Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

The importance of travel


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
76 replies to this topic

#31 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 04:04 AM

I think you've pegged one critical reason, Wendy, and that is the expense. 


Although as others have mentioned, it can often be cheaper to go abroad (especially during low seasons) than travel domestically.

Another reason I believe Americans don't travel abroad much is that they are intimidated by all the strangeness.  It may be old hat to many here to land at CDG and find our way around Paris, but that ain't the case for most Americans.

My first trip to Paris was on business and I was scared to death.  I bought books, I tried to get francs from a local bank, I studied maps.  I think we tend to forget how scarey it can be going someplace REALLY FAR FAR away where most people don't speak English.


I think this is closer to why many people don't travel much, even outside their own state or province. Many people are creatures of habit--they like what they know and what they're comfortable with. Not everyone needs the excitement, adventure, stress, etc. of travelling to an unfamiliar place. However, I've always believed that in order to know your own country, you must experience other countries, as well. Just as in order to know and understand your own culture, you must experience other cultures. But then again, not everyone really cares about that kind of stuff.

After many years of travel experience I went on business to London with a young coworker.  He was brave but uncomfortable on the trip.  The first thing he wanted to do in London was eat at McDonald's.  Fending off the strangeness was important to him.  For dinner, our group went for pizza so he would feel comfortable and could still wear his jeans.

I also think the self contained resorts like Cancun are successful in part because they insulate the guests from having to deal with the strange country.

View Post


As James Michener said

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.


But again, different people travel for different reasons. Those who go to places like Cancun (or resorts in the DR, Cuba, etc.) often just want to get away and relax. They're not interested in learning about another culture or food. And often, they just like being able to say, "I went to so-and-so" because it makes them sound somewhat important. Different strokes for different folks...

#32 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 05:42 AM

One major reason for moving from Australia to the Uk was the ease of travel to Europe from the UK. I have many great big fat books on "The regional cooking of X" and while these books are good and the restuarants that aim to serve the cuisine of X back in Australia or the UK give some impression of what the cuisine of X is about, the experience of eating in X is completely different.

How many "Tuscan" cookbooks have I seen (dozens?), yet very few of these actually resemble what I see at the markets or in the restaurants. I'm not sure how this relates to dining, but it certainly effects the way I make a choice about where I eat now.

#33 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:10 AM

I do believe, firmly, that the main reason holding back Americans from foreign travel is money. That's not to say that it would be impossible for the average working guy and gal to save up and go anyway, but for many of them, just working paycheck to paycheck, the thought of "blowing" (which is how they would see such an unnecessary expense) a minimum of a thousand bucks per person (and in reality probably much more) on foreign travel is simply out of the question.

Places like Cancun may indeed seem more "familiar," but they are also easily do-able for most US citizens for $500 and under, including a 2-4 hour charter flight and three nights hotel. And you're right that the average American heading for Cancun or an all-inclusive in the Caribbean is probably not interested in the food.

But --

Almost without exception, when you ask "just folks" what their dreams are, what they'd do if they won the lottery, what they plan to do when they retire, the number one answer is "travel."

And, it's usually to Europe. Contrary to what most of you seem to believe, Europe holds no fear for the average US citizen (although that's the least flattering, and therefore most attractive, possible reason because we seem to love putting ourselves down). However, the truth is that most Americans tend to see much of Europe as an older, prettier, more historic and interesting version of the US and quite likely, the country of the origin of their forefathers. Believe me, folks, barging the canals of the UK, for example, is just not intimidating, even to Mr. & Mrs. Johnson of Ames, Iowa. And neither is Australia, or New Zealand, all very high up on the average non-traveling American's wish list.

It's true that the average US citizen does not pine to begin their travels with a couple of weeks exploring the back alleys and food stalls of Hong Kong, or skiing in Japan, or backpacking the Himalayas, or trekking through big ape country in Africa.

But having spent eighteen years in the travel industy, I absolutely, positively guarantee you that when discretionary income skyrockets dramatically, and the house and schooling and furniture and cars and kids and hospital bills and other responsibilities, obligations and necessities are taken care of, even Mr. & Mrs. American-As-Apple-Pie-Never-Seen-The-Ocean pack their suitcases and head for the airport.

And are damn glad to be doing it.

And it isn't because they've suddenly conquered their "fears."

Edited by Jaymes, 30 September 2005 - 06:36 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."

