows.  Not to run the metaphor to death but sometimes the joy and happiness that bookmarks some vacation from long ago begins to sadly fade
with age.  How have I renewed the memories?

I had an epiphany this summer when I realized I do have triggers that give me the ability to gain back some of that treasured feeling.

In the recession-laden years, our vacations have been less frequent.  Because of this, it's more important than ever to find a way tap those feel good memories until the opportunity for the next adventure arrives.  My vacation escapades are a chance for me to experience a kindred spirit even though the people and cultures may be vastly different than my own.  I love being reminded we live in a global village and that we all have the same basic needs.

I never before had contemplated what I select as a typical souvenir.  For whatever reason I did give it consideration as I was buying my latest keepsake this summer.  The treasures I purchased were three small olive serving bowls created by a local artisan in Arcos De La Frontera, a tiny, but beautiful cliff side White Hills Town in Spain.  As with any of my purchases, I evaluated if I might be duplicating something I already owned.  I also asked myself, am I getting something unique?  In this summer's case, no, I had no olive serving dishes.  Perfect!


Olives in Spain



Souvenir Olive Serving Bowls

Last year we went to Maine.  What did I purchase?  Local homemade blueberry jam.  $7.00!  Before that a wine tasting weekend in the Central Valley of California, the purchase...handmade tea towels.  As
I really started to reflect on my purchasing trends (yes, I'm a research geek), more came to mind from my years of visiting different places.


Toothpicks are big in Japan!

  • A porcelain toothpick holder from Tokyo.  The metropolis can be overwhelming especially with the language barrier.  A challenging trip softened by the very helpful locals through hand gestures and a lot of pointing to select our menu choices.
  • A wooden salad bowl from pre-Katrina New Orleans.  I never use it and not think of the hurricane that forever changed the city.  I use it everyday.
  • My German China egg cup holders from Baden Baden, located in Bavaria on the Westside of the Black Forest.  The town is one of the very few left unharmed by the destruction of World War II.  A charming and grateful group of people.  These people know how to relax as they are the destination for spas and a casino.
  • A breadbasket handcrafted from a village woman I visited with in Fiji.  She had her baby strapped to her chest while we did our transaction.  Her weavings were her only source of income.
  • A hand painted teapot from Victoria, Canada.  My girlfriend Lizbeth and I took a girl trip there where she indulged my quest for the perfect teapot from the town known for their high teas.
  • Banana bread on the rustic road around the north side of Maui, Hawaii.  We brought it home and for the next few days we ate slices in near reverence in the mind space that is Hawaii.
  • A cookbook from the restaurant, La Posta in Las Cruces, NM.  Even though I was born and raised in San Diego, my first memory of Mexican food was here and left a lasting, positive impression.  My grandfather lived in Las Cruces and we took our family vacations there every summer.

Breadbasket handcrafted by a lovely woman in Fiji
As you can tell I'm not a big art collector, antique hunter, jewelry fanatic or general trinket gatherer.  Any armchair psychologist would probably tell you my souvenirs are practical in nature.  My acquisitions indeed are used in my everyday living.  But my souvenir purchase motivations are somehow more than just a practical item. In the final analysis, when I really considered what I brought home from vacation, my motivations are crystal clear. The moment I touch that item, it has the ability to transport me back to the day I bought it.  I have somehow captured the vacation spirit and the people I've met through those symbolic purchases.  That spirit and the former strangers now inspire my daily life and my food preparation.

I know I'm not the only one out there with this affinity.  Recently, a friend of mind shared how he and his wife, early in their French getaway, acquired a not so small cast iron pot and proceeded to carry it with them all across the French country side because it was cheaper than trying to ship it back to the States.  They must have really wanted that pot!  They wanted that pot for the very same reasons I made my purchases; to place a bookmark in a place and time that can evoke their memories every time they cook with it.

Do you have a special souvenir which takes you back to vacation mind-set?

6 comments:

  1. I have hand-painted, lacquered salad servers from the city that was originally St. Petersberg, was called Leningrad while I was there during the beginnings of Perestroika, and is now St. Petersberg again. It a truly wild and memorable trip, during one of the most interesting times in modern history - the end of the cold war. The city has been through quite a transformation while those servers have dwelled in my kitchen!

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  2. Our salad serving items share something in common. They both come from places where the people had to dramatically adapt to new circumstances. Isn't that what salad making is all about?

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  3. Clark MitchellSeptember 16, 2010

    JW and I are reminded of your and John's sharing of our 10th anniversary in England when we look at the wooden vase that we purchased in Bath.

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  4. What a great reminder of your travels to uplift our ordinary days Sylvia!

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  5. That day trip to Bath was great fun Clark. I remember that vase and the store! It was a good find.

    Kelly, I know you've done a great deal of traveling. Get anything cool lately?

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  6. I love this! The stories are wonderful and your travels sound fantastic. Barbara

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