EAT comes to mind when trying to summarize the varied experiences I've had during the first week of my Vietnam vacation. In this case EAT stands for experience, appearance and togetherness as well as one of my favorite activities — eating.
Experience: For me, food is more than nutrition — it is the opportunity to experience unique flavors and discover new taste combinations. Whether traveling or at home, the benefits of being open to new foods is many. My husband is a reluctant eater of greens. At one lunch, we were served sautéed morning glory greens. Shocking me and completely out of character, my husband asked for seconds. He discovered an appealing flavor. And the benefits of all greens are numerous. Now I have to find morning glory greens in Miami. Please email me if you know where I can find them.
Appearance: Dishes are plated beautifully in Vietnam. A simple fruit plate becomes more appealing with an artistic design. We had dinner at the Vietnamese equivalent of a bed and breakfast. The presentation turned simple foods, such as minced meat wrapped in leaves from the backyard, into a memorable meal. We have great foods available for plate design as the South Florida growing season is peaking. Search plated food on Pinterest for inspiration.
Together: No better way to make friends than share a meal. Many of our meals were eaten family style with our guides and tourists from other countries. Conversation was always lively, even with with the challenge of different languages. Inviting friends over for dinner more frequently is how I will translate this lesson to home.
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Our first hotel, the Villa Song Saigon, had a sign on the dining table: “Count memories not calories.” I agree.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.