Five Fantastic Foodie Reasons For Travel

Food is a great way to explore a country. Some of my best travel memories are mixed up with the food I’ve eaten there. Food is often so intertwined with a country’s culture that you can’t fully experience a place without engaging with its food. Here are some of the reasons why food and travel go so well together.

The weird and wonderful

When you’re travelling you open yourself up to new experiences. It’s one of the things I most love about travel and it’s something I hope to teach my two boys. For me, food is a big part of these experiences. I’m far more adventurous with food when I’m travelling.

Take guinea pig for example. In Cuzco cathedral in Peru there is a painting of The Last Supper. Everything is as you’d expect –  Jesus and the twelve disciples are sitting down for a meal together. But look more closely and you’ll see that they’re about to tuck into roasted guinea pig,  Cuy, a Peruvian delicacy. You can’t not try it after that.

In Marrakesh in Morocco, the boys loved eating pigeon pastillas, pigeon meat mixed with almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Every evening we spent ages at the Djemaa el Fna, the main square. Once you’ve walked past the snake charmers, the tooth pullers, the fortune tellers, musicians and monkeys on chains, you’ll find the food stalls selling goat’s head curries, stewed snails, spicy sausages and sheep’s heads. You really feel like you’re abroad when you’re sitting at a table lit by lanterns, eating food from one of these stalls, even if it’s only a vegetable tagine.

The magical moments

Sometimes food memories are all about a moment, like the exquisite lemon risotto I had in Southern Tuscany in Italy. My husband and I were spending a week cycling between hill towns. That morning we’d had a tough ride up numerous hills. We turned up in a small village to find it half empty apart from this one tiny restaurant. That risotto was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

We washed it down with half a carafe of the local white wine and wobbled back down the hill on our bicycles. After about five minutes we decided we needed a nap after all that good food and wine so we just found a strip of grass and lay down under the shade of a tree for a much-needed sleep.

Then there was the breakfast my son and I had on our minuscule hotel balcony on his first trip to Paris. It was our last morning and every other day it had been raining but on this particular morning the sun came out. It was a cold February morning but we wrapped up warm and sat at the little table looking down onto the Marais street, eating croissants with jam, boiled eggs and fresh kiwi fruit, feeling like the luckiest two people in the world.

Eating a thali on a boat trip down the backwaters of Kerala in southern India was pretty special too. We’d stopped at a village beside the riverbank for lunch and were given rice, pickles, vegetarian curries and lentil gravy on a banana leaf plate, all to be eaten with our right hand as we watched the boats drifting down the river.

The markets

Food is such a feast for the senses – there’s so much to see, smell and feel as well as taste, and the best places for this when you’re travelling are the fresh food markets. We love trying new foods at local street markets, like the fantastic prawn noodles we had in Singapore.

I love the weekly markets in France too. In Provence in the south, most villages and towns take it in turns to host markets with stalls packed with cheeses, salamis, bread, honey, fish, olives and fresh vegetables.

You just walk around, savouring the atmosphere, tasting the samples in each stall. My two loved the wild boar salami and bright green cheese.

There are great covered markets in most of the Spanish cities. In both Barcelona and Seville we let the children choose a selection of foods from various different stalls to create a picnic for the whole family. They loved the independence and it was a great way to get them to practise the local language.

The fun

There’s no reason why food shouldn’t be fun. Children, in particular, enjoy doing something that’s different from sitting down at a table with a knife and fork. Mine love eating bowlfuls of mussels in France, scooping up all the sauce with one of the mussel shells, or cheese and meat fondues in Belgium.

They love the fun and drama of a feast. In Morocco, it’s great to go to one of the palace restaurants where you can dine like kings on silken cushions and eat lots of different foods out of silver dishes. When we were in Fez, my oldest was sat in his highchair munching his food while a belly dancer gyrated in front of him. Now that’s what I call top-rate childcare.

Learning how to cook the food is a wonderful way to up the fun factor. On a cooking course in Bali, we got up early to watch the fishermen hauling their catch in onto the beach. Then we went back to the hotel to learn how to make monkfish parcels tied up in a banana leaf.

The family meals

When we travel, our meals are often so much more relaxed and sociable. It’s the time when we can look back on what we’ve done that day while enjoying the local food.

In Greece we love being able to sit outside in the warm evenings and order a table of mezze for the whole family. Mezzes are the perfect food for sharing and so delicious: stuffed vine leaves, Greek salad, grilled feta cheese, fried whitebait, stuffed peppers and tiny slices of marinated octopus.

The boys are far happier to linger over their food than at home when they want to bolt as soon as they’ve eaten. We have great conversations over these meals. We’ll discuss everything from What magical power would you choose? to Which is most important, literacy or numeracy? (this always causes heated debates in our family).

It’s good to follow the lead of the locals when you’re travelling. We discovered, on our trip to Provence, that a quick sandwich for lunch was a big no-no. Instead, we did as the French families did, and sat down for the ‘menu du jour’, a main course and a pudding. Some days we had fresh cod with cockles; on others, steak or a big chicken salad. Puddings were equally delicious: tiramisù, crème brûlée or raspberry cream.

