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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Eating Local VS Eating Familiar

I want to talk about food. Specifically eating on vacation, because I honestly get excited over all the new restaurants and food to eat in new places. Apparently, this is rare. I don't want to eat at chains that I can eat at at home. I'm  not planning to eat at Pizza Hut or Burger King. I guess I'm in the minority of Americans, and I don't understand it at all.

To me, the best part of travel (besides seeing new places) is all the delicious, weird and wonderful foods I get to eat. I will plan full days around food and I'll ask for recommendations before I leave and when I arrive. I want to eat where the locals eat and I want to eat things I've never heard of, even if they sound gross. My one rule about food is this: I have to try something twice. It may have been ill-prepared the first time if I didn't like it. If I still don't like it after the second time, then I can claim that I actually don't like it. 

I read this article a few weeks ago, and the gist of it is that approximately 60% of Americans don't try the local food when they travel! In fact, they go out of their way to eat only at American restaurants and chains like McDonalds and KFC.  


So, I decided to do my own poll among people I know who travel and eat food and 95% of them felt the same as I did, but knew people who actively went out of their way to eat only familiar food. 

Why eat local? I asked and my friends delivered with these reasons they eat local when they travel:

This is sad. I'm the total opposite, but my partner and I are both culinary professionals, so we have a huge appreciation for food, especially regional. We will literally plan vacations around food.

One of the first things I do when travelling is find out where the locals dine, and try it out!

I’m pretty picky, but I love trying local food when I travel. Though my main interest is pastry and candy. And one of my favorite things is to go to local grocery stores. When I have visited my sister in the various places she has lived, we have made a point to go to all the different chains.

Oh, this is sad! Part of the joy of new places is trying new foods! I haven't loved everything (looking at you, fishballs in china town) but I dream of some of the delicious things I've eaten. Food is part of the heart of a place.

As long as I can communicate that I have a soy and almond allergy I will 100% try any local cuisine!

[F]ood is one of the first things that comes to mind and gets researched when travel planning starts! I hope this isn't really accurate!

My family literally plans vacations and trips around food. Even within the states, we prefer to eat at small local places rather than chains.We went on a trip to Spain...I asked the front desk person at our hotel where her favorite place to eat was, and we went there.

I've only traveled with tour groups, and they always had us eat local. But when I finally do get to plan my own trip, I'll still eat local. Not only are you experiencing something new, it's usually cheaper.

That's my favorite part of vacation. We went to a different part of our state and made sure to try new things even there!

That is WHY I travel! To eat the local food!

I have a very strong memory for food. Eating new and interesting foods is my way of getting to know (and then remembering) the places I've been.

I eat local when I can, and my husband is always great for asking "what's good in the area". I haven't traveled outside the US, though. However, I'm in love with the idea of traveling in parts of Asia just to try the different street foods.

My husband is a pilot and flies to the Caribbean a lot. He will always go out to the little hole in the walk restaurants in Jamaica, Aruba, etc, and get the local food.

When I went to Beijing, we were only there for 1 night. Our host (my friend's Mum) took us to Pizza Hut. It was incredibly sweet of her to try and accommodate what she thought we would want, but I was so sad that we didn't get to try the local food! Food is absolutely the best part of travel for me.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once, and I thought I was in heaven trying all that food...

So, those are the good responses that make me feel like I'm not crazy and must be a big portion of the 40% of people that love to eat when they travel and love to try new things. Even the person who has food allergies is excited for new dishes. I had very few people respond who personally didn't enjoy eating local, but also some of these people had more to say about their family and friends:

Traveling with my kids is tricky. My youngest is very particular and has anxiety about ordering at restaurants he’s never been to. He even has anxiety at restaurants we go to regularly. We try to find local places that have food options he is comfortable with. My older 2 are more adventurous. We always try to stay somewhere with a kitchen because I love hitting up local markets. All of the kids love trying new snacks and candy. I figure if I let my youngest be adventurous on his own terms he will eventually work past some of his anxiety. Maybe. Hopefully.

