Food travel: a journey in France with Workaway

back shot group of workawayers sitting down enjoying a peaceful moment gazing at a river

What's behind a delicious bite?

I’ve come to realize that food has a special significance for humans. The way we deal with and cultivate food is radically different from any other animal. Food is, of course, necessary for us to survive, but the way that we pass along recipes and techniques is a very unique thing

This is clear when you experience different cultures and see how their cuisines reflect them. Because food is so special, I’m always looking for exciting new combinations when I travel. I love to cook, so for me new spices, recipes, or ideas are always the best souvenirs

Related blog post: 20 signs you’ve become a true workawayer

recipes and food ingredients on the left and man holding up two fishes on the right

On the left: Black tea from Turkey, white tea and Ricard from France, spice mix from Bulgaria, and soup flavoring from Croatia!
On the right: fresh fish caught by workawayer Alex! 

The most authentic food in town

While it's definitely exciting to visit the city's top-rated restaurants, I think we all know the greatest spots are the hole-in-the-wall tapas bars or Italian restaurants nestled in some alleyway. The best way to get the full depth of a culture's cuisine though, has to be those meals made right in a local kitchen, with fresh ingredients and a generations-long recipe. 

And that’s what’s so special about traveling through Workaway: you get a level of intimacy you would probably never get just visiting a town and staying at a hotel -- and this is even more true when it comes to cuisine. 

With Workaway, you get to share many meals since you’re working and often living together and, even if you aren’t aware of it, you’re getting such a strong cultural exchange just from sharing a meal. I had many of these with my first Workaway experience when I was helping with landscaping and maintenance at a property with massive sculptures in central France, and I think the meals we shared together were some of the best moments of my adventure.

workaway host in central France with castle and big sculptures

The castle, the sculptures, and the back patio where we often had large meals.

I think we often don’t realize how much of an exchange goes on when we share a meal with others because we’re so engrossed in the food and conversation. However, when you reflect on it, how often does a meal turn into a three, four hour-long conversation that sometimes goes late into the night? 

During the five weeks I was there, I often ended the work day with a glass of wine with my host or came back to the guest house to eat dinner with my fellow workawayers. That’s another element of the Workaway experience -- sharing! We all spent most of our time at the property together, and so it became a cultural hub of itself. We had: my hosts, who are German and Belgian, their friend who’s French and restores French castles, a Bulgarian workawayer, a Norwegian workawayer, a young French woman who lived on the property and her Tunisian boyfriend, and myself, an American. 

workaway guest house in central France with two workawayers sitting on the porch

The guest house I lived in, along with the two workers from Bulgaria and Norway. 

When the world gathers around the dining table

Despite all the differences between us, we lived together well and ate together every day after working. After working in the sun for a couple hours, you’re all hungry and tired, and being able to communally share in a good meal is so nourishing. 

I also learned many, if not more, cooking tips from my roommates/ coworkers. While working with the French woman I had the harsh realization that the dish made in Pixar’s Ratatouille is, in fact, not ratatouille and I learned how to actually make ratatouille (still a favorite dish). Her and I foraged nettle growing around the house and made nettle soup on a rainy day and one day she showed me her way of making chocolate-covered almonds. 

The Bulgarian woman made me an incredible vegan stroganoff and taught me many little tips, like always peel the chickpeas before making hummus. We had many interesting talks about culture and cuisine, really about everything, and we remain good friends. 

During my time in France, I got a much deeper understanding of classic French sauces like mustard and mayonnaise, and fell in love with tahini! I made frozen margaritas (because I’m originally from Texas) at least five times and we even had a Mexican dinner night where we had hand-made tortillas and tacos. 

Related blog post: How Workaway Enriched My Solo Trip to France

two pictures of group meal in France

My favorite meal and my favorite memory of the Workaway is of my last night.

After staying for over a month I knew everyone who lived on the property and had developed a relationship with them all. So, I asked that we could have a big meal with everyone for my last night. 

Each of us cooked and brought a couple things and we ended up with a feast in front of us. We ate and talked and drank wine and eventually started all singing together. I think we sat at the dinner table for at least four hours. It was without a doubt the best way to end my time there and remains one of my fondest memories. 

In fact, the culinary knowledge I gained from this month-long experience has inspired me to embark on a year-long Workaway fueled exploration of the culinary traditions of Europe! I’ve traveled a lot but have never experienced something as personal and enriching as traveling with Workaway. 

solo photo of workawayer Peyton from USA

Huge thanks to workawayer Peyton from USA for sharing her foodie adventures with us! Peyton is passionate about cooking and hopes to open a sustainable, ethical restaurant that respects the Earth and elevates the experience of eating. She is learning about the world and how food nourishes communities via Workaway. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram!

cultural exchangeFrancefood travelfoodielocal food

About Contributor

We are so glad to have an active community of travellers and hosts who’ve been inspired by their Workaway experiences and want to share with us! Be it a funny story, interesting insights or helpful ti... show more...

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