We slowed down and felt all the better for it. Instead of bolting down a quick sandwich and heading off, we lingered and enjoyed.

So here’s to lingering over your food when you travel, to trying new things and having the most fantastic fun while you’re doing it.

Pin It!Five Fantastic Foodie Reasons for Travel

I’m linking this post up to this month’s Travel Link-Up with EmmaAngieJessi and Tanja.

 

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46 thoughts on “Five Fantastic Foodie Reasons For Travel

  1. I am always very adventurous when it comes to food, the more different or weird it is – the more appetizing it is for me. I agree, food opens up a whole new perspective of seeing a place’s culture and traditions. Travel isn’t complete if you’re unable to try out the local dishes.

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    • I just love the fun of trying new foods when I’m travelling. I’m definitely more adventurous when I’m abroad than when I’m at home. I like to think I’d try most things but put me in front of a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters (fried testicles) and I might just blanch!

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  2. I completely agree that experiencing new foods is a major part of the travelling experience. Monk fish tied up in banana leaves…. now you cannot eat that on a UK high street can you?! It sounds delicious by the way. Great post. #MondayEscapes

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  3. Couldn’t agree more – food is worth lingering over and so much a part of our travelling experience too. In fact most things centre around it! I am always thinking about my next meal 🙂 And letting kids explore different tastes really helps them open their minds. I find my son more open to it when we’re away. He loved octopus in San Seb! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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  4. Pingback: Monday Escapes #24 - My Travel Monkey
    • Thanks so much, Lydia. I’m a horror at restaurant shopping once I’m there. I can spend ages studying all the menus, trying to decide where we should eat – while we’re all gradually getting hungrier and hungrier!

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  5. Food is indeed one of the reasons I love to travel too, Clare. I enjoy trying new dishes, but I am not very brave with quite every kind of food.

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  6. Couldn’t agree more, food and travel are so interconnected. I only wish I could get my two to be adventurous eaters. I’m lucky if they don’t turn up their nose at a simple grilled cheese sandwich! Hopefully our travels will open them up to trying new foods and experiences!

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  7. It’s not the only reason but a very important one. As we were traveling South America we were struggling in some of the countries to get nice food off the beaten track. You need to know where to go and most important, eat where the locals eat #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  8. I love to try new foods, sort of. I’m not an adventurous eater when it comes to ‘meats’. I laughed at your list of different unique meats, but settling for a vegetable tagine. That is soooo me!! I love new spices. You are right, the experience and food together make it memorable. I’m ready to visit some of the food markets! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Yes! Food markets … definitely one of my favorite things to see/do/visit when traveling, even if I don’t have anywhere I can cook all that lovely local food I still want to visit to learn about the food because it tells you so much about a culture.

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  10. I totally loved this post, Clare! Love the little anecdotes, particularly a belly dancer gyrating in front of your boy and you and your hubs sleeping on the grass after eating lemon risotto! And I like the fact that you travel as a family… your boys will defo grow up to be worldly and cultured! =)

    Honey x The Girl Next Shore

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  11. Love the photo of the table and chairs in the water! Food and travel do go hand in hand, and you learn so much about cultures that way. Once I set myself a challenge of cooking a few dishes from each of India’s 28 states and over the course of that cooking journey, I learnt a lot about how the type of spices and their use varied across regions. I loved your description of the special breakfast on the balcony in Paris with your son.

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    • Thank you! I thought it was such a wonderful place to eat – although best not a place for your best dress! You’ve really impressed me with your Indian cooking challenge. That sounds incredible. I expect you’re a wonderful dinner party host! It was a really special morning in Paris – one we’ll both always remember.

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      • I took on the Indian cooking challenge during a time, when I was just beginning to appreciate and enjoy cooking. I had decided to cook for my mother, as I felt her health was getting worse because she was not taking care of herself or eating properly. Since I love traveling, I felt it would make it more fun for me to travel through food. I generally prefer going out, when hosting lunches or dinners, with friends as it is much easier to do so unless it is a potluck 🙂

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  12. I love what you said about food bringing the family together and encouraging you all to slow down when you travel. My sentiments exactly! The hubub of everyday life often means that you don’t have time to enjoy food and each other’s company in that way. It’s definitely what makes family meals on holiday so special 🙂

    Polly xx

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    • Thank you. It’s so special enjoying food and travel together as a family. It’s the time of day when you can all sit around the table, enjoy the local cuisine and talk about the day. Thanks so much for such lovely comments, Polly.

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  13. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve still not tried Cuy despite being half Peruvian. I’ll make sure to give it a go when I visit my family next year. Food very much is a massive part of travel and I definitely need to be more adventurous with my food choices!

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    • The biggest trouble with cuy is that it’s so often served in a way that makes you think the guinea pig dropped dead just in front of you – it can definitely put you off! I was lucky. When I first tried it, it had been cut up so it just looked like meat. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing.

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