Posted by: twistsoffeet | June 13, 2010

Learning To Cook

Through my travels, I have actually become a fairly accomplished cook in several styles of SE Asian food.  I have taken formal cooking classes, but the best training was from street vendors.

I am a morning person anyway, so it is just natural for me to get up early and go out on the street with my camera and start taking photos.  Food is at the center of society worldwide, and cooking is always a social affair and a big part life in families and friendships.  Photos of cooks have energy in them, and if done properly, can bring the food to life on paper so much so that one can almost smell and taste the food.

If you get out on the street early enough, you can catch the street vendors doing all their prep work.  In Thailand, this means watching them cut up the vegetables and make curry pastes, etc.

I watch but don’t bring out my camera initially. I do ask questions, or at least try, but since I don’t speak the languages, it is more of a pantomime, but it gets the point across.  These cooks usually like that I have taken an interest in their skills.  When the camera comes out, I always ask permission before taking photographs.

These cooks are usually cooking over a small hibachi on the sidewalk, with no table or chairs.  They usually have several large bowls and a small to large pot or two for cooking, and food is served in Styrofoam or paper bowls, plates, or boxes.

Street vendors also produce what can frequently be described as gastronomical masterpieces– absolute gourmet delights and the best foods the culture has to offer.

If you have the opportunity to travel, go for the street food.  You don’t have to photograph them or get them to teach you to cook, but at least try the food; you will not regret it.

Do take certain precautions:

  1. Watch which vendors the locals go to.
  2. Get your food from vendors that are doing a lot of business because the food they produce doesn’t have time to get cold and go bad.
  3. Do this with an open mind, and believe you are going to be blown away by the taste sensations you are going to experience.
  4. Unless you have certain food allergies (in which case you probably  shouldn’t eat at street vendors), don’t ask and don’t worry about what it is you are eating.  Just enjoy.

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