“The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” Wittgenstein once said. Now that my mouth is watering I understand his struggle. I am looking for the culinary equivalent for the German ‘fernweh’, the ache for distant places. What I need now is a word for being homesick for a specific food, for the ache for distant dishes and the craving of something cooked abroad. More importantly, I need Cuban chicken and rice.
It must have been 2010 when I bought my mother a travel guide to Cuba for her birthday. I agree plane tickets would have been even better, but the only travel I could afford was a walk to the bar in a pretty town called Leuven. Seven years later we did make it to Cuba. We took off on Valentine’s Day this year, and because romance isn’t dead my mother invited my father to share the adventure. I left my boyfriend at home, but I brought back a bottle of rum so let’s say that counts as romance too. We only lost my dad once during the whole trip, so let’s call it a great succes.
The good news is, travel guides from 2010 still work. The great news is, Cuba is every bit as fascinating as we imagined. It has valleys, mountains and beaches to eat your nature loving heart out. The towns’ plazas effortlessly blend a glorious past and nostalgia with the presence of half their population on wifi. There are beautiful views to take in and great stories to be heard. If you want to know more, hop on that plane and have a daiquiri for me. Buy peanuts from a street vendor in Havana and always say yes to ‘more rum?’.
Don’t forget to have chicken. Or do forget, because you will have chicken either way. We had chicken for 11 days in a row and I looked forward to it every day. Chicken thighs, chicken wings, grilled chicken, marinated chicken, chicken with beans, chicken with rice, chicken with potatoes, chicken with rice and beans and potatoes,… Dios mio, was it good. I have been browsing the internet for similar recipes since we came back. Every time I want to get out my skillet, there’s something that holds me back. That’s the thing about good food in great places: you can’t recreate it. It will never taste the same again.
Enough about the chicken. If anyone out there has a word for this foodie kind of fernweh, I’d love to hear it. Happy travels!