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Travel Virtually with your Food

I love cookbooks. I read them the way some people read romance novels. One of the things I love about them is how they can transport me to another place. I may never travel to China or France or Thailand, or even to the heartland of America, but I can go there virtually by learning about, and cooking, foods from other places. Food is at the heart of culture, and when you learn about what people eat in other places, you also learn about their geography, their resources, and the most effective way they survive in their ecosystem. I like to think that sharing food brings people closer together.

This winter, think about wrapping up the gift of a cookbook for someone you know—for Valentine’s Day or “just because.” Perhaps you can go on a virtual culinary trip around the world together. Even if they aren’t a great cook, you can find something with easy recipes and wonderful pictures and the rest will take care of itself.

One of my favorite cookbooks is actually a child’s cookbook. You practically don’t need to read to use it, and the recipes always come out great! Even better, choose one of the recipes from the book you buy for your friend, and make it yourself, presenting it to them along with the cookbook.

If you are ambitious, you could put the book in a gift basket filled with the harder-to-find ingredients. Or give it with a jar of a select spice, like saffron or berbere or za’atar. Pick a country or a place your friend has gone to or would love to travel to. Chances are you can find a cookbook for that place.

My one caveat though is to always leave out the salt in the recipes. Instead, try to substitute lower-salt ingredients when you can because high salt intake isn’t just a problem in American recipes, it’s a world-wide problem. For more information, go to World Action on Salt.

I am including a recipe for pizza dough because pizza has become a universal food. I’ve eaten it in Ecuador, Bolivia, Spain, Finland, and Greece. You can top this salt-free dough with whatever toppings you like, from whatever world cuisine you enjoy. I’m also including a list of some cookbooks I love. But you may find your own gems. I must admit, I like cookbooks with pictures.

Pizza of the World

2 envelopes quick acting yeast

Pinch of sugar

1 ¼ cups lukewarm water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon corn meal

  1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar onto ¼ cup of warm water. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, until dissolved. Then stir. Set in warm place for 3–5 minutes till yeast bubbles up.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, 1 cup water and ¼ cup olive oil. Mix the dough with a fork or your fingers until rough ball forms.
  3. Kneed on a floured board for about 10 minutes. Dust the dough lightly with flower, place back in the bowl and cover.
  4. Set in a warm spot for about 20 minutes while you fix your toppings. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
  5. Punch dough down and divide into 2 large balls or 4 smaller ones for individual pizzas. Roll out dough and put on cookie sheet or pizza pan that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.
  6. Cover with sauce, toppings of your choice and cheese if desired.
  7. Bake about 8–10 minutes, watching closely, as the correct among of time will depend on the size of your pizza and your toppings.

Nutrition content for 8 servings: calories: 235, Carbohydrates: 42 g, protein: 6 g, sodium: 2 mg

Cookbook ideas (see photo at top)

  • Tasting the World, One Country at a Time, Nicole O’Donnell
  • The Kitchen without Borders, Eat Offbeat Chefs
  • The Four-Hour Chef, Timothy Ferriss
  • The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sean Sherman
  • My Two Souths, Asha Gomez
  • Kitchen of Light, Andreas Viestad
  • North, Gunnar Gislason
  • Catalan Food, Daniel Olivella
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child
  • Southeast Asian Grill, Leela Panyaratabandhu
  • The New Midwestern Table, Amy Theilen
  • British Columbia from Scratch, Denise Marchessault
  • Sprit of the Harvest; North American Indian Cooking, Beverly Cox

Katy G. WilkensContributor Katy G. Wilkens recently retired as registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.

Eating Well, Living Well classes

Studies show that working with a registered dietitian can delay kidney failure and postpone dialysis for longer than two years. FREE nutrition classes taught by Katy’s former team of registered dietitians are available at convenient times and locations around Puget Sound.

Eating Well, Living Well classes teach people how to eat healthier to slow the progress of kidney disease and postpone dialysis. Learn more at

Posted in Food