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Souvenir Recipes: Share Your Travels Through Food

After our recent trip to Hawaii, we brought home a different kind of souvenir to share with our friends and family: local recipes.

by John D. IvankoOctober 3, 2012

Instead of buying your loved ones cheap souvenirs from your next vacation spot, do like we did after our Hawaii trip and throw party with your favorite food from that destination. Photo by John Ivanko (
Photo by John Ivanko
Instead of buying your loved ones cheap souvenirs from your next vacation spot, do like we did after our Hawaii trip and throw party with your favorite food from that destination.

When we recently traveled to Hawaii, we came home right around Lisa’s mom’s 84th birthday. While the Hawaiian shops offered every form of typical tourist bling, we came home with nothing in our suitcase for dear grandma. Now, before you write us off as those rude relatives (Grandma even drove us to the airport), we did come back with something special that is now our family’s version of the tourist magnet, t-shirt or coffee mug: local recipes.

As we wandered Hawaii—and whenever we travel—we made it a point to sample the tastes and flavors of the local scene. From farmers’ markets to family-owned restaurants, there’s nothing like savoring something you’ve never had before surrounded by an exotic locale. We realize that by making our favorite recipe from our latest vacation destination we can’t recreate breaking into a fresh Hawaiian pineapple with crashing ocean waves in the background, but thanks to the web we can come close. As restaurants offer recipes online and tourists, like ourselves, post their versions of travel recipes, the Internet is a free cookbook of the foods we loved on the road.

Back to Grandma: We skipped the Hawaii souvenir stuff and instead created a “birthday luau” dinner for her, giving us an opportunity to share all the details of our trip over an evening together. Grandma along with Grandpa loved it, and it gave us a focused opportunity to share our travel experiences over a unique meal. Here are some three ways to do the same with your next trip:

1. Collect recipes.
We kept a list of our favorite foods we ate and started looking up recipes online when we returned home. Some items we eliminated because we knew we wouldn’t find the same ingredients back home. Those fresh pineapples would need to remain a memory, but we were pleasantly surprised at the fabulous menu we could recreate, with many recipes coming right from the source.

Here’s a sampling of our luau menu:

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2. Share the story.
Our 10-year-old son, Liam, is the computer tech guy in our family, and he created a slideshow of our trip photos, complete with Hawaiian music in the background. Liam manually clicked through the slides, narrating the adventures from surfing lessons to sampling shaved ice, one of the foods that unfortunately can’t be recreated back home.

3. Repeat.
Once we got our travel menu and slideshow organized for Grandma’s birthday, we can easily repeat it for other relatives and friends as we cross paths, creating a special evening over unique dishes, much better than snow globes or even those hula-girl bobbleheads for the car dashboard. We’re now going to always travel under that “less stuff and more flavorful stories” mantra.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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