Introducing Jodi Eats Food Walks

In 2011, I wrote my first long post about food, entitled Ode to Spices. I wrote about how a diagnosis of celiac disease led to a rediscovery of flavours and the exciting yet obvious understanding that spices could keep food interesting, despite my gluten-avoiding limitations. I ended that confessional post with a question: what’s next, food tours in Asia? A book about sumac? Readers responded enthusiastically on the post and via email, saying they would love to eat where I ate, and encouraged me to write a book about food.

Fast forward to late 2012, and The Food Traveler’s Handbook hit the shelves. As I noted in the introduction to that book, it was primarily pushed forward by my own supportive community. That same community — the many of you who have written excitedly asking to be fed — is what led me to start small-group food walks under a new site, Jodi Eats.

Jodi Eats

Yay!

It is my pleasure to finally announce these walks, after foreshadowing for, oh I don’t know, the last 9 months? Ever since I was in Vietnam last year, I’ve been talking about doing these walks as something definitive, both in my many posts and newsletters and in person with readers I met. It took me awhile — it was the first site I’ve ever built myself, with the occasional “zomg I broke my site heeeeelp!” rescues from more coding-savvy friends (THANK YOU) — but having installed my first WooThemes theme last April and starting building, it was worth the learning and the time it took.

So, what will these walks entail?

Jodi Eats walks will not replace Legal Nomads.

The goal here isn’t to reshape my writing career toward predominantly focusing on food walks, but rather to fulfill the requests made by many of you, who want to experience food differently. I’ve taken readers on impromptu versions of these over the last months, and have been bowled over by the responses. Thank you, beta testers!

Jodi Eats walks will not be based in one city.

The thing about that “nomad” part in Legal Nomads? I’m rarely in one place for a prolonged period of time, and I remain uncertain of where my work and eating will take me for the coming year. The reason for housing these tours at JodiEats and not JodiEatsinCityX is that the walks will be in whatever city I am currently inhabiting.

There are other tour companies in Vietnam (Mark & Tu, for example, who I recommend heartily and frequently) who have based their income around a full-time food tour business.  In my case, this just happens to be a city I love and want to eat in for now.

For January and February and possibly March 2014 – Jodi Eats Food Walks in Saigon

As I am not yet sure how long I’ll be staying, for the moment I will be offering these walks in only January and February, perhaps extending to March.

For details, see here.

For future dates and walks, I will be updating the JodiEats site and its newsletter with upcoming dates, wherever I might be heading.

Jodi Eats walks for Saigon are not just about pho.

banh cuon saigon

banana snacks

Before I came here, my knowledge of Vietnamese food was limited to pho soup and to bun thit nuong, grilled pork on rice vermicelli noodles and topped with herbs, peanuts and more. In the weeks and weeks of stuffing my face, I’ve found all sorts of other dishes that I missed deeply the moment I left the city, rich bowls of soups, influences from different provinces, and snacks that appeal to every schoolkid rushing out of the schoolyard at the end of the day.

As a result, I wanted to offer a snapshot of each. Morning wanders in markets, snacktime when school gets out and a late afternoon/evening option that hits the rest. Given that it is a walking tour, the great eats in far-flung outer districts will have to be shelved for the moment. Instead, we’ll crawl our way through closer ones, talking and eating great food.

For those with celiac disease like me, fully gluten-free tours

Part of what makes Vietnam so appealing for the moment is that its foods, especially in Saigon and the south, are naturally gluten-free. There is an abundance of tapioca flour, rice flour and wheat-free deliciousness. With the exception of Banh Mi sandwiches and other French influences like nui (a play on “nouilles” from the French for noodles, made from wheat), the city is gloriously easy to navigate as a celiac. In addition, soy sauce does not have wheat flour in it for the most part, with only the fancier restaurants using imported soy sauce with its wheat-filled flavours.

A thank you to many other food lovers.

I’ve been bowled over by the generosity of friends and colleagues-in-eating for sharing their go-to food spots in Vietnam and being so supportive of my taking Legal Nomads in this delicious direction. The least I could do is thank them here, right? They’re all great people, working on really interesting projects.

Hai & Joe from Eating Saigon – these two lovely gentlemen ate with me around town, suggested tweaks to my food walk itineraries and — randomly — managed to be in San Fran at the same time as me, meaning they joined for my birthday dinner there. Great people, and their site is full of great places to eat around town, including a thorough food map.

Naomi Duguid – Despite winning several James Beard awards, Naomi has found time, energy and many hugs for me over the years. She was my first Thrillable Hours interviewee and we’ve stayed in touch since. Always supportive and available for advice or questions, she was instrumental in pushing me forward generally when I was second-guessing my choice to do these walks.

Cam (@camcooks on the Twitter) — introduced to me by Naomi, Cam lives in Hanoi with his family and is one of the most curious food-obsessed people I know. He’s provided endless advice, fun links to read and lots of entertainment when I stayed with them in the north.

James from Nomadic Notes — my brother from another mother who has taken his 32432 stomachs (seriously, this guy is never full) with me as we stalked the city by foot, eating as much as we could along the way.

Jimmy and Doug from Minaal – Skype calls about design, many shared meals, and lots of support from these two Kiwis also residing in Saigon.

Andre from La Fuite Autour du Monde — Andre and his partner Marie-Claude came to Vietnam just to eat with me, after we also met up in Istanbul and Bangkok.  Andre made the Jodi Eats logo for me out of the goodness of his heart — and perhaps a few bowls of soup.

Max and Chris, for their invaluable technical support – Yeah, being a lawyer didn’t translate into “excellent website builder”. Who knew? With panicked emails, these two got me back on track, fast.

Dan from Tropical MBA – Dan loves his Vietnam eats and has come back to the country every few years after his first visit. He and many others from his Dynamite Circle forum for global entrepreneurs have encouraged these walks, offered to test them out and given lots of feedback on the site build.

Tim Doling from Historic Vietnam – I met Tim early in 2013 and he is singlehandedly the most historically knowledgeable person I’ve ever met in Saigon. Not only does his brain remember old maps of the city, seeing them juxtaposed against the current chaos in ways I cannot even comprehend, but he has just started offering historic walking tours of the city. His expertise has been beyond helpful in getting me up to speed about the prior eras of a city I love.

… and you, the many readers and friends who have looked over the site and provided me with suggestions, urged me to do this and, when visiting Vietnam, made sure we shared a meal somewhere along the way.

When I started this site over 5 years ago, I never thought I’d be writing a book about food, let alone taking fabulous readers along for the ride to the places I love.

Thank you for all the support, and hope to share a meal with you soon.

-Jodi