5 Reasons Why Food is Important to the Travel Experience

What is the one thing that every trip, every traveler, every destination has in common? Food! We celebrate with food, we mourn with food, we get together over food (or coffee) we make food, we order food, we look for food when we’re out and about. But depending on where you are in the world, your food options will be very different. Here are five reasons why food is an important part of the travel experience, no matter where you’re from, where you’ve been, or where you go.

Because We All Have to Eat

It’s true! Anywhere in the world you go, you’ll need to eat while you’re there. Going out to eat in Spain is usually a late-night, all-night affair. A meal in Hawai’i will almost certainly be made fresh, with local ingredients. You can get pretty much any kind of food you want, at any time of day or night in New York City. Ordering coffee in Italy must be done the right way. Dinnertime in Japan is a ceremony and a process that will teach you how to appreciate your food in a whole new way!

We all have to eat, but the experience could be more different than you might imagine!

Ordering and drinking coffee in Italy is a totally different experience than in the United States!
Also a process: How to Have Proper Afternoon Tea in London

Because Food History is Cultural History

Why are potatoes such a big deal in Ireland? Because they saved the Irish from famine. Why is Spam a Hawai’ian staple? Because the GIs stationed in the islands during World War II basically lived on the stuff, and it made its way into Hawai’ian cultural favorites. Why are corn tortillas such a popular Mexican item? Because the Mayans and Aztecs have been growing corn (and making tortillas) for thousands of years. It’s tradition!

Alternatively, practically every culture has some form of a dumpling, but they’re all a little different: Pierogis in Poland, mandu in South Korea, gyoza in Japan, aushak and mantu in Afghanistan. Unfilled dumplings can be enjoyed as spaetzl in Germany or [chicken and] dumplings in the American South! You get the picture. Next time you research a new place, find out what food is historical or culturally significant, then find out why and where to try it!

Hawai’ian Spam Musubi, anyone?
More here: How to Embrace Cultural Differences

Because Different Places Have Different Food

Countries with access to coastlines have seafood. Countries with land but little water have beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Plants grow everywhere, but not the same ones! Japanese sweet potatoes are purple on the outside and yellow on the inside, whereas in the United States, sweet potatoes are brown or reddish on the outside and orange on the inside!

In Europe, bread and pasta rule the plate. In most Asian and Middle Eastern countries, it’s rice instead. If you’re dining in India, you may find yourself eating largely vegetarian. But in Brazil, it’s steak that’s the star. A country’s culture, climate, and values directly impact their traditional and available foods.

It’s a good thing I love both fish and rice. Otherwise, I would have had a hard time enjoying lunch while living in Japan!
Keep reading: The Most Exotic Foods in the World

Because Not Everything Has to Be Cooked or Prepared the Same Way You Would Do It

In many Asian countries, bread isn’t baked, it’s steamed! In Turkey, meat is often cooked on a vertical spit, instead of a horizontal spit like much of the Western world uses. Cured meats are very popular in Western European countries, but in the United States, it’s more common to find fried foods on the menu. Think an oven always has to be powered by gas or electricity aboveground? Many countries in Polynesia, the Middle East, and Central America have used underground ovens to bake or cook for centuries!

Traveling gives us a new perspective on so many things, as well as challenges the way we think food is “supposed to” be prepared!

In Turkey, these clay pots contained veggies and meat that had been slow-cooked underground all day!
Also outside the box: The Most Interesting Ways We Got Creative on Travel

Because It Brings Us All Together

No matter where you are in the world, meal time is often a social occasion. Food is a way to show love. And for locals everywhere, homemade food is something to be shared. When I visited friends (with a large family!) in Qatar, it seemed like the matriarch was always cooking, and everyone wanted to make sure I tried all the food! I kept thinking how similar it was to every holiday in the American South… Only it was every day, not just for holidays!

Even the presentations were special
Speaking of togetherness: How to Plan Travel for a Group (and still like each other when it’s over!)

Want more? Keep eating on my dedicated World Foods Page!

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