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Travelling as a foodie

It’s summer (well in SOME parts of the world it is. It’s kinda summer where I am at the moment).  Lots of you are on the road right now (as am I) so we thought we’d offer you some tips for feeding your foodie appetite wherever you are.

For those of you who follow my blog, eat. live. travel. write. you’ll know that I travel a fair bit. And that most places I travel, I take lots of photos of the food. But my love of travel and food goes beyond just taking pretty pictures of the different foods I discover.  For me, there’s no better way to learn about a different culture than learning about the way the people eat and how to cook some typical dishes.  And of course, these experience lend themselves to wonderful blog posts – there’s nothing readers love more than living vicariously through someone travelling.

Cooking classes

One of the best ways to learn about the food of a new country is to take a cooking class.  I took my first “on location” cooking class in Luang Prabang in Laos just 3 years ago and since then I have been hooked. One of the first thing I do after I’ve booked tickets to a new place (and sometimes even before I have booked accommodation!) is to Google “cooking classes XYZ city”.

Learning how to make mole with Chef Alonso Hernández at Mesones Sacristia in Puebla

I tend to be a hands-on and very visual learner so a cooking class is a great way for me to understand a little about the culture in a short amount of time.

Learning typical Thai dishes with Tam at the Amita Thai Cooking School, Bangkok.

Food markets and supermarkets

If a cooking class doesn’t suit your time or budget constraints, don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to experience the local foods.  Something else I ALWAYS Google is local farmers’ markets.  In smaller towns they tend to be on particular days, so Neil and I often plan our holidays around the market timetable.

Peaches at the Saturday morning market in Nerac, France

Another place we always make sure we take a look at is a local supermarket.  In fact, on a recent trip to Bangkok, we left one of the fancy shopping malls, bored out of our minds, and headed to the supermarket we’d spied across the road from our hotel. TWO HOURS later, we emerged, having thoroughly inspected everything and snagged a couple of souvenirs…

Admit it – you would have bought these in Bangkok too!

And while you are at the market or in the supermarket, take a look around you. Check out what other people are buying. It’s a fascinating insight into the way other cultures eat.

Recipe books and magazines

While you’re at the supermarket (or in the bookstore if you come across one), see if you can find some recipe books or cooking magazines. If you’ve been inspired to bring your vacation home in the form of recreating dishes you’ve enjoyed, this is what you’ll need to help you out.

Recipe book I picked up after a trip to Burgundy

If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting, don’t panic – you’ll often find recipe books in museum gift stores or souvenir stores.  If, like us, you like to host a dinner party when you return from a trip to share your experiences, it’s fun to serve a menu of the foods you enjoyed – that way your guests can experience your trip through your words AND your food!

Walking tours

A new-ish concept that I have noticed becoming more popular over the last few years is the idea of food-related walking tours.

Visiting Pierre Hermé on the Context Paris Chocolate Walk

From market tours where you visit a local market with a chef, purchase ingredients for and cook your own lunch (under the chef’s guidance) to walking tours with a  specific focus, in more and more cities across the world, you’ll find such offerings.  If you’ve got limited time in a city, Id recommend seeking one of these types of tours out – even if you are an independent traveller and proud of it, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else do the organising for you!  Google is your friend again “Food tours XYZ city” ;)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of way to feed your appetite for new food experiences when you travel but I hope it’s given you some ideas and a different perspective on ways to approach a new-to-you city or country. Learn about the food. You (and your readers) won’t regret it!

Written by Mardi Michels: Full time French teacher to elementary school boys. Writer and photographer. Cook. Baker. Traveller. Food Network Canada contributor. Food Bloggers of Canada co-founder.

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2 Responses to Travelling as a foodie

  1. Marie July 18, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I agree with all your tips Mardi! Visiting local supermarkets is just as important to me as visiting museums. And the walking tour I had in Rome was one of the best experiences I ever had in Italy! They are definitely worth hunting for and even better if you can book then in very small groups so you have lots of time to chat with the guide.

  2. Kelly July 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Thanks for the tips Mardi! I have often bought cookbooks, either for myself or my Mom (I come by my cook book addiction honestly!). I especially like your cooking class tip.

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