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Souvenirs

Travel souvenirs: What are the best souvenirs to bring back?

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Traveling around different parts of the world, it’s always a challenge to find things that are new. In this age of globalization, it is easy to find the same boring stuff in practically every corner of the world. Of course I mainly only traveled to first world countries, or at least countries in the same hemisphere as me, but I still find that there are very few unique products that I can bring back to the United States.

So on all of our trips, we make it a point to go to health food stores or other specialty stores that don’t exist where we come from. One of the best things you can bring back from a trip is sea salt. Salt is the original local food.  We have a small collection of sea salt from all over the world:   Italy, Hawaii, Sicily, Spain, France, Germany, and so many other places. Each salt has its own character. The textures, subtle sweetness or lack thereof, are quite fascinating and are a nice touch to any meal you make when you return home.

Another thing I love to get when it bring back to the United States, so that I can enjoy them in the comfort of my own home is honey. Honey has got to be the other original local food. We have eaten local honeys from Spain, Jamaica, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy and France and just finished up a jar from Germany. It’s really fantastic to taste all the different flavors depending on what the bees are feeding on thyme flowers, coffee flowers or something else. The flavors are completely different and complex. Some surprisingly not as sweet as others and others so sweet it’s almost like a punch in the face.

One great food we like to bring back from our travels is coffee. I know, I know everybody says you shouldn’t be drinking coffee. However, even some of the strictest health gurus today are admitting that they enjoy a good cup of coffee every now and again. Remember when we talk about moderation we talk about real foods. And coffee in my opinion is one of those real food. Surprisingly, the coffee that I found the best in all of my travels over the last 10 years, is supposedly not the Kona coffee from Hawaii, nor is it the blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. It certainly wasn’t the Costa Rican coffee that I had down there a few years ago. It wasn’t even the French coffee or the Italian espresso or cappuccino (which is the past was one of my favorite treats), but it was the coffee in Germany all places.  Germany had the absolute best tasting coffee I have had probably in my life. What was so great about it? It didn’t have a really acidic flavor and it didn’t even leave an aftertaste in my mouth. So we ended up bringing back about 4 pounds of it just enjoying at home. We drink a little (mine with lots of milk) on the weekends. A nice memory of a relaxing vacation in the exciting city of Berlin.

One last food that we like to bring back, but have to be careful with is cheese. You can only bring hard cheeses back into the United States. For the most part, in Europe at least you can still purchase wonderful raw milk cheeses which are packed with digestible nutrients lost in pasteurized versions. You are allowed to bring these back to the States technically, but with ridiculous raw milk regulations constantly becoming stricter and stricter in the US (so much for a free  country), it is more and more difficult to bring this back.

So sometimes if there is really good hard cheese from a place like Switzerland, I’ll buy a few pounds the day before I leave, have it vacuum sealed and put it in my suitcase. This is an amazing treat because the quality far surpasses most cheeses available in the  United States.

The final and most important thing that I like to bring back for myself is a cookbook — sometimes translated to English, sometimes not. Whatever I do, I make sure the cookbook focuses on traditional ingredients — the ones that have kept people healthy for centuries, not the politically correct versions that ruin every dish by using cheap vegetable oils or perhaps worse, giving low-fat advice. These books reveal the real ways that people eat, not the sanitized version pushed by overpaid scientists who lose their funding if they don’t push low quality industrialized products on people.

For my friends, I often will buy them one of the above gifts — if I have room. If not, a new thing I have found to be a great gift is shopping bags. Every supermarket in Europe seems to have reusable shopping bags for only a Euro each. They are often made of excellent quality and are a nice practical and compact souvenir that anyone would appreciate.

So what do you like to bring back from your travels? Well at least what you like to bring back that’s legal to bring back?


About Adrienne Hew

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Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

The Real Costa Rica?

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OK. So we returned from our Costa Rica trip five weeks ago and, FINALLY, I’ve found some time to share both the disappointments and gems we encountered down there.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country hailed for its eco-friendly attributes — lush rain forests, mountains, and pristine beaches. But it is equally ridiculed for its boring, even awful, food. In both cases, we encountered major disillusionment, but luckily that led to discovering lots of friendly people and off the beaten track experiences.

The first disappointment was that while Costa Rica certainly had beautiful rain forests, dramatic mountains an gorgeous beaches (particularly the one where we stayed), it was far from environmentally conscious in so many ways. First of all, darn near everything is packaged in plastic. I understand that Costa Rica is a poor country. So fine, there is no opportunity to recycle all that plastic, but burning it by the side of the road? Well, that was the view driving along the highway every night after sundown — men standing over burning garbage (plastic and all) pushing it around with a stick. It smelled awful! And I don’t even want to think about the estrogens and other endocrine disruptors that were in the fumes these poor people were inhaling.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t expect the country that kicked Starbucks out and is at least sort of embracing sustainable energy to be completely overrun with European hotels, ugly condos and Wal-Mart! Some of this expansion seems to be relatively new in the Jaco area, but nonetheless, it was a shame. While these places seemed to provide some jobs, in many (if not, most) cases, the development left many natives homeless. To boot, prices were totally jacked up! I’m from New York City and would never pay their inflated prices there, which made it a little difficult to get totally comfortable with paying their often ridiculous prices for simple services. But as much as possible, we tried to at least patronize the mom and pop establishments which often still were “overcharging”. Seeing as they were living in such an expensive area, it was easier to know that they would get 100% of profits instead of seeing it shipped back to the US or Europe.

We were also shocked to learn that it was really difficult to find native handcrafts — at least where we were. In fact, the Canadian woman who stayed in the apartment upstairs from us has been visiting Costa Rica every year for seven years and learned from friends who own a souvenir shop down there that most of the so-called Costa Rican handcrafts come from Thailand! Yes. And the Thai artisans who manufacture these goods are so in tune the Costa Rican fauna that they’ve sent wood carvings of bears with salmon down there bearing a “made in Costa Rica” sticker. So we never ran into the limited edition bear with salmon carving, but this piece of information explained why I thought the wooden products looked distinctly Asian.

This lack of reasonably priced and authentic Costa Rican souvenirs made gift shopping really difficult. It was further complicated by the fact that there was a virtual absence of nice food or toiletry items in any of the stores. That brings me to Costa Rican food, which I’ll continue with later.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.