World Food Culture and Tradition
In all cultural traditions, food is only one aspect but yet it is probably one of the most persistent. There is no cultural group and no individual for whom at least one specific food – the memory, taste, or smell of which – does not evoke a pang of loving nostalgia. Food plays an inextricable role in our daily lives. Without food we cannot survive. But food is much more than a tool of survival. Food is a source of pleasure, comfort and security. Food is also a symbol of hospitality, social status, and religious significance. What we select to eat, how we prepare it, serve it, and even how we eat it are all factors profoundly touched by our individual cultural inheritance.
Peoples of differing cultures inhibit most countries of the world. The human habit of migrating is as old as the history of humans. It is accepted that people move from place to place for reasons of religious or political freedom, for personal and family security, for a sense of adventure. What is often overlooked is something more basic; many peoples of the world have migrated to find food. Historically, this has frequently resulted in the necessity of relinquishing customary tastes according to what foods, seasonings, and even cooking methods are available to them in the new location. Finding new foods and new sources of foods and seasonings also motivated many adventurers and explorers and swelled the economy of countries.
Because of the centrality of food in our lives, many cults and religions impose feast days and fast days, and may list acceptable and prohibited foods. Special occasions, from funerals to weddings, from festivals and fairs to political holidays and religious celebrations – all of these would diminish in pleasure and importance if food were not a consideration. Various foods are given symbolic and even transformative connotations, and there is still no shortage of publications promising that a “magic food” will alleviate pain, increase sexual function, and promise almost everything but life after death. The ability to control one’s appetite, in many aspects of life, but especially regarding food, may also be indicative of social status, and more recently is seen as critical for health and longevity.
Even a cursory glance at diets around the world reveals the strange fact that people do not only eat what is available, they eat only what they consider to be edible. What is considered a delicacy in one area and by one group may be considered an abomination by others. Sheep’s brain and eyeballs, frog’s legs, hot tea with fermented yak butter, or animal blood are not considered to be universal foods – nor are insects, but they are relished by some people. Further, eating foods with one’s fingers may be considered ill mannered by some, while others may consider eating with a knife and fork barbaric.
Increasingly, awareness of the food traditions, and indeed the incredible variety of herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables, the countless enticing ways of food preparation and food service have enriched our individual food horizons and expanded our views of what constitutes a healthy diet. After all, healthy survival is not the possession of any one group.
Increasingly, too, it is becoming obvious that an understanding of many aspects of the cultures of others, including their food traditions, is indispensable in any human communication. This is true not only for professionals in the fields of education, medicine, social work, public health and nutrition, commercial food services, but is clearly recognized today in the global marketplace.
Direct Links to Different Food making details ,
Do you ever find that the smell of local foods is one of your strongest travel memories?
When I think of South Africa I smell grilled BBQ, with Naples I smell pizza crust and in France freshly-baked croissants from the boulangerie down the street. Bangkok? Durian, I’m afraid…
I find that food is one of the best ways to experience a culture, and food tourism, which is also called culinary travel or tourism, is a growing travel trend – and even passion.
Food tourism: how to combine food and travel
When I’m preparing a food-related trip (most of my trips are food-related to some extent) these are some of the things I do beforehand to make sure I have the most delectable experience possible:
- Buy a few cookbooks and try cooking a few dishes to get a feel for the ingredients (fun, necessary, but not always successful, see photo below).
- Closely related to the above point, plan to learn to cook. I’ve taken a cooking class in Tuscany and in Bangkok and loved every minute. You’ll find private and group classes, lasting from several hours to weeks, in proper culinary institutes or in hotels, restaurants and even in people’s homes. And yes, my cooking has improved.
- Read up about the cuisine and its history, or read novels that deal heavily with local foods. The Lonely Planet World Food books used to be great but they haven’t been updated in years. Instead I’d recommend Jodi Ettenberg’s Food Traveler’s Handbook.
- Explore the specialties. Whether it’s tapas or tartiflette, every destination has at least one culinary specialty you should try. Sometimes it’s a stretch, like tripe or insects (but perhaps you’re braver than I am…)
- Learn about different kinds of cuisine – molecular gastronomy, for example, where food is deconstructed and reconstructed, or stacked food, or barbecue. How you cook something is at least as important as what you eat.
- Look for special events. Some restaurants offer an evening with their celebrity chef or a session visiting their kitchen. If a high-end restaurant is beyond your budget, plan for it as a one-time luxury.
I love cooking (despite the occasional accident) but a major part of any travel adventure is eating wonderful foods I haven’t cooked myself.
The advent of celebrity chefs and online food sites, the proliferation of cooking shows and the Food Network and the popularity of the likes of Anthony Bourdain all help promote the discovery of new foods, making culinary travel more popular than ever.
