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“You mean, food travel is your work?” Really” “you actually get to travel and eat?” How can I, or is that something I can do?”
Food travel or becoming a food traveler, is not something I sought out to be. But rather, it’s a way of approaching life that eventually became my work. And, a delicious job at that.
Becoming a food traveler doesn’t have to become your job. But adopting a way of travel through food will connect you to the culture in unexpectedly enriching ways.
So, how can you become a food traveler? And why does it matter? Read on.
What Is Food Travel or Food Tourism?
Food tourism, also referred to as culinary tourism or even gastronomy tourism is on the rise across the world.
It involves a mix of adventure, fun, and a mindset of curiosity.
The World Food Travel Association defines food tourism as “traveling for a taste of the place in order to get a sense of a place.”
Whereas the UN World Tourism Organization 2012 report described gastronomic tourism as applying to those who, “plan their trips partially or totally in order to taste the cuisine of the place or to carry out activities related to gastronomy.”
When Claire and I started traveling through food in 2015, we didn’t have these “official lenses” to pursue our quest for authentic food specialties.
Instead, we traveled with a healthy dose of curiosity. And, a deep yearning to connect with locals and learn about the culture through authentic food experiences.
By making food the primary reason to visit a place, we’ve been privileged with a unique perspective.
An authentic view into the culinary flavors, traditions and culture and how they are woven into the country’s fabric.
Food travel takes you right into the hearts and souls of the locals in a destination. An opportunity to bite, sip and taste the local culture.
For life changing travel moments that are accessible to all, consider being a food tourist on your next trip.
Why is Food Travel Important? Beyond The Comfort Zone
When we travel, we have choices. Do you book your accommodations in touristy areas, or do you choose local neighborhoods away from the major attractions?
Do you engage with the locals around, or stay in the comfort zone with your traveling companions?
The aromas, sounds, and flavors of food have a way of breaking down barriers. Of entering our bodies and capturing our souls.
Of forcing us to connect while asking about the local specialties. And, broadening our perspectives as we discover new textures and flavors.
As food travelers, we’ve come to appreciate the power of food. The universal language that brings us together over a meal.
Where we sit down and get to know each other and where we come from. This seemingly simple gesture is also very radical.
But, with a sense of humility and genuine curiosity, we can collectively discover our shared similarities and human connections.
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10 Food and Travel Experiences That Can Motivate Us to Travel Deeply
Being a food tourist is one of life’s most enriching experiences. And, how deeply you want to get involved is a matter of interest and time available.
It’s deliciously easy to become a food traveler, and you can take a short quiz to determine your profile.
From experiences in your own kitchen to taking a culinary journey across many countries, the choice is yours.
Become a food traveler by adopting any of these food tourism activities.
1. Travel in Your Kitchen With Local Recipes
Travel doesn’t have to mean boarding a flight or raking a road trip. It can be as simple as stepping into the kitchen in your home.
With a sense of adventure about a particular cuisine and the willingness to experiment, a good cookbook can turn you into a world chef.
Be excited to try something new. To travel the world with a few simple ingredients. In so doing, you’ll taste the flavors that unite us, created by your very own hands.
At Authentic Food Quest, we share recipes that bring the tastes of travel home. They are simple recipes of emblematic foods, along with the stories behind the dishes.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of our favorite recipes from Argentina is an easy no bake cake. Let this simple Authentic Chocotorta Recipe: Easy to Make Argentina Cake take you to South America.
2. Explore Drinks From Around The World
Eating local, goes hand in hand with drinking the local beverages. To taste a place, sipping on the local brews is part of the experience.
While local drinks don’t get the same notoriety as the food specialties, it doesn’t make them any less desirable.
On our first visit to Chile, I remember being intrigued by a local drink that had a peach floating in it. This drink, mote con huesillo, which translates to peaches with wheat, is a traditional popular drink served with a spoon.
A surprising drink, yet full of flavor and texture. A true taste of the local culture.
