Tag: travel (page 2 of 2)

Interview with Sucheta Rawal, Founder of Go Eat Give

Go Eat Give is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta that connects three favorite interests of people: traveling, food and volunteering. When I first heard of Go Eat Give, I marveled at the ingenuity of the founder Sucheta Rawal who had alighted on this winning combination. I wonder if a better way exists that can bring people together in a spirit of service, curiosity and adventure. Also, my inner wordsmith loves Go Eat Give’s tagline – Connecting People, Places and Palates!

Sucheta is an avid traveler herself who dreams of visiting every country on the planet. She is also an accomplished cook who holds classes and demonstrations around Atlanta. Here is her story.

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

When and how did you get bitten by the travel bug?
My first international trip was to USA when I was 16. Up until I graduated with my masters and started working, I really did not have any money to travel. But once I was earning a decent living at an investment bank, I started taking 4 big trips every year. The more I traveled, the more I got addicted to it. The bug of seeing the whole world bit me about 8 years ago!

Love the concept of combining volunteerism, traveling and food! How did you hit on this deadly combination? ūüôā
After visiting 30 countries for leisure, I felt the experience was getting rather repetitive. I would stay in a hotel, eat at restaurants recommended by guide books & get photos of attractions that everyone else had. Even the souvenirs began to look all the same! I chanced upon an organization that offered volunteer vacation packages & went with them to Russia & Morocco. I loved the fact that I got to eat home cooked meals, interacted with the locals, learned so much about the culture & also gave back to the community. I have always been involved in community service all my life, and writing about food & teaching cooking classes since 2003. All those 3 aspects – travel, food & service were so close to my heart, the combination seemed very natural.

Tough question coming up… What are the top 3 favorite places you have visited?
Yes, that’s tough, like having to choose your favorite kid! I love the rich art, culture and architecture of Vienna; the never ending bazaars in Morocco; and the unbelievable landscapes of Iceland.

Friends Abroad!

Friends Abroad!

Can you share a memorable experience from a trip abroad?

There are so many! Last year when visiting Rio de Janeiro, I stayed with a Brazilian lady (a complete stranger) at her home. She was extremely sweet and showed me her favorite spots in the city from beaches and rain forests to neighborhoods and restaurants. She drove me around town and even introduced me to her friends. We became very close and still talk regularly. I will never forget her kindness and sweet smile. I plan to visit her again this year.

So many trips, a long list of countries… what are the lessons you have brought home to yourself?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that no matter what the race, religion or belief, people everywhere are generally very nice. I have learned to put prejudices and stereotypes away and accept the differences among cultures. I have also first hand witnessed how people live and how little they can get by with, which has helped me appreciate everything I have. When you see people in the poorest of conditions being calm and happy all the time, you realize what is really important in life.

Around the World with Go Eat Give

Around the World with Go Eat Give

What are your favorite foods?
I love to try ethnic foods. Anything made using fresh ingredients where you can still taste the real food is very appealing to me. However, if I was stranded on an island, I could live on wine, bread and chocolate. I can never resist a good gelato!

Can you share a favorite recipe?
Here is the easiest molten chocolate cake aka chocolate soufflé I have made. When I want to spend little time in the kitchen & yet wow my guests, I make this recipe. See Easter Chocolate Leftovers.


Crepes and Coffee at Cork and Bean Wine Bar and Coffee House

It was a mellow Sunday morning. En route to Atlanta, we stopped at Cork & Bean Wine Bar & Coffee House in Bryson City, North Carolina, for breakfast. Actually, we had been there the evening before and had decided to stop by the next morning. How I loved that place! Actually, all of us did. Wood-paneled walls, cozy chairs and tables, high ceilings, display cases with organic baked goods, teas, coffees, crepes on the menu.

A very casual and laid back cafe with a hip (hippy?) vibe. ¬† The evening before, we got some muffins, coffee and tea, and settled into those comfortable chairs (left). I could have fallen asleep in them, they were that comfy! The other tables were occupied, people were chatting, eating crepes, drinking coffee, reading. We didn’t stay long that day, decided to return for breakfast the next day.