#34 Wendy DeBord

Wendy DeBord
  • legacy participant
  • 3,653 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:31 AM

I'm not sure it's the strangeness that stops middle America.........I'd call it fear. We live plugged into our TV's, what we know, we learned on tv. We've become so insolated by our fears we're close to being paralized.

If you noticed Chicago wasn't on that list of citys with people holding alot of pass ports. Granted we do have a segment of weathly people who do hold passports and do travel extensively..........but when you step down into middle class America I'd have a struggle if I wanted to find a person in my area that had a passport. I don't know one person who does.

We struggle, literally everyday to travel back and forth from our jobs on roads not meant to handle the volume they currently do. We unwind infront of the tv that shows us how every country in the world hates us. We've become shell shocked by 9/11 and huricanes waiting for something to happen to our little neighborhood. Right now, no one is spending their extra pennies..........we're sure that rainy day is coming soon. And with predicted heating bills being triple last years, it looks like this winter going to rain hard.

I get a couple days off work, my house needs attention, I'm tired, I don't want to put alot of effort into a vacation. I don't want to learn something new, I just want to experience something new.

From Chicagoland going to either coast or down south is like going to another country. We can experience completely different foods, customs and scenery right in our own backyard.

There aren't alot of travel shows on tv. The ones there are, are so focused on high end travel middle Americans don't even bother to day dream on that. They want to watch something obtainable for them. There aren't positive interesting stories of peoples lives in other countries floating on the screen of my tv. I'm personally excited by the presence of foodtv and peoples awakening to food as a art/craft/skill and the people making food as more then unskilled blue collar workers. If the media's angle on travel and it's constant fear mongering ever ends, then maybe middle class America will travel abroad.

#35 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:45 AM

I'm not sure it's the strangeness that stops middle America.........I'd call it fear. We live plugged into our TV's, what we know, we learned on tv. We've become so insolated by our fears we're close to being paralized.


Sorry folks, but I just don't buy it. If dad's a cop and mom's a nurse and you've got three kids, what would YOU choose -- $5000 and you leave the kids in Des Moines and head to Paris for a week?

Or putting that money into the children's college fund and trying to pay off the back end of your mortgage?

And maybe hope that if you save up, you can all go to Disney next summer.

Edited by Jaymes, 30 September 2005 - 06:48 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."

#36 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:50 AM

I'm not sure that the relative lack of Americans that travel has much to do with money or geographic realities.

If anything it would be more difficult for the average middle-class Australian to travel overseas verse the equivalent American.

These are the stats (Australia's population is ~ 20 million).

Autralian departures overseas for April 2005 seasonally adjusted is 460,400 (AusStats 3401.0 http://www.abs.gov.au)

American departures overseas for April 2005 (excluding Mexico and Canada) 2,128,387 (U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism).

So just on a per capita basis the amount of Americans travelling is much less.

I have trouble believing the the American standard of living is that much lower then in Australia, so I can only conclude that most Americans that have the resources to travel, just have no interest in travelling outwith the States, in comparison to the average Australian.

#37 Jean Blanchard

Jean Blanchard
  • participating member
  • 434 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:53 AM

Speaking as a person "getting closer to retirement" age, I can tell you that many of my friends say that they will travel to Europe when they're retired. They most likely won't. When you really listen to them and see the way they react to some of my stories of travel to Europe, you can hear a lot of fear. Why they think that they will become less fearful of travel when they're 65 and have never been abroad (when they were younger, and more adventurous) is beyond me. These people could afford a trip to Europe as easily as I can. They just haven't made it a priority because they're afraid that they'll get lost, won't speak the language and it's all just too "foreign" for them. As an aside, I live in the suburbs and some of the same people won't go into the city of Chicago because they think that a multitude of horrific things will happen to them and they see no point.

Americans, in general, don't seem to put vacations into their budget as many Europeans do. For many reasons, that's a shame. I agree with Wendy, however, that for a lot of people, it's just that it's too expensive.

jb

#38 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:01 AM

I can only conclude that most Americans that have the resources to travel, just have no interest in travelling outwith the States


And obviously, without an exhaustive study, it would be impossible to exclude other factors for the lower rates of travel -- such as perhaps (as others have said) vastly greater diversity, and ease of travel, when comparing each country. I mean, frankly, if I had a choice of, say, repeat visits to Ayer's Rock, vs Grand Canyon, Redwood forest, Rocky Mountains, Seattle, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Key West, Boston, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Chicago, Anchorage, Juneau, New Orleans, to name just a few, I know what I'd choose. I'd rather return to any one of those destinations again and again.

