The Adventure of Eating Local

localOne of the biggest attractions of any destination is its local cuisine. For foodies, it is a major factor in deciding where to go.  Whether you are a foodie or not, why not enjoy it when you have the chance.

Local cuisines carry a lot of meaning. It tells the local story as it evolves through generations being influenced by the comings and goings of all the people from the different regions and countries. It uses local ingredients that are the freshest and it imbibes ways of cooking that reflect the culture.

Traveling takes you these places and cultures. It is an opportunity to learn more about the place and its people. Thus, it’s a big wonder why you would seek out McDonald’s when you can have that any time of the day or any day of the week wherever you live.

If you want to make more out of your holiday to any place on earth, give it more meaning and make it a little more fun by adventuring in the local markets. Ask around; go where the locals go. If you are a bit apprehensive about food safety, get tips from this post from Independent Travel-Travel Tips’ Eating Abroad: The Cultural Resonance of Food shared by Ed Hewitt.

Hewitt said, “…. Food fully engages two of the five primary senses — taste and smell — and could be said also to arouse touch and sight as well…”

He poses a question to emphasize his point, “What if a distant cousin from Italy came to your house, and you offered to take him out for Saturday morning pancakes at the local mom and pop pancake joint, the best pancake place within two time zones, and he asked for a shot of espresso and a roll because that’s what he always has at that time of day?”

Surely you’ll be appalled, just as it is appalling to do the same when you are venturing in some other destinations.

He offers a tip – Change your eating rhythms!

This may mean doing a bit research to know the meal or time that the local folks have their biggest meal. By understanding the “cultural resonance of food” in your destination, you don’t only offend your hosts, if there are, you can also enjoy the local cuisine and culture. That is a big plus to your travel experience.

For instance, the gesture of eating jellyfish in certain Asian countries, vegemite in Australia or grit in Africa is rife with symbolism. Not partaking of the offering is not only unnecessary, but also rude. Each country has such; imagine learning all those cultures as you hop from one country to another. This is what travel is all about!

More Tips

How do you best enjoy local cuisines? Hewitt gave some pointers:

  • Be Ready for Some Real Taste: Travel will take you to places where foods are cooked or prepared differently. Be ready for the “different taste.” It will not be unpleasant, but it can be different. Enjoy the adventure and welcome the difference; you may just be surprised it is even “deliciously different.”
  • Be Ready for Unusual Sights: The different culture will also mean using different ingredients or having a unique presentation and garnishes. Just shrug off the oddity and dive in.
  • Changing Your Taste Buds: That is definitely easier said than done, but in most cases you’ll be surprised to discover these offerings are incredibly good and worth all your “grit.” Trying to eat new dishes might even change your taste buds for good as you discover that adventuring is indeed rewarding.
  • The Dangers of Going Too Big: Your adventurous spirit can get the better off you when you try something too much for you. Of course you can charge it to experience, and hopefully you’ll live to tell your story and to remember the lesson learned from it. Be careful too as some cuisines can be very rich, it can upset your stomach.

Some dishes are unusually really good. On second thought, locals can’t be downing them all the time if it’s bad, right? That thought can be your motivation behind the Hewitt suggestion “Try Anything Once?”

Often, you have to shut down your brain or stop heeding what it tells you to try something new. Try it just for once, otherwise how would you know what you’re missing. It may end up being a so-so experience, a really bad adventure, or it is one big taste that will go down as a favorite for life; you’ll be glad you took the challenge.  Regardless, how it turns out you’ll be glad for what you learned, just like any adventure.

So go and adventure. You can have your McDo’s Quarter Pounder once you’re home. For now, try that jellyfish served in Asia, the boiled lamb’s head (Smalahove) in Norway or the ants of the giant black ant Liometopum (escamoles) in Mexico.

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