Connecting Travelers with Locals for Dinner
Dinner with Travelers: Enjoying a Home Cooked Meal with a Local family
By Steffi Porter
Urban Adventures and ComeCookAndEat.org let travelers sit down and share a meal with a family--a chance to learn about a different culture and its food.
Travelers now have a unique opportunity to experience the day to day life of the natives in the country they are visiting. With the home cooked program, a product of Urban Adventures, tourists can immerse themselves in the culture and real life of a foreign city.
This program allows travelers to sit down for a home-cooked meal with a family while touring the country, and gain real insights into the lives of people in that country.
Urban Adventures, a global company specializing in unusual and unique city tours, offering trips to ninety different destinations all over the globe, has been running just over four years. The home cooked tours are one of the many innovative travel experiences they offer. Among Urban Adventures’ opportunities are kayak tours, bike tours, and walking tours.
The company’s focus is on giving visitors a real life experience while traveling to a foreign place, not just thrusting them into the typical world of tourism, seeing monuments and classic sights.
The tours are run by locals--people who grew up in these places, have spent much of their lives there, and know what to show visitors and how to give them a realistic look at their home.
This is the idea behind the home cooked program, which currently has three different tour destinations: Dheli, Istanbul and Bucharest Romania.
A Day in the Life of a ‘home-cooked’ traveler
It starts with a guide, who introduces the traveler to their new surroundings, and then takes them to a family’s home. The traveler is welcomed into this home, and gets to partake in the entire dinner process.
As Nicola Frame of Urban Adventures explained, you get more than just a dinner invite when you partake in this program. You are more than just a guest. You are a part of the whole experience. You are invited to help cook. You learn about the local cuisine, popular dishes, various spices used and get to discuss the food, the culture, traditions and family life with the family you are dining with.
“The whole thing is just about being welcomed into someone’s home and getting a really unique view into what its like to really live there,” said Frame.
Rakesh and Anu, a married couple from Delhi, participate as hosts through Urban Adventures and welcome travelers into their home for dinner.
According to a Q&A page on the Urban Adventures website, the family typically prepares North Indian, vegetarian cuisine, easy to cook for a large number of people, and also easy for travelers to learn how to prepare themselves.
After shopping at the local food bazaar, which they say has the freshest produce available, the food is prepared under hygienic conditions, and visiting guests get to see the preparation of their food and even help make it.
The couple said their favorite thing about being in the program is hosting guests, and connecting with visitors from different parts of the world, learning about their culture while dining together.
Families become hosts by posting a photo of themselves having a meal in the home where they would host travelers on Instagram with the hashtag #UAhomecooked, and emailing Urban Adventures.
Hosts are required to have access to the internet, have a bank account or PayPal account in order to get compensated, speak solid, conversational English and adhere to food hygiene standards.
In addition, according to the Urban Adventures website, they look to provide their travelers with “the best day ever” and look for hosts who love their hometowns, love travel and love food.
Not your Average Travel Destinations
Urban Adventures, Frame explained, is looking to expand its destinations, and gain more hosts from around the world. It is easy, she said, to send travelers to the big, popular cities and to see the typical sights. What makes these tours special is that visitors get to see things that are usually just reserved for residents of these countries.
They are looking to expand to more locations in Asia, Latin America and Africa, to small, rural towns and villages. The idea, Frame explained, is to take you somewhere “off the beaten track.”
“You get to see what real life is like. [The program] is not designed for tourists. You’re really just getting to see what people would do at a normal meal, seeing what their home is like.”
The hosts are just your average residents of Dheli, Istanbul or Bucharest. They aren’t particularly wealthy, they are just people, Frame says. They are just people welcoming visitors into their homes for dinner, allowing them to meet their children, meet their family and chat with them in a relaxed environment.
The opportunity offers “unique insights” that are typically difficult to find and something you don’t get as a typical tourist, seeing the most well-known parts of a city.
“It’s just about seeing under the skin of the destination,” said Frame. “And what better way to get to know a culture than to be welcomed into someone’s home. It’s a privilege.”
ComeCookAndEat, a non-profit project, was launched on January 16 2014 by a family of five, in order to enable anyone passionate about cooking and eating to learn new recipes, and experience another culinary culture, and has already attained over 160 members in 35 plus countries around the world.
According to Kerstin Brueckner of ComeCookAndEat, the project offers travellers and natives the chance to “learn from and interact with other cultures and teach their own.”
“[the purpose of ComeCookAndEat is] to make people meet and make them enjoy their common time cooking together and eating around one table,” said Brueckner. “It allows travellers to have an insight into everyday local kitchen culture...and the chance to avoid dependence on fast food restaurants and supermarkets while travelling.
Participants get to learn new recipes, prepare food together, and eat together around the table in a program that is free to participate in, and open to individuals of all ages.
“Get in contact with the world both by opening your kitchen door to new guests or by travelling new kitchens around the globe,” Bruekner said.
Steffi Porter is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and a graduate of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies.
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