And to say that "most Americans" have "NO interest in traveling outwith the States," is pretty strong.

Although I personally wouldn't even agree with that conclusion had you used the more likely "LESS interest in traveling...than the average Australian," based upon nothing more than that statistic, with no examination given to other possible reasons besides a lack of interest.

It's quite possible and, I think, most likely that the "average American" is just more interested in seeing the US first.

Edited by Jaymes, 30 September 2005 - 07:22 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."

#39 raxelita

raxelita
  • participating member
  • 257 posts
  • Location:NYC

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:26 AM

To bring this back to food for a moment, it seems obvious to me that travel brings better regional/ethnic cuisine to more pallates in the U.S.
Travelling makes one aware of what people of a certain region actually eat, which has the effect of changing their dining choices and awareness at home.
Drink maker, heart taker!

#40 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:31 AM

I'm not sure that anything you have said is inconsistent with any of the statement I made? Given the statisitcs, most Americans with the resources to travel obviously don't have sufficient interest in leaving leaving the USA to do so, that is a fact. It is also true of Australians, but as a percentage we are more likely to travel overseas. I think that this have very little to do with how crappy the natural views are in Australia compared to the USA, but more to do with attitudes towards vacation and travel.

In Australia we get more vacation time per year and we often get leave loading (we get more money in our pay cheque when we travel). We also have something called "Long service leave", this, for those entitled to it, is several months of fully paid leave after ten years of work in a particular company. Historically, it was awarded to employees who had provided long service in the colonies to enable them sufficient time to visit the United Kingdom.

The expectation of travel is very much part of the Australian culture, this doesn't seem to be the case in the USA, from what people have said here. There is a big difference between talking about the desire to travel and actually going and doing it as well. If people really want to travel they will, it doesn't requirer $5,000 for a week in Paris for instance.

Edited by Adam Balic, 30 September 2005 - 07:32 AM.


#41 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:31 AM

To bring this back to food for a moment, it seems obvious to me that travel brings better regional/ethnic cuisine to more pallates in the U.S.
Travelling makes one aware of what people of a certain region actually eat, which has the effect of changing their dining choices and awareness at home.


And surely, on that we can all agree. Without question, in my view anyway, travel is the single most educational, instructional and broadening experience anyone can undertake.

And I also agree with others that have said that no matter how much studying one does in one's native country regarding the cuisine of another's, no matter the number of lessons, cookbooks read, etc., until one visits that country, sees it, touches it, feels it, smells it, one's knowledge and understanding cannot help but be incomplete.
"And you, you're just a stinker."

#42 jamiemaw

jamiemaw
  • participating member
  • 2,174 posts
  • Location:Vancouver

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:39 AM

I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on the role of travel in the future of cuisine.

Those that have, may only have gone to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.

And yet, the most popular foods in America are imports: Italian, Chinese, Mexican.

I assume over time travel will become easier and cheaper, even if the short term doesn't look all that great for travel. Eventually, faster and more efficient air travel has got to come along. Will this foster more of a spirit of adventure among diners, or will it cause homogenization, or will it just create a lot of tourist traps?

View Post


Travel is broadening and eating out abroad more so. If restaurants are barometers of local economic performance (the famous Economist Big Mac index being one bellwether), the calibration of the local dining culture--in its relative profusion and diversity of restaurants, markets and shops-- precisely speaks to the calibration of local culture. Food is the perfect porthole.

Of course we can travel to the food, or let it find us, in the most recent wave of immigrant-fuelled restaurants in our home cities.

Unfortunately, I don't assume that travel will become easier and cheaper. For North Americans especially, currency and security issues and rising fuel expenses mitigate against that notion, both for now and in the forseeable future.

For every traveller, there are 10 tourists. It's the tourist who has his nose pressed up against the pane of safety glass of all-inclusive or cruise dining, but the traveller who gets lost in order to become found.
from the thinly veneered desk of:
Jamie Maw
Food Editor
Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com
Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

#43 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:42 AM

It's quite possible and, I think, most likely that the "average American" is just more interested in seeing the US first.

