“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” Anthony Bourdain wasn’t wrong with his explanation of why food is such an integral part of every culture, experience and place we visit.
The unique connection that food has to people and places drives many to not simply just enjoy the cuisine of a local area they visit but to, in fact, purposefully plan a gastronomic getaway. In pursuit of the highest of culinary excellence, those seeking epicurean delights from around the globe often choose their next destination based on menus rather than landmarks and on ingredients rather than excursions.
Whether you count yourself a gourmand or simply culinary-curious, find out what makes food such a compelling component of travel and how you can build your own delectable getaway.
The Powerful and Universal Language of Food
Food has the incredible power of bringing people together. Sit down over a plate of homemade pasta in Italy, sip a bowl of steaming miso in Japan or bite into freshly grilled fish in the Florida Keys. No matter where you’re from, you’ll quickly find strangers turn into friends.
Food is a universal language. It is a commonality that is shared among humans around the globe. People work, they play, they sleep and they eat.
For those who enjoy travel, food is a natural companion. It is often one of the first ways to bridge the gap between home and faraway destinations. You find that while spices and styles change, everyone has a favorite dumpling soup made by Grandma and every culture finds a way to serve you a slice of bread.
Food is forgiving. Stumble your way through a menu in Spain or confidently order the wrong dish in Vietnam and you’ll find it doesn’t matter. People need to eat, and that universal truth binds us all together. This connection is powerful and immediately felt when you sit down in a new place.
From the best meal you have ever had to the odd-tasting dish you mistakenly ordered on that trip ten years ago, food creates memories. Those memories tell a story about a time, a place and the accompanying people.
Exploring Culture Through Taste
Whether you want to stare at a monument, read history from a placard or try out a new dance class, there are multiple ways to immerse yourself in the culture of a new area. However, there is arguably no better way to get to know the heart and soul of a place than through taste.
Sit down to a three-course meal boasting an abundance of local ingredients and flavors, and you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation for the place you are visiting.
In some destinations, the menus reflect a homogenous community that has long-upheld traditions and standards. In other locations, you’ll find a singular melting pot of tastes from around the globe, pointing to a diverse culture.
Food tells a story. It speaks of the history of an area, and it points toward the future. As you sample each dish, you’ll understand more about the locals, their preferences and even the weather.
And good food is a true pleasure. It is a memorable moment when you first sample a freshly baked French croissant. It is pure bliss when handcrafted chocolate from the hills of Guatemala melts in your mouth. There is something individually enjoyable about eating abroad.
Tips and Tricks for Planning a Culinary Getaway
Planning a trip that revolves around dining doesn’t happen by mistake. Take a standard vacation, and you might find yourself eating the same bland chicken dish you did back home.
A culinary getaway needs to involve a strategic approach and a step-by-step plan for ensuring that your taste buds sing and your heart soars.
- Do your research. Take time before your trip to find out what dishes are famous in the area. Look into what restaurants have earned outstanding reviews. The more you know, the better prepared you can be to ensure you don’t miss out on something extraordinary.
- Make a list. There might be too many dining establishments to visit in one trip, and you can only eat so many plates of pasta, which is why planning is key. Once you have gathered information about the area you plan to visit, narrow down your list to the menu items and dining destinations you refuse to miss.
- Be adventurous. Fried chicken feet served with a spicy sauce; a salt-and-pepper grasshopper offered to you on a banana leaf — if these food items don’t sound appetizing, don’t close your mind just yet. When pursuing the ultimate culinary experience, being open to trying new things is key. What might appear off-putting at first could be one of your favorite dishes. And, if you don’t like it, it will still be a memorable experience and a unique story to tell.
- Ask questions. Wondering what makes that spicy curry so different than the one you had in Thailand? Interested in why ackee fruit is popular in Jamaica? Don’t hesitate to ask questions as you travel from plate to plate. People love sharing facts about their area’s menu, and it’s the perfect way to gain a deeper understanding of the history and rich roots of a place.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Remember, no one expects your French to be flawless, and that server isn’t going to judge you when you accidentally order two desserts for dinner. Be easy on yourself and know that when ordering food in a new place, you might make a blunder along the way. You’ll still be sure to eat at the end of the day.