Wines and wine tourism is another growing sector within food and travel. Indeed, pairing local dishes with wines made from autochthonous grapes is to sip on the country’s unique gastronomy.
From not being aware of, we learned to love red wines like Vranac, popular in the Balkans, or Carménère, Chile’s embelmatic red wine.
New white wines like Romeiko from Crete and Grillo from Sicily quickly became favorites.
On the road, visiting wineries is an experience not to be missed by any foodie traveler. And, at home, the international wine sections of wine shops hold many of these cultural treasures.
3. Take Cooking Classes – Live or Virtual
Taking cooking class is one of our favorite activities when traveling. In every new destination, we take a cooking class to learn more about the local specialties.
From learning about the local ingredients to the emblematic dishes, while picking up new cooking skills is a delicious entry into the local cuisine.
Consider booking a cooking class on your next trip. If you have any dietary concerns, most can easily adapt local recipes to meet your needs.
If you have no immediate plans, virtual cooking classes can take you on an immersive culinary journey to the country.
The Chef and The Dish website can virtually connect you to a live chef from around the world to learn a specific local cuisine.
Whereas, platforms like YesChef bring the world’s best chefs into your kitchen with video recipes you can make at your own time.
Cooking classes give us opportunities to meet locals and explore the cuisine and culture. With the added benefit of eating delicious great food along with the recipes of the dishes.
4. Go On Food Tours
Not all food tours are created equal. Sure, they take you around the city offering samples of food but depth in expertise varies.
As a food traveler, you want to seek out the tour that offer authentic tastes of place. Those food tours that take you to the backstreets and alleys to discover the hidden gems and the people behind the food.
Be selective. Look for the food tour experiences that take you heart of the local food culture. Those that don’t skip over dishes or street food that might be deemed off-putting for tourists.
Travel with an open mind and take a food tour early. You’ll benefit greatly from the local advice and context you’ll get about the local culinary scene.
5. Eat at Local Restaurants
Anthony Bourdain, once said “sometimes the greatest meals on vacations are the ones you find when Plan A falls through.”
And, I’d add, “you have to be willing to go through a few mediocre meals to get the great ones.”
In a new destination, eating at local restaurants is the road map for food travelers.
Your chances of discovering new tastes, flavors, and textures are much higher at these local eateries.
However, finding these unusual gems is not always easy. Sometimes, the tastiest food is offered at places that are not outwardly inviting.
But you have to be willing to eat off the beaten path. To stretch beyond and adjust your expectations to match the eating standard at the new place.
You may need to sit “low” to the floor in Vietnam. Eat at the market food stalls in Mexico or Lima. Or eat scinfione, Sicilian pizza from a street food vendor in Palermo, Sicily.
Traveling to a new destination gives us the perfect opportunity to eat something new. And the restaurant gems frequented by locals offer some of the best places to taste the culture.
6. Visit Local Artisanal Producers
Understanding the local products is another expression of food tourism.
Food travel can take you to the local artisans and the people keeping the culinary heritage alive.
Becoming a fisherman or woman for a day, is an experience I never thought I would have. The fishing adventure was for Gambas de Palamos.
These bright red prawns from the sea town of Palamos in Costa Brava are prized for their flavor and succulent meat. They are considered among the best prawns in the world.
The journey was on a fishing trawler with Captain Xavier and his crew. In the long hours spent over choppy waters, we learned about the boat and sustainable fishing for the gambas.
On that fishing expedition, we witnessed dedication and passion. A second career for Xavier, who took over his father’s fishing boat, he brought in his unique modern fishery point of view.
His commitment to sustainability and to leave fish in the sea for future generations, was placed way above profits. The commitment to quality above all else was inspiring.
And, we left with a visceral understanding of what the fishermen in Catalonia say;
“Entre tu i un peix, sempre hi ha un pescador”—between you and the fish, there is always the fisherman.
In the destinations, you plan to visit, seek out the family-owned businesses keeping the culinary traditions alive.