View Post


My sister-in-law in many ways represents the "average American." Although she was born and raised in Canada, she was raised with a very typical US-attitude (her father is American--from upstate NY somewhere) and she lives in the US now. She and I once has a discussion (read: argument) and I mentioned something about how many Americans know little about what's outside their own backyard (like a friend of mine who didn't know Canada and the US were "attached"). She said, "Well, why should they?" Her attitude was that they didn't need to, since they had everything they could possibly want and need. So why bother learning about other countries? Or cultures?

This really is a very typical attitude amongst not just Americans, but many Canadians as well, and I'm sure many other nationalities can be included. But I do find that the Americans I've met tend to be much more....vocal about it.

#44 Carrot Top

Carrot Top
  • legacy participant
  • 4,164 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:49 AM

Experience:Priceless (to qoute a pop. comercial)

I think Bourdain put it very well in his voice over intro "Cooks Tour"(tv) something along the lines of travelling to get ideas on food and understand cuisines.

View Post


Bourdain's point might be stretched a bit to include the concept that travel is one of the ways for one to get ideas on different cultures. The foods that we eat grow from our cultures. The foods that we eat grow from our geographies and what our lands will produce. The geographies, the singular places (and here I will raise the memory of New Orleans as an emotional appeal to the idea of appreciation of "singular place") that are so varied around the world, grow the cultures that create the foods. The people that live in the singular places create the foods. It is their hands, their minds, their ways of "being", their histories that place taste and meaning into the food.

In this way, travel is important. The further one travels, the more expanded all sorts of horizons become. The tastebuds shift, the eyes have more things to compare with what happens to be in front of one, and most of all perhaps and hopefully there are small indiscernable shifts in the realm of the heart.

You will never find the true experience of a food of any culture outside the place it was grown. Good translations, yes. But not the true language.

That is where all this goes, this thing of eating, dining, knowledge of food.

It leads to our hearts.

That is my argument for travel. Travel as far as you can go. Find the money. Make the money. Take the time.

You will never regret it.

#45 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:49 AM

I'm not sure that anything you have said is inconsistent  with any of the statement I made? Given the statisitcs, most Americans with the resources to travel obviously don't have sufficient interest in leaving leaving the USA to do so, that is a fact. It is also true of Australians, but as a percentage we are more likely to travel overseas. I think that this have very little to do with how crappy the natural views are in Australia compared to the USA, but more to do with attitudes towards vacation and travel.

If people really want to travel they will, it doesn't requirer $5,000 for a week in Paris for instance.


First of all, the views in Australia are not 'crappy,' nor did I say so. The view of Ayer's Rock is magnificent, and deservedly world-famous. But I'm not sure I'd want to make a great many repeat visits there. And I do think that the US has a great many more diverse travel destinations, and they are more easily accessible.

And just because, according to your statistics, Americans actually TRAVEL outside of their home country less than do Australians, that does not mean that the "average American has NO interest" in doing so. Not only is that a sweeping generalization, and an absolute, but it makes no accommodation for priorities.

As I said, the average American may wish to see the US first. For one thing, it IS cheaper.

You don't think that a week in Paris for two, staying in mid-priced hotels and eating average meals, doing some typical sightseeing (Seine cruise, Eiffel Tower, etc.), buying a few souvenirs, flying round-trip from the center of the US, paying someone to watch the kids back home, for our hypothetical middle-aged couple from Des Moines would cost $5000, all told?

Call a travel agent and find out.
"And you, you're just a stinker."

#46 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:58 AM

She and I once has a discussion (read:  argument) and I mentioned something about how many Americans know little about what's outside their own backyard (like a friend of mine who didn't know Canada and the US were "attached").  She said, "Well, why should they?"  Her attitude was that they didn't need to, since they had everything they could possibly want and need.  So why bother learning about other countries?  Or cultures? 


I've moved 37 times in my life, and lived in foreign countries, including Hong Kong, the Philippines, Panama, Germany, among others.

And certainly there are smug, self-satisfied, arrogant, chauvinistic clods in each.

I'd never say that such a thing does not exist in the US.

But I personally do not believe that they are the majority. No matter how 'vocal' they may be.

It's been my experience that the average US citizen does indeed have an interest in travel abroad. And that when they get the resources, time, money, etc., they do so.

If you're talking priorities, as I've said elsewhere, such travel may well be farther down the list than other things. I wouldn't argue that.

But that's not the same thing as saying that the majority of Americans are a bunch of provincial, ignorant, chauvinistic, herding, frightened, intimidated dolts.

