• Turn your family date night into an opportunity to explore the world's cuisines from a just a stone's throw away or home. (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
Determined to keep 'travelling', even during lockdown, Dilvin Yasa invents a dining tradition for her household.
Dilvin Yasa

25 Aug 2020 - 3:46 PM  UPDATED 25 Aug 2020 - 3:46 PM

Some families travel for a change of scenery. Others like to visit new attractions or to experience natural wonders.

My own tribe (husband and two daughters, ages 11 and 7)? Well, it wouldn't be unfair to admit we seem to mostly travel to eat, forever on this endless quest to discover that next taste sensation – the kind what makes you wonder how you ever lived without it in the first place.

In the period I think we can now confidently call 'The new BC', we travelled widely and ate with reckless abandon. Last year alone, we ate our way across Italy, Turkey and Thailand. We ate raw fish in coconut shells in the Cook Islands, ate spicy curries in Fiji and downed dozens of freshly shucked oysters – plucked straight from the water – in Kangaroo island. This year, like everyone else, we've been "holidaying" at home, staring at our four sad walls and wondering where it all went so terribly wrong. That said, all is not lost.

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Ever since our firstborn began eating solids, we've had a tradition in our household we never break - family date night. It's an evening where we go to a local restaurant (we take turns choosing) and discuss the highs and lows of that particular week. Since 'pivot' is the key trend of 2020, we've recently made changes to our decade-long tradition, introducing the A to Z of eating around the world. It's a way of travelling during a time when you can’t travel at all.

Arranging the restaurant (or if you're in lockdown, the delivery from said restaurant) is simple enough: starting with the letter A. Lock in a cuisine you can all agree on (Armenian, Austrian, or Argentinian, for example) and then work your way through the alphabet, with a new letter representing a different cuisine to try each week.

Can't decide which cuisine to go for? Spend some time as a family listing all the 'B', 'C' or 'D' etc countries you can think of before you hit up the Internet (it's more fun that way). If you find you can't agree on a particular cuisine, put all the names of the country in a hat and pull one out. Yes, sometimes your seven-year-old will cry and sure, your 11-year-old might roll her eyes and tell you that she couldn't possibly do 'G for German' if we've already done 'A for Austrian' but fair's fair – particularly if there is a hat and a piece of paper involved.

Work your way through the alphabet with a new letter representing a different cuisine to try each week.

Once you've decided on your cuisine, restaurant booking or takeaway, that's when the fun really begins. We each have to go away and take time to learn some key facts about the country we're 'visiting' that week, or memorise key points of history or contention, or even some language skills (no swear words allowed). Then, each person has to keep what they've learned to themselves until dinner when we share our information.

Sometimes things don't go to plan; there have been occasions where our kids have found certain dishes (and in rare cases, entire cuisines) not to their tastes and we've had to make a round of sandwiches afterwards. Other times, it's "funny" words the kids falter one (fun fact: the Turkish word for kitchen is mutfak; do with that what you will) and our little one will want to shout it anytime a waiter approaches the table.

There have even been situations when the glorious Internet has yielded some rather bizarre inaccuracies of 'built the Great Wall to keep the rabbits out' proportions. But I defy anyone to find any better entertainment than watching a gap-toothed first-grader passionately condemn the policies of 'Chairman Meow'.

It isn't eating fresh balls of burrata on the Amalfi Coast, and it isn't savouring chargrilled octopus on a Greek beach, but for as long as the world is off-limits to us, it's a pretty genius Plan B.

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