A big part of the fun of travel for me is trying out local foods. I don’t need fancy meals, in fact I’m just as happy with street food as I am with a sit down restaurant. I just want to sample interesting local cuisine. So when I was approached by the folks at BonAppetour to try out a home cooked meal on an upcoming trip I jumped at the opportunity. I really like the concept of peer to peer meals where travelers can spend an evening with locals who want to share their cuisine and cooking skills.
Conveniently for me BonAppetour had a few hosts listed in Stockholm, where I was planning a vacation. So I asked about booking a meal with the host offering authentic Swedish food. Unfortunately this host was in the process of moving to a different city and would not be around for my visit. The only other host they had in Stockholm was an Indian chef offering vegetarian meals. This, it turns out, was an odd coincidence of a BonAppetour founder knowing this host personally, as they have not yet put much work into recruiting hosts in Scandinavia.
Eager to try out BonAppetour, and without trips planned to other cities where they have hosts, I decided to give the Indian meal a try. I definitely enjoy Indian food, and regardless of the cuisine this meal would introduce me to some locals. I was also curious about the concept of eating with locals, but having food from a completely different culture. Would this take away from the Swedish experience or offer a new cultural dimension?
The booking process online was quite easy. The hosts (a husband and wife from the south of India) responded quickly to my inquiry and we agreed on a date and time (which I later had to change and they were very responsive and accommodating). I was asked about dietary restrictions and then I was sent a menu of delicious sounding foods we would be eating. I was also given clear directions to the home of my host.
On meal day my wife and I hopped on the subway and rode out to the end of the line, further into the suburbs of Stockholm than I would have otherwise ventured. We arrived a bit early so we spent a few minutes wandering around the neighborhood, discovering yet another residential area filled with public parks and walking paths. When we got inside our host’s apartment we were offered a chance to watch the preparation of the appetizers: green plantains and onion pakoda (also called pakora). Both a mild and a spicy batch were made to accommodate our different spice desires.
The main dish, chole (chick peas in an onion and tomato gravy) was rich and savory, served with puri (bread) and rice, and a side salad of cucumber and chick peas. In addition to learning about the spices used and preparation methods, during the meal we chatted about the experience of Indian ex-pats and their perspective on Swedish life. I got some new insights into what it’s like to live in Sweden. With a native Swedish host we would no doubt have learned more about the Swedish people and the history and culture of this country. But the perspective of immigrants is unique and interesting. And having lived in the country for many years now, our hosts were able to provide some useful tips for sightseeing.
The dinner finished off with a delicious chocolate cake, baked the night before by our hosts’ daughter (who was not at home for the meal). We ate this while watching a short film streamed via Gaiam TV which curates offerings that “provide insight into our human experience by touching our emotions.” The movie, about an Indian family, was a somewhat random choice that led to fun commentary by our hosts explaining some of the cultural backstory. By the end of the evening we were all comfortably talking and laughing about the film and fun things to do in Stockholm.
Given the choice, I would still select hosted meals that focus on the cuisine of the place I’m visiting. But I’d also recommend this taste of southern India in Stockholm to both tourists and locals. And for future trips I’m looking forward to booking more peer to peer meals to expand my food tourism around the world.
You can read my interview with Bon Appetour here.