As some in this thread are implying.
"And you, you're just a stinker."

#47 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:13 AM

You don't think that a week in Paris for two, staying in mid-priced hotels and eating average meals, doing some typical sightseeing (Seine cruise, Eiffel Tower, etc.), buying a few souvenirs, flying round-trip from the center of the US, paying someone to watch the kids back home, for our hypothetical middle-aged couple from Des Moines would cost $5000, all told?

Call a travel agent and find out.

View Post


Jaymes, I am quite sure that if this hypothetical couple could spend as little or much as there were hypothetical things in Paris to spend it on.
:smile:

But you know (aside from the kids) I have done these things. I want to travel and that means making effort. Can't afford $5,000 for a week in Paris, fine then if you have a burning desire to see France, then do what we have done rent a Farmhouse in Burgundy and hire a car. Ten years before that when we were student scum $3,500 kept me going in Europe for two months.

Anyway, I think that it is fair to say that although many Americans want to travel outwith the USA, not many of these people actually do. Given that most people seem to think that rtravel is a great way of learning about other cultures (and in this instance foods/cusines), do you think that Americans are going to more of less likely to travel in the future and how might this effect the development of dining in the USA? Increased Mexican/Latin American high end dining, compared to more 'traditional' European cusines?

#48 JohnL

JohnL
  • participating member
  • 1,744 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:15 AM

To apply some common sense here:
The average vacation time in the US is 13 days.
About 1/3 that of most of Western Europe.

The US is a very large country with a very diverse range of climates and terrain.
For eg the US land mass is 3.6 million sq miles.
Within that land mass are great beaches, mountains, plains,forrests,deserts, etc.
Not to mention man made attractions: cities, resorts etc.

Many families have vacation homes --here in NYC people have second homes or rent homes on LI, NJ Shore etc in the summer and often own homes or rent in VT, Colorado etc for the winter.

a case of so little time so many places nearby.

We also have two countries North and South of us which do not require passports and which offer much to see and do.

I suspect that many Americans travel abroad to Europe or the Far east:
---when young via college study abroad or on their own. During the sixties and seventies many teens and people under thirty travelled extensively.
---when retired having free time (and money).
In both cases there is time and money (the kids don't need it, the retired folks have it).

The point is one needs to look beyond the statistics.

Also important, most (the vast majority) of people from all over the world who are travelling are not doing so with sampling the local cuisine as the foremost concern. My guess is seeing the sights is number one--up there with 'experiencing" the beaches or mountains. For eg. many Europeans travel to Ibiza--they want to lie on a beach. Food and culture are mere sidelights for most every traveller Us or otherwise.
I also suspect that a family of four travelling to Italy is not going primarily for the great food.

The fact that the US has such great diversity via immigrants (there definitely is another thread needed) means we can experience other cultures and cuisines within relatively easy distance of where one lives.
I know that this is not equal to visiting the actual country but very few, if any, places in the world offer this breadth of experience.

I believe that the rapidly growing awareness of various cuisines and greater awareness of food and culture is a good thing and will encourage more people to travel abroad (and domestically) to experience them firsthand. One also hopes that
countries and cultures do not become so "globalized" that the travel experience is diluted.

#49 robert brown

robert brown
  • legacy participant
  • 2,239 posts
  • Location:New York/Nice

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:19 AM

If only food could travel like people.

#50 kitwilliams

kitwilliams
  • participating member
  • 981 posts
  • Location:southern california

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:20 AM

Unfortunately, I don't assume that travel will become easier and cheaper. For North Americans especially, currency and security issues and rising fuel expenses mitigate against that notion, both for now and in the forseeable future.

View Post


So, it's pretty clear that to the majority of Americans, travel is not a priority and there are many understandable factors as to why this is so. But jamiemaw's comment struck a chord with me. Europeans, Middle Easterners, Asians, nearly everywhere else in the world they've been dealing with many of these issues for a long time yet it doesn't stop folks from travelling completely. We (in the States) are just getting a taste of what those in Europe having been paying for gas forever! The same with security issues -- from those who lived through WWII to the many terrorist/radical group bombings over the last decades -- they have lived through these types of attacks and don't let it stop them. They continue with their daily routines. I guess the US is still reeling from the shock of 9/11??? It WAS shocking. But it shouldn't stop us from leading the lives we want to lead. It makes me sad to hear some of you say that you think many Americans who might WANT to travel are truly afraid to do so.