Next morning, we came back, just a few minutes after the place opened. Crepes with Nutella and bananas, Cappuccino, Latte, an Everything bagel with cream cheese. P got another order of crepes with spinach and avocado that came with a side of balsamic vinegar dressing.

Disclosure: Yes, crepes contain eggs. Would you believe this is the first time I am eating them? So maybe I am not best qualified to comment on them?

Anyhow, these crepes were incredibly light and airy. Bananas and Nutella are a fabulous combination. P’s crepe contained baby spinach leaves and avocado slices. I would have preferred the spinach to be lightly sauteed instead. Some sun dried tomato slices and olives would have been great additions too. Oh, I forgot to mention, the crepe contained shredded beets too. The red stains on the plate reminded me.

I didn’t sample the bagel. I am sure it was pretty good. The Latte was good; S mentioned that her Cappuccino was fairly okay.

The glasses were made of renewable and compostable materials – always makes me happy to see that!

I felt so utterly relaxed that morning, nestled in those comfy chairs, greedily drinking the sunshine streaming in through the huge windows, relishing the sense of quiet and calm permeating the space… A memorable morning it was. On our way out, we bought a muffin (it contained eggs) with carrot, apple, nuts and a host of other delicious ingredients. Yummy. ¬†

Cork & Bean Wine Bar & Coffee House
16 Everett Street
Bryson City, NC 28713

Cairo, meri jaan

When I think of Cairo, I think of the sober days and colorful nights during the holy month of Ramadan. I remember the endless rows of tables laid out for the evening feast. People would pause only a moment after the last prayer ended, and then wolf their food down hungrily. I remember the taxi driver who offered dates to my team mate F who was also fasting.

The bustling sweet shop where huge pyramids of busbusa, kunafa and other pastries abounded: delicious concoctions of sugar, filo pastry, honey, rose essence and pistachios; the little stands in Downtown where huge skewers with shawarma were displayed; dark restaurants that served koshery, the only recourse for a vegetarian eating out; the mad traffic on the 6th October bridge;¬†hijabs in the brightest colors worn in the most fashionable styles; oh-so lovely girls with the peaches-n-cream complexion and dark dark kohl-lined eyes; a family with 4 little ones steadily working its way through monstrous McDonalds burgers with fries and Bebsi (the Egyptian way to say ‘Pepsi’).

One of the sights I will always remember is that of blood gushing over the courtyard tiles of the little house outside our apartment complex when they slaughtered a goat and a cow during Bakri-Id.

Cairo is the city where I got my hair colored for the first time. And the only time thus far. One of the ladies from work was really enthusiastic about taking me to her hairdresser and getting my hair colored. I went along, and at the end of a conversation rapidly conducted in Arabic and punctuated with wildly moving hands and laughter, my black hair had a million gold-brown strands threading though. It looked better with time, and yes, I was mistaken for an Egyptian girl many a time.

The people at the bank gave me a new name, Basma. Now, I forget what that means.

I remember, the first two days that we lived in Downtown, a colleague N wanted to see the Nile. Neither of us thought that the river would flow through Downtown. But we asked and asked and asked. Everyone told us to keep going straight ahead, and then we saw the Nile. Flowing gently under the two bridges with shiny boats and lighted barges and cruises… the only river in the world that flows from South to North. In Luxor, we took a felucca ride over the Nile, and the boatman (who spoke excellent English) made for us black tea, the ubiquitous drink of Egypt. Spiced with fresh mint and sweetened with lots of sugar, that glass of tea marked a point in time where everything seemed tranquil, simple, and right. The Nile was calm, and so was I.

Cairo is such a vibrant city. Its sights, sounds, fragrances, seasons are unforgettable. But what touched my mind, my heart, and my very soul every day, five times a day, was the call for azaan. You could hear it no matter what part of the city you were in. Come that time of the day, and the devout few at the office would gather in the corridor, kneel, and offer their prayers.

The word for God in Arabic is Allah; they have no other word. The faith is that simple, unquestionable, and all-abiding.

Cairo is the city where I lost a little part of myself… and it took a while before I found it again. By then it had changed vastly, and so much for the better.