It may be the cheese maker, coffee or chocolate producer or the farmer growing or raising native products.
Food tourism experiences that put you in touch with the artisans, will no doubt, leave an indelible mark on you.
7. Local Market Visits
Meandering through local food markets should be on any food travelers itinerary.
Local markets are the heart of local food culture and they are alive with the country’s colors, flavors and aromas.
Most cities have at least one main public market and several smaller weekly markets. Each filled with seasonal produce and moving at its own rules and rhythm.
The key is to adapt and adopt a sense of curiosity. Ask about strange and unusual colored fruits and vegetables. Use a smile and sign language, if the local language is unspoken.
Head to the central part of the market, where you’ll most likely find the dining area with plenty of food stalls.
Pluck up your courage and go meet people. Follow your nose and eyes to delicious looking stalls. Order bites of several tastings and settle in to eat.
Right there and then, you are in the city’s culinary center. Observe the culture and relish the flavors. You might be surprised to discover that your best food experience might be at the market.
On your next trip, regardless of country, make a market visit part of your experience. Keep your valuable safe, and allow yourself to become one with the local culture.
8. Go on Amazing All-Inclusive Cooking Vacations
Home chefs of all skill levels can take their cooking skills to new heights with an all inclusive cooking vacation.
Under the guidance of the watchful eye of a local chef, you learn to make local and authentic dishes on cooking vacations.
Traveling through cooking vacations offers a different perspective to the place. The cooking vacations are immersive and can last anywhere from 3 to 8 days.
Many cooking vacations pair the experience with visits to local markets, producers, wineries, city explorations and more.
For food travelers, taking a cooking vacation can be a new way to travel. You’ll leave with new stories, new ideas and cooking skills that will impress.
9. Experience a Multi-Day Culinary Tour
Beyond spending a few hours or half a day with a local tour guide, you can take your culinary explorations further.
A culinary tour over multiple days and to multiple cities can fulfill your food and travel aspirations.
That’s what foodie dreams are made of. Often traveling slowly, you’ll discover a wealth of amazing food traditions and history while making new local friends.
Multiple day culinary trips include a variety of activities. Visiting heritage sites at a destination, private food and wine tasting along with guided local tours add context to experience.
Along with visits to local artisans, food tours and cooking classes.
There’s something freeing when someone else has made the arrangements and is taking care of the details.
As long as local foods and authenticity are at the center, relax and soak in the experience.
10. Participate in Food Festivals
As the pandemic comes to an end, social gatherings including culinary festivals are making their way back.
The hunger to connect over food experiences never died and is taking place again in real life.
Cautiously, we recently attended our first post-pandemic festival in the Loire Valley in France. It was an outdoor event dedicated to the famous Rosé wine from Anjou and the Loire Valley.
Local wine producers in partnership with restaurants and artisans offered a tasting of rosé wine paired with a local bite.
Under the blue sky with background beats from a DJ, everyone celebrated wine and the first festival since the pandemic.
Consider food, wines, and local beverages festivals as venues to visit and learn about artisanal craft making.
Certainly, do follow the local health guidelines for fun and enjoyable tasting experiences.
Being food travelers since 2015 has changed the way we see the world and experience the destinations we visit.
The interactions with locals, from shared meals, to cooking classes and food tours have been personally enriching on multiple levels.
Whether we are having conversations about favorite foods, the pandemic, love, family or travel, we see past our differences to find our similarities.
There is a strong human connection that is formed. A bond that is created with stories and lessons carried forward.
I never leave the same from each food travel experience. I leave a fuller and richer human being based on my fuller and richer experiences.
To become a food traveler is to embark on a transformative journey. And, thinking about it further, isn’t that what travel is all about?
Do you consider yourself a food traveler? What’s your favorite food travel experience? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Curious by nature, Rosemary loves exploring new flavors and connecting with locals. She shares her insights and culinary finds from her travels to inspire people to connect local through food.