The 2016 Food Travel Monitor (a global study by the World Food Travel Association – here’s their Facebook page) says an unbelievable 95% of American travelers are interested “in some kind of unique food experience”. I can only believe that the figure is at least that high for travelers from other countries.
The search is on for new experiences, especially for something that tastes like a true slice of local culture. And what can be closer to a culture than the way it eats?
So… is Chinese food in Shanghai the same as you know it at home? Is your ‘authentic’ Thai corner eatery really authentic? Food tourism or travel will answer those questions.
Culinary Tourism includes culinary experiences of all kinds. It’s much more than dining guides and restaurant weeks. It encompasses cooking schools, cookbook and kitchen gadget stores, culinary tours and tour leaders, culinary media and guidebooks, caterers, wineries, breweries, distilleries, food growers and manufacturers, culinary attractions and more. Authenticity is also of critical importance to culinary tourists.
– International Culinary Tourism Association
What are the best culinary tourism destinations?
Every destination has its own specialities, many of them great.
Given the impossibility of listing them all, I’ve highlighted a few of my own favorites, just to make you hungry (and myself in the process).
Culinary experiences don’t only happen in restaurants
One of the most common foodie finds will be a restaurant – big or small, modest or luxurious, street stall or in luxurious surroundings.
Whether you’re experiencing Noma for the first time (I haven’t) or chasing the best burger in the city (the In and Out in Los Angeles), eating in a restaurant is a central part of food tourism.
Central, yes, but not the only culinary tourism event.
A great experience is to dine with locals. Plenty of organizations are popping up in cities around the world to match up travelers with locals. Not only do you get to taste home-cooked food but you’ll also experience a slice of local culture. And meet people.
Street food can be extraordinary. In Thailand and Mexico, I’ll eat street food over restaurant food anytime – I just find it more varied, tastier and fresher.
You can visit a market, many of which provide far more than produce. The Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, for example, is designed around an eating experience, tapas and all.
And while we’re on the subject of Spain, you can also eat in a bar – that’s usually where you have tapas, just like in the UK you can eat in a pub.
One activity I enjoy when I travel is visiting the local supermarket. Foods are often different and I’ll get ideas – and inspiration. Just step into a supermarket in Japan and you’ll immediately understand what I mean.
A local supermarket or small grocery store is also the best place to grab some local cheese, cold cuts and spreads for that all-important picnic along the Seine in Paris…
Tips for a great food tourism experience
With the growing popularity of culinary tourism, be cautious about the quality of what you get. As with everything else, popularity may breed contempt.
Try to fit in one tour guided by a local. There are many wonderful tours and classes led by expats or long-term residents (I thoroughly enjoyed this food tour of the Lower East Side in New York), but travel is also about coming into contact with the local culture so don’t let that dimension pass you by.
Look for variety in a food tour, course or experience. This Istanbul food tour had me sample more than two dozen dishes over two continents. Viator has plenty of food tours in just about any city if you’re hungry!
Don’t just be an onlooker. I’ve attended classes where one student stood at the front preparing everything while the others watched. You need to get your own hands wet and taste your own meal if you’re ever going to understand exactly what went into preparing it.
Try different courses. Some places are known for starters – tapas and mezze for example – while others are known for stews or desserts. Focus each meal on a different part of the meal each time.
Avoid asking for ingredient changes unless you’re truly allergic or despise something – especially in places where you know the chef pours her heart into her art. Each ingredient has its place and it’s the package that makes the experience a marvellously balanced one.
Reserve or at least call ahead – especially if you have your heart set on eating in a specific place. I’ve at times been disappointed to find a place full, closed or otherwise unavailable. Your hotel desk can make the call if you don’t speak the language!
Remember that food tourism includes drinks. Wine, of course, but I’m thinking chocolate con churros in Spain or Turkish coffee, as specialized as the food.
Check for cleanliness because standards differ. If things are a little messier than you’re used to, that doesn’t mean you’re facing a health emergency. Still, keep an eye on hygiene.
Don’t be afraid of street food. If it’s cooked freshly, cleanly, at high heat right in front of you, it will be as safe as anything else you eat, possibly even safer than hotel food that may have skipped a link in the food chain.
Beware the much-translated menu. This isn’t always the case but I’ve found that a menu translated into a dozen languages screams ‘tourist place’ – and I know they’re not all bad but I’d rather eat where mostly locals go.
Buy a local cookbook before you leave (for yourself or as a gift), along with a few special spices or condiments. Wrap these well in foil and plastic or your closes may smell of coriander for weeks (and you’ll get the airport sniffy dogs all excited).
– See more at: http://www.women-on-the-road.com/food-tourism.html#sthash.slIvqGz1.dpuf