For me, it really depends on who I am traveling with.[...] My boys are a very different story. Trying something new is like pulling teeth. When they are with me, the best I can usually do is making them eat at a restaurant that is not available in Montana. Then they usually eat a burger or chicken strips. At least I get to try something a little different. 

Traveling with kids is hard. You sort of have to attempt to get them to try new things at home, so they're used to it when you travel, though some kids don't ever get excited for new food and others have other issues entirely. An idea that might make everyone happy is to rent a place with a kitchen and make something for those that refuse to eat something new and get takeaway for the rest of your party, then you can all eat together at "home".

I do try some local foods but I mostly stay to what I like or feel comfortable with. I already know pretty much what i like and don't like. And I mainly travel to see unique places than anything else. I'm not saying that I wont try anything but it's not my main focus.

I am not an adventurous eater. I eat beef, pork, potatoes, peanut butter, and sometimes rice. So if I were to travel outside the U. S. my suitcase would have 2 extra sets of clothes and the rest would be peanut butter so I didn’t starve to death. I don’t eat fruit of any kind I never have[...]

I have so many questions for this person. I know someone who basically only likes meat and potatoes and I have traveled with another person who doesn't really eat vegetables. I don't really understand at all, though, because I will try anything and I love fruits and veggies and learning about new ones and even new ways to prepare the ones I can get at home.

Before a recent vacation to Cozumel, my sister asked for restaurant suggestions in the area. One woman very excitedly said Jimmy Buffet’s was the best food she’d had on the island.

I've been to Cozumel. If she thinks that Jimmy Buffet's is the best food on the island, she may have had too many margaritas. LOL!

[...]we do accommodate the kids for at least one meal and go to Olive Garden. But I saw this a lot when I lived overseas with with military in Germany. We went on a trip to Spain, and most of our group was so excited there was a McDonald's.

There are, literally, McDonalds all over the world. While most get locally-sourced ingredients rather than mass produced stuff from a factory farm, and their food is fresher, it's still basically like eating at home.

I lived in Japan for a while and would love to take a family trip there, but I'm worried that all my husband and son would eat would be convenience store food and American chain restaurants! 

This is a case where I would definitely be eating meals on my own.

When I went to DC for a teacher union trip, the group I was with went to Applebee’s for the first night. Our hotel was just blocks from china town, and a Cuban restaurant, and tapas, and a pho place. And they went with Applebee’s.

I worked at a restaurant adjacent to a Copenhagen tourist attraction, and I can't tell you how many Americans just ordered the club sandwich. I was so sad for them. 

If I go to a place where there are a bunch of cool things on the menu that I have never eaten, I ask the wait staff for recommendations. Asking "what's your favorite thing to eat here?" has gotten me so many de-lic-ious meals on vacation.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once[...]one of the couples actually took a day off in the middle so they could go into the nearest town for Burger King?!?

My hubby's family[...]insist on only eating at American chain restaurants....even in fabulous food destinations like Tuscany!

I don't have words for these people. If I'm traveling for a long time, I might seek out something that reminiscent of home, but not my whole trip. Hard Rock Cafe is a favorite, because they serve giant drinks with ice, which can be hard to find places, but they also have a small menu of local foods that you can only get at that HRC. Aside from a visit there, or ordering something "American" on a menu at a local place just to see how they interpret our food, I research where to eat before I travel. 

I will ask hotel staff and people on the street and Uber drivers what their favorites are. Walking is also a wonderful way to find hidden gems. Places with lines are almost always going to be a home run. I also look for tiny cafes with sandwich chalkboards out front, because you know their specials change with what's available for the season. 

As noted, eating local can save you money, too. Even nicer restaurants can be cheaper than American chain restaurants, because they don't have to ship the food in. It comes from farms much nearer to your destination, which means it's both economical and fresh. You're also helping the locals more by dining there, whether it's a nice sit-down place or a food truck. 

Tell me how you feel about your travel style when it comes to food. If you don't eat local foods, tell us why, because I really want to understand that point of view. 

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