Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Pea Pods; Travel as education

We're on our way to Italy for a family reunion…. I've posted some old stories and new recipes to entertain you while we're off having fun.

Years ago, before we lived here, we were in London, window-shopping with another couple.  The wife spotted a figurine she wanted to add to her collection.  They discussed it a bit, as it was rather expensive, then decided to buy it.

She asked if the husband had a check. 

He did.

He opened his wallet and pulled a single, unattached, folded, check out and handed it to her.

As an American who never left home without a full checkbook, and regularly had at least 50 to reconcile at the end of the month, I thought that was more than just a bit bizarre.

Then we moved to Ireland.

I soon learned that carrying around a single check was the norm, not the exception.  Checks were only used when one didn't have time to get the cash to pay someone who didn't accept bank cards.

In other words: rarely.

We lived there a year and I think I used about 25 checks.

I've been writing a few more than usual since we've moved: to pay for the windows, the first electric bill, first phone bill (while setting up the auto-pay).  Last week I wrote one to pay for the stairs we ordered.  I noted that there were only 5 left in the checkbook…. And wondered if I needed to do something.  I didn't get a chance. 

Like magic, three days later a new checkbook arrived in the post.

I haven't carried a checkbook since we've lived on this side of the pond.  I do carry a single check in my wallet.  I've even used it on occasion.

It's a little thing, this difference in handling checks; but it represents something huge.

The first time I saw my friend pull out a single, folded check I remember thinking: What's with him?  Doesn't he know he can carry the whole checkbook with him?  Is he afraid he can't control his spending if he has more checks?  How weird!

I hadn't traveled much at that point.

People who don't travel tend to see the world through their own, often narrow, field of vision.

They look at other cultures' actions and reactions as their own…. And don't understand when they are different.

I know many people who don't travel – and, yes, not traveling tends to be American rather than European.

The reasons are many and varied, but often come down to things like:

Why should I leave this country, I haven't seen everything here yet.

Why should I travel to 'X' country, they hate Americans.

Here's why you should:

If you traveled, you wouldn't be surprised when I said we didn't have a local cupcake shop.

If you traveled, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that you can't get lunch in a restaurant before 12:00 in France; or after 2:00.  But, in Spain you can't get lunch before 2:00….

If you traveled you would learn that it's disrespectful to enter a church: with a baseball cap on, or in short shorts, or without your arms covered, or without your head covered, or without shoes, or with shoes or all of the above, or none of the above.

If you traveled you would learn that behavior that is acceptable in your country may not be acceptable elsewhere. (Be very, very careful with the 'okay' sign of a circle with thumb and index finger)

If you traveled you would learn that behavior that is unacceptable in your country may be acceptable elsewhere. (The person pointing out something to you with his middle finger is not being rude or offensive.)

If you traveled you would learn that people are different in different cultures.  You may grasp the fact, intellectually, without ever leaving your hometown.  But, without traveling, without meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, you won't understand it.

Without understanding it, we are doomed to thinking that our own culture is the best and we have a right and duty to help the rest of the world see the error of their ways.  We know that, once enlightened to the superiority of our ways, these lesser cultures will be forever grateful.

Does anyone know how many different countries/cultures know that theirs is the best?  And feel pity on anyone not blessed to be 'one of them'?

I can think of at least 6…..

Kind of scary isn't it?

One more thing – I often hear about 'being true to the red, white and blue' – in reference to the national flag.

Does anyone know how many countries can say that?


Twenty-eight different countries wave the 'red, white and blue.

On a lighter note…..

You all know about the famous or infamous 'rude' French waiters, right?

Did you all know that there is no French word for 'rude'?

Are you all still enjooying our other favorite spring vegetable?

Pasta with Pea Pods
Pasta with Snow Peas and Cherry Tomatoes

A colorful Pasta Primavera – or spring pasta dish. Don't start the sauce until the pasta is cooking, it only takes 10 minutes and you don't want it over-cooked.

1 cup pasta, bite-size
5oz (150gr) mangetout, snow peas
3 green garlic   substitute green onion
1/2 cup (3oz, 90gr) cherry tomatoes
2 tbs fresh parsley
2 tbs fresh chives
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup (4oz, 120gr) chicken stock
1/3 cup (1.5oz, 45gr) shredded cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain
Trim and slice green garlic. Trim and slice snow peas in thirds. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Snip herbs.
After pasta has started cooking: Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add green garlic and sauté 3 minutes, until starting to get tender. Add snow peas and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add stock, herbs and bring to a simmer. Add drained pasta and stir to combine. Add cherry tomatoes, stir, put into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with cheese, serve.

I am so looking forward to indulging in lots and lots of pasta and risotto over the next two weeks.  You may all be jealous!

8 thoughts on “Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Pea Pods; Travel as education”

  1. This is a great post and everything you say is true. I also want to add something my French husband said to me once: we were in Paris and he popped into a book shop (empty of clients) and went up to the saleswoman to ask a question. She was on the phone and it was apparent that the call was personal, she was chatting with a girlfriend. She didn’t hang up. She didn’t acknowledge my husband who was obviously waiting to ask a question. Finally, she heaved an audibly loud sigh of exasperation and said to her girlfriend that she had to go as SOMEONE was there and she hung up in a way that communicated to my husband that the interruption was not appreciated. He stormed out of the shop and said to me “If you ever think that the French are rude to you because you are American it isn’t! They are rude to everyone, the French included!” LOL! But I know that the more one travels and experiences other cultures the more one understands the cultural and societal differences in so many things from, as you point out, the obvious to the subtle and that there is no right or wrong, best or worst, just different. And we learn to adapt and understand. We also learn a lot about our own culture as well. You also made me realize that it is now the time to start making pasta salad again!

  2. Writing a cheque is becoming a rare thing now in Australia,the same goes for carrying cash. Credit cards, debit cards and eftpos cards are all the go. Another thing that is a rarity now is the travellers cheque.

  3. When they say that travel is broadening, they aren’t talking about one’s derrière! It’s about broadening one’s perspective and only confronting other cultures head on can do that. When we lived in Japan, we learned so much – not just the negative differences but also the positive ones – the glory of their artistic traditions, the exquisite manners with which they interact, their fundamental honesty and honor (My mother once left her purse in a crowded Tokyo train station – it was still there, untouched, 30 minutes later when she remembered!). Other peoples’ ways are different, not inferior, and are beautifully honed to the place in which they evolved. Same with religions – they are all a path to better behavior as human beings. Only the extremists, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto – whatever – are aberrant to that goal.

  4. Katie once again an interesting post. You may imagine how ignorant we in the Antipodes would be if we didn’t leave our Shaky Isles. as often as possible…its a long way from everywhere. Of course we are moving away from Spring food…racing towards Winter instead. Hope you are enjoying your vacation.

  5. I get bit by the short French lunch hour every time I wind up in Paris — jet lag leaves me just not hungry until about 2:30 or 3, so I wind up wandering aimlessly, then low blood sugar kicks in and I can’t make a decision and I finally wind up in some cafe, eating a crummy jambon beurre.
    I’d also add that working at a huge high-tech company has been broadening — I’m the only American in my group, and work with Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Iranian co-workers, our larger group includes folks from India, Poland, Serbia and Ireland. The other day, my Chinese co-worker missed a joke because she didn’t know about Friday the 13th — it’s one of the things I love most about this job — that no one can assume their worldview is the only/best/right one.

  6. Thanks for all the interesting comments and insights everyone…. I shared them all with the family – some were first time visitors.

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