You may not have been able to travel internationally this year, but you can still take a tour with your tastebuds. Here’s how you can enjoy international food tours in your own kitchen.
We’ve all had to cancel lots of travel thanks to COVID-19. One trip I’ve regretted having to cancel the most was the one I’d been planning to explore my heritage, by visiting my great grandfather’s hometown of Roseto Valfortore in southern Italy.Ever since I had the amazing experience to track my ancestry to my great grandmother’s hometown in a different part of Italy, I’ve had this village high on my travel list – and my rewards points saved up to get there. An even bigger dream was that I could somehow visit this place with my family, walk the streets of the village, drink espressos in the square and, of course, take a cooking class to learn to make some traditional dishes.
I didn’t get to go to Italy, of course, but I did get to do the next best thing. My entire extended Italian family with roots from this same village – almost 20 of us across three generations – gathered together in our own kitchens in four different states around a Zoom call. We made and ate three dishes from the village of our grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather.
Our guide was Dorina of Dorina’s Kitchen, a Rosetan Italian-American who normally spends her year taking families like mine back to explore their roots through experiences and food. Virtually traveling to a Rosetan kitchen was my Christmas gift to my family.
It’s been 10 months since I had to cancel my own trip to Roseto that Dorina was helping me plan. I still really hope to get there in late 2021, but I have to admit that our cooking night together transported me out of my winter pandemic blues and into a different world for a few hours. And it may have even convinced some of my family members to join me on the big trip back to southern Italy when I do get to take it.
Finding food tours to take in your own kitchen
With global travel bans now in effect for months, many local tour operators and cooking schools have pivoted to online cooking classes, Zoom cooking events and delivery of cooking boxes to support themselves while they await tourists to return.
Finding one that caters to the cuisine of a region you love may take a little research, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You’re guaranteed a great meal, you’re transported to a far-away destination for a few hours and you’re also supporting a small business.
Here are a few of my favorite local operators offering now offering online foodie adventures:
- Dorina’s Kitchen – Daily YouTube cooking lessons, tours to the small southern Italian villages of Roseto Valfortore and Alberona during travel times and a mission to bring families back to the table.
- Lost Plate Food Tours – Normally a local operator of amazing food tours in China and Portland, Oregon, Lost Plate offers recipe boxes with authentic ingredients you can’t find in the U.S., along with some online cooking events.
- Chicca’s Cooking Club – Online cooking experiences live from Tuscany offering a la carte classes or a subscription for six classes in three months.
- Devour Tours – Specialists in food tours in Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Seville, Spain, offering lots of online classes in tapas, cocktail and Spanish cuisine.
If you don’t already have a connection to a local operator, another easy (and points-friendly) way to find a cooking class or online experience is to search Airbnb Experiences.
Like Airbnb properties, experiences ranging from online cooking classes to virtual walking tours are bookable with points through Capital One rewards, as well as both the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and the American Express Memberships Rewards points travel portal. Experiences can also be paid for with Airbnb gift cards or Airbnb credits if you happen to have some of these unspent from 2020 travels that didn’t happen.
While it’s true that a virtual kitchen isn’t the same as being in a kitchen in a faraway land learning to cook, it is a great option to get your hands dirty and fill your belly with locals.
And by the time you get to take that dream trip you’ve been fantasizing about for a year in lockdown, you’ll be better acquainted with the people, food and culture. You might even feel better connected.