We’ve all watched cooking competition shows at some point (come on, admit it 🙂 ). For some of us, it’s a guilty pleasure that we can’t help but binge-watch season after another.
How’s that related to travel? I hear you ask.
Well, eating and traveling are pretty much intertwined in more complex ways than you may think, especially if you happen to dearly like both.
We believe trying local dishes isn’t any less important than visiting a country’s tourist attractions (if not more important). If you do/don’t think so, read on anyway to know why food is the best part about traveling!
1. You get out of your comfort zone
“Eat safely”; a phrase you must have heard like a thousand times. Your parents, friends, even co-workers you barely know must have put their two cents; “Stay away from street food’’. They surely mean well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know well! When you go on a trip, you’re halfway out of your comfort zone. But to totally break free from it, you’ll have to try the thing that scares you the most; street food. The challenge is double-fold if you’re a picky eater, but it’s definitely worth the trouble.
Let down your guard and start experiencing travel to the fullest. Make sure to pick a vendor where women and children lineup. Your best bet it’s the cleanest. And as long as the food is hot and cooked right in front of you, you’re safe.
2. You learn about the culture without reading textbooks
There’s a story behind each dish from your culture. Growing up eating your traditional food becomes part of who you are. That’s the case with the locals in the country you’re visiting. When you try their traditional dishes, you’re ingesting more than food here. It’s their history, background stories, and simply the emotional attachment they have to it. You think we’re being over-sentimental? Okay, let’s talk practical.
Traditional food is all about cultural identity. Recipes are passed down from generation to the next. Immigrants bring their traditional food and before you know it, cuisines blend as ethnicities do.
You’ll find the information in the books, but what better way to grasp it than to get a taste of it!
Take Moroccan couscous, for instance. Purely Moroccan as it is, now served for lunch in schools in France! Need we say more?!
3. You bond with the locals; blend and fit in with them
Traveling with friends and family is a bonding experience. You get to share memories of the places you’ve been to, people you’ve met, and things you’ve tried together for the first time. Trying new foods with your travel buddies, be it good or bad, will give you a good story to tell later when you’re back home (how sweet is that?). Something you should try is asking random locals about their favorite restaurants and dishes. Firstly, you’ll strike up conversations with strangers (again getting out of your comfort zone). Secondly, you’ll get excellent recommendations based on firsthand experience. Finally, you might make new foreign friends (something we all can’t get enough of) 🙂 That would be the perfect way to appreciate a culture and guarantees the people will love you for it!
N.B. A lot of travelers focus on a place to dine in and forget about what they’ll be ordering! Make sure not to do that. Do your homework and know the specifics.
4. Your inner chef is inspired
Watching cooking competitions won’t do it for you anymore. Now that you’ve tasted Italian pizza, Greek salad, and Mexican tacos, you feel your kitchen is calling you to unleash your inner chef! You have an idea of how to mix and match flavors. You think why not try to prepare the dishes you liked most during your travels or at least add a few tweaks to your favorite local dishes.
Even if you’re not that good of a cook, you’ll surely have fun along the way. You may enjoy inviting friends over and making them an exotic tasting dinner. And when your foreign friends visit you, you may impress them with a traditional dish of theirs but with your own signature!
Ever traveled for food? What’s your favorite foreign dish? Let us know in the comments section below.
To read about South African traditional dishes, click here.