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How Food Enhances Travel In The Places We Go

An old adage says that you don’t really know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. We believe it is just as true that you don’t really know a place until you eat a plate of its food.

There is so much more to visiting a destination than seeing the sights. We try to immerse ourselves.

The folks in Sardinia consider donkey a national meat.

Staying away from the tourist centers, riding public transportation, seeing day-to-day life, meeting and talking to people, and sampling local delicacies, all provide a better understanding of local life when exploring a new neck of the woods.

WATCH: We found the dumplings (in all their forms) to be delicious in the Czech Republic – and the street food, ohhhh the street food.

Food may be the best way to experience the idiosyncrasies of an area and its culture. The culinary peculiarities of a place usually have roots dating back centuries, and stem from rituals and mores that help to define a people.

WATCH: Sometimes we’re lucky enough to go directly the place of invention, as we did with bouillabaisse in France.

Recipes and dishes get passed down for generations, and reflect traditions that have become an integral part of the society. Often their stories have been woven into the fabric of family celebrations, religious observances and holiday gatherings, and can make a region stand out from the surrounding areas.

WATCH: Veronica orders blindly off of a menu in Austria and ends up with heart and lung stew!

Poutine In Canada

The ingredients usually have a tale to tell too, providing insight into the history of a population, whether from long-held practice or new-found availability.

What may strike a visitor as odd is perfectly normal to the locals, like donkey in Sardinia, massive amounts of meat in Argentina featuring parts of a cow you’d never think of eating, or Poutine in Canada.

WATCH: Eating “weird” meat at a parrilla in Buenos Aires

Even though fast food has not permeated Europe down to the village level, in Italy, the epicurean center of the universe, golden arches have popped up alongside some of the ancient ones in urban centers. But traveling a little off the beaten path has the power to overcome that.

WATCH: In Casale Monferrato, Italy, food is considered art

Sadly, in the United States, as our world grows smaller a great deal of the diversity is being homogenized out of our modern lives. We live in a world where we are never very far from the nearest mass produced, packaged value meal. Certainly every exit off of our superhighways is starting to look the same.

Though they are becoming less and less common, real regional restaurants can still be found across America. These authentic eateries serve up specialties outsiders have often never heard of. But just because something seems strange to us, doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.

WATCH: We were initially introduced to the Gullah People of the Sea Islands of South Carolina via food.

Fiery Hot Quahog, beachside in Newport Rhode Island

We certainly found that to be true of the Fiery Hot Quahog beachside in Rhode Island, the boudin in Louisiana, the Rocky Mountain Oysters in Montana, or Fat Balls in Holland… Michigan that is.

We can’t say that all of these have become new favorites for us, but we certainly can say we are glad we tried them, and felt closer to the places where we did.

Join the conversation in our Manopause Community Forum and tell us about some of the interesting and foods you’ve had while traveling and why you think food enhances travel!

About The Author

Gypsy Nesters

Gypsy Nesters

David and Veronica James have spent the last thirty eight years together, ever since a boy from the heartland met a Valley girl on the west coast and took off to Nashville for a wild ride through parenthood and the music business. After sending three kids out into the big wide world they set out to find it for themselves, selling everything and taking off in a beat up old motorhome. Along the way they accidentally created the top travel blog GypsyNester.com and authored the book Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All (Skyhorse 2015). In the past ten years they have visited and written about fifty seven countries on six continents. They have no plans to slow down.
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