Patacon con todo: it’s the meal you excavate.


The current street food trend in the States is a double-edged sword. The hipster trucks tend to raise the average price of street food, but at the same time, the mind-spinning variety of cuisines and creations offered by new trucks has enrichened the street life experience. On the whole, I’d say we’re much better off than before.

In many cities in Latin America, street food never needed a trend to fuel its existence. This is not that surprising. Street food is cheap. Also, public space such as plazas–bountiful throughout Latin America–lend themselves to street food set-ups more easily than the mostly car-centric city layouts of America. It’s all about the interaction.

And in Cartagena’s Plaza de la Trinidad, host to an inviting mixture of musicians, street performers, food carts, and friendly stray dogs, I recently tried one of the popular offerings: the patacon con todo. My debut piece for Vice Munchies narrates my experience, in which I tap my inner geologist and stumble upon a connection between Colombian street food and Dr. Seuss.

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Capturing the History and Humor of Southern Gastronomy


New Orleans is one of America’s culinary capitals, so no one should be too surprised that the Southern Food and Beverage Museum calls the city home. As a bonus, the museum’s open warehouse-style space also houses the Museum of the American Cocktail–two for the price of one, literally.

My wife and I recently visited the museums, where barbecue is celebrated, absinthe myths are debunked, and garbage pails are plenty, because visitors are allowed to eat while they browse the exhibits. They are food museums, after all. The San Diego Reader just published the story of our visit here.

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Art, Aging, and the Hills of Valparaiso

Mural on Templeman Street in Valparaiso

I suppose all of us, at different times and perhaps for different reasons, find ourselves at a point when we start heeding age and its wholesale irreversibility.

Mine was in Chile six years ago. The Smart Set just published “What the Walls Taught Me,” the story of how the street art of Valparaiso, Chile–and the hilly port city itself–helped me see aging in a different light. It is a tale of trapezoids, dog turd slaloms, time-traveling funiculars, and a comic book hero who drives a garbage truck.

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Uruguay’s Candombe in Stories of Music

Stories of Music cover
Stories of Music Volume 1 has finally been released! I’m proud to be a part of this multimedia anthology. My piece on the candombe drummers of Uruguay, which previously appeared in Perceptive Travel, was chosen along with works from 40 other contributors who share their stories about the incredible impact music has had on people’s lives. 10% of the book’s proceeds will be donated to nonprofit organizations Hungry for Music and Music & Memory. Learn more about the book at Stories of Music.

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Tales to Go, and a Hat that Went

Panamanian hats, but not Panama hats
When it comes to sun protection throughout my travels, I’ve settled into a habit of following a self-imposed rule: new country, new hat. This began out of necessity; when departing from home via air, I would not want to risk destroying the weave of a hat I’d already acquired and babied through the jostles and crushes of carry-on space on a previous return flight. Thus, I’d instead bring along some hideous floppy (but easily packable) hat to block the sun during my first day in the new country. That hat’s ugliness would quickly remind me to hit the markets to pick up a local hat so that I could at least make an attempt at respecting and understanding the fashion of the place. And I’d carefully find a way to bring the headwear home, where it would never again be subjected to the unforgiving environment of the coach section.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t settled on the new country/new hat rule until I had, inadvertently, almost destroyed my favorite hat, a woven, flat-brimmed beauty with black and white yarn patterns I’d picked up in Panama. I had brought it with me on one too many journeys. Sans hat box (an item too extravagant for a coach budget), the accessory with an attractive but tragically brittle weave just wasn’t designed to withstand that kind of mileage. A lesson learned too late.

But such a mistake ended up leading me down a fortunate path. It was the search for that hat’s replacement during a return trip to Panama that had encouraged me to write “Speaking in Hats,” which was published by Compass Cultura (now part of Latterly Magazine) earlier this year. And now, the piece appears in this month’s edition of Tales To Go, a monthly magazine published by Travelers’ Tales.

I’m in great company, as the piece appears alongside engaging stories by Mara Gorman, Tor Torkildson and Lance Mason. You can read the first few paragraphs of each piece here. And if you like what you are reading, you should consider subscribing, as Tales To Go brings your four stories a month by travel storytellers such as Amy Gigi Alexander, Don George, and Jeff Greenwald. The free Tales To Go app for iPhones/iPads optimizes the publication’s reading experience when you are packing lightly. Just don’t try to squeeze that woven hat into the sliver of a gap above the luggage in the overhead bin.

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