Have we gone too far with adventurous food tourism?
By LAURETTA WRIGHT of www.HomeandHorizon.com
One of the great things about travelling is the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. And hand in hand with this comes eating local cuisine and delicacies.
I’ve never been the most adventurous with food and this has caused me to face some awkward moments on my travels; the most recent of which was on a press trip to Las Vegas. We stayed in the best luxury hotels; experienced the top night spots; and dined in the most exclusive restaurants. Unfortunately, as a ‘burger and chips’ kinda girl, the posh nosh is a little wasted on me.
So when the general manager of one of the most revered hotels on the strip took us journalists to an exclusive restaurant (more suited to the Alec Baldwins of this world than the Lauretta Wrights), and presented us all with a huge dish of French frog legs, I could have cried.
I kept my composure and decided instead to hedge my bets on avoiding being spotted not eating the delicacy, which had been placed in the middle of the table as if to say ‘this is the centre piece and you are privileged to even look at me, let alone taste me’.
But I got caught: “Go on Lauretta, have a taste of the legs, they’re delicious.” “Mmmh…” I said rather a little hurried, “I’m just eating these sautéed mushrooms at the moment, they’re really moreish…”
But my failure to steer the conversation soon became apparent. “Haven’t you tried the frogs yet? They taste just like chicken – Lauretta, you’ll love them.”
Sometimes I think us Brits are a bit thick. I had made up my third excuse for not trying the legs, yet still they persisted. Why don’t they focus on eating their own grub and leave me to it?
I gave up. “Look!” I exclaimed, very exasperated by now. “I had a really, really bad experience with frogs legs once. I ended up ill in bed for days with it coming out of both ends, and since then I’ve vowed never to touch them again.”
This was a lie of course, but it did the trick in shutting everyone up. I get the feeling I went a little OTT with my explanation though; the PR who was accompanying us wasn’t impressed that the general manager seemed put off his dinner following my outburst and kept shooting me dagger eyes across the table. C’est La Vie…
I may be one of few who is a little guarded when it comes to putting strange animal parts in my body. Just a cursory glance online reveals stories of travellers sampling anything from a pig’s head jelly in Prague to chicken feet in East Asia.
Even TV shows are jumping on the gastronomy bandwagon and fuelling the trend with programmes like ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, daring people to eat things like kangaroo testicles. I mean, really? I’d rather crawl over broken glass…
But despite the increasingly adventurous streak that more people are seeking when it comes to gastronomy, there’s something that most of us agree on: latest research undertaken by momondo (which questioned 1,000 Brits), revealed that good food was one of the most important ingredients for a happy holiday, with Italy being cited as the greatest gastronomic nation (31% of Brits voted it the best worldwide country for food).
Following in joint second were Spain and France, yet only 4% of Brits voted Germany a grand gourmet destination, with just 1% of Brits voting for other nations Norway, Sweden and Russia.
With our capital London boasting some 65 Michelin-starred restaurants however, it appears we Brits still commend our own cooking at home. The UK claimed 29% votes from Brits (not far behind Italy), as offering the best food worldwide. I’m not sure I’d be among that 29% myself, but I’d still rather know what I’m putting in my mouth than play ‘guess the meat’ game.
And it seems that operators are capitalising on the rise of the foodie holidaymaker, with a whole host of gastronomy options available – from city walking tours to eating with local tribes or enjoying home-cooked meals in the company of locals.
For example, Explore’s Cycle Vietnam tour is new this year and is ideal for foodies with a sense of adventure. The tour takes guests off-the-beaten-track where they will eat with the locals and learn about their unique cultures and traditions.
Guests will enjoy home cooked dinners, try fresh Vietnamese coffee at a coffee processing plant and be tempted with all manners of noodles, snacks and stir fried delights by food sellers in Hanoi.
It all sounds great! However, it seems our liking for unusual delicacies hasn’t gone unnoticed, as also on the menu is the chance to sample a traditional Vietnamese meal of grilled ostrich in bamboo, crocodile with chilli and lemon grass and even snake-head fish.
This doesn’t leave me with much choice; the only advantage I can see on taking this kind of holiday is the weight loss I’d undoubtedly see.
But instead, I’ve decided to save up £1,500 for a nice little foodie tour from RealWorld Holidays that has my name written all over it: a Chocoholic Tour of Ecuador to discover some of the highest quality chocolate in the world.
Kit Kat anyone?