The world is so deliciously diverse and there’s no better way to explore it, in my opinion, than through food. When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, food is the perfect starting point because no matter what your itinerary looks like, you will need to eat! For me, it’s the also the best way to navigate a new place, so I create “food missions” in between the rest of my sightseeing stops. And at home, my favorite souvenirs are those that bring the flavors of the world home with me.
Here are a few tips for how you, too, can bring your appetite for curiosity with you into the world and memories from your travels back home into your kitchen.
Do your homework
I always research a bit before a trip – it doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but traditional food and drink specific to the region or country and also some of the best restaurants or places serving contemporary cuisine is a good place to start. If you’ve got a full day of sightseeing planned, do yourself a favor and throw in a couple of ideas for where (or what) to eat nearby so you won’t be tempted to go for overpriced “international” cuisine aimed at tourists.
>> Check out my Destination Guides section to see how I take notes before and after a trip. Feel free to use my research for your next trip!
Take a food tour or cooking class
I usually shy away from organized tours in favor of finding my way through a new place at my own pace and letting things unfold naturally. However, the exception to this rule is that I always try to seek out food tours and cooking classes in a new destination. If possible, try to book culinary activities on your first or second day. The reason for this is that your guide is often a local food-lover with a wealth of knowledge, and not just on food! This is the perfect time to get ideas for places to eat, things to do off the beaten path, and other insider tips you might not have gotten otherwise.
>> See my list of Cooking Classes and Food Tours around the world. [coming soon!]
Stay curious, stay hungry
When I’m on the ground, food can be a conversation starter and I love to ask locals for their favorite dishes, hole in the wall restaurants, even family recipes if they’re willing to share! I’ve also tagged along to grocery stores and vegetable markets and poked around in kitchens making mental notes of typical spices and ideas for food souvenirs to bring a little bit of the world home with me to my own kitchen. I always keep an eye out for a good cookbook from each country, preferably with instructions in English but with a glossary (or at least the names of dishes/ingredients in the language of the place) and detailed photos.
>> Looking to plan your own trip soon? Check out my Destination Guides for food-themed travel tips for places that I’ve been and my photo galleries for pictures and inspiration for your own travels. For general travel tips, start here.