And perhaps part of it stems from the fact that (and I'm only speaking from my years in school) we do not have a practice of teaching as much world history as do other countries. We do not get as much news on world events on our main networks as they do in some other countries. I suppose this could all be part of it. This country is very insular, due, a lot, to geography. We ARE allowing and accepting and devouring foods from immigrant countries. We aren't very adventurous about finding out discovering them first hand from whence they cometh.

I hate generalizing about any one group of people but when investigating a query of this sort, I suppose one has to...at least a little!

Edited by kitwilliams, 30 September 2005 - 08:39 AM.

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"
Weebl

#51 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:33 AM

You don't think that a week in Paris for two, staying in mid-priced hotels and eating average meals, doing some typical sightseeing (Seine cruise, Eiffel Tower, etc.), buying a few souvenirs, flying round-trip from the center of the US, paying someone to watch the kids back home, for our hypothetical middle-aged couple from Des Moines would cost $5000, all told?

But you know (aside from the kids) I have done these things.

Anyway, I think that it is fair to say that although many Americans want to travel outwith the USA, not many of these people actually do. Given that most people seem to think that rtravel is a great way of learning about other cultures (and in this instance foods/cusines), do you think that Americans are going to more of less likely to travel in the future and how might this effect the development of dining in the USA? Increased Mexican/Latin American high end dining, compared to more 'traditional' European cusines?


Adam, you've flown from Paris to Des Moines? I'm impressed. :laugh:

To answer your other question, I was in the unhappy position of owning a travel agency in Austin, Texas, on 9/11. Although it is my opinion that the dream of the "average American" whom we are discussing includes extensive foreign travel (for many reasons, including seeing the birthplace of their forebearers, returning to WWII battlefields, sampling the cuisine, experiencing the culture, and on and on ad infinitum), I do think that 9/11 dealt a huge setback. That caused the closing of many US travel agencies, including my own.

Not only are many Americans concerned now with being targets, they are also worried (and much more so, and probably rightly) about being out of the country during another terrorist attack in the US, and being unable to get back quickly to their families, children, etc.

This has absolutely nothing to do with desire and interest, though. Nor does it have anything to do with being intimidated or fearful of the other country, or the travel itself.

Furthermore, not only do many American citizens of my acquaintanceship have one passport; they have two. One from the US and another from a different country that they plan to pass up to the terrorists that have just hijacked the plane.

I am hopeful that eventually the political problems elsewhere in the world will ease (for many reasons, obviously), and that the American public will again be perching their "gimme hats" atop their heads and clutching their red Globus/Gateway travel bags and heading off to see the world.

And, I know that it is the fashion here to denigrate FoodTV, but I believe that shows there and on the travel channel and elsewhere that feature the foods of foreign lands do make a difference.

I actually began working in travel agencies when we lived in Alaska. And then in LA, before Texas. I definitely saw the residual influence whenever there was a cultural event featuring food or travel. For example, after the movie "Big Night" was a smash hit, for the next two years, we did quite a lively business on food tours to Italy.

I'm always particularly hopeful about the creeping knowledge in North America of the foods of Central and South America. But it's slow going.

Again, cost seems to me to be a major factor. Although I'd agree that in this case, familiarity does play a role. The average US citizen that can afford to travel to Peru wants to go to Australia and New Zealand first and I'm sure that comfort with the language and culture is a large part of the reason why. That's not to say that they have NO interest in ever seeing Brazil, Chile, Peru.... Just that they are considerably further down the 'wish I could' list.

Edited by Jaymes, 30 September 2005 - 10:28 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."

#52 JohnL

JohnL
  • participating member
  • 1,744 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:52 AM

Unfortunately, I don't assume that travel will become easier and cheaper. For North Americans especially, currency and security issues and rising fuel expenses mitigate against that notion, both for now and in the forseeable future.

View Post


So, it's pretty clear that to the majority of Americans, travel is not a priority and there are many understandable factors as to why this is so. But jamiemaw's comment struck a chord with me. Europeans, Middle Easterners, Asians, nearly everywhere else in the world they've been dealing with many of these issues for a long time yet it doesn't stop folks from travelling completely. We (in the States) are just getting a taste of what those in Europe having been paying for gas forever! The same with security issues -- from those who lived through WWII to the many terrorist/radical group bombings over the last decades -- they have lived through these types of attacks and don't let it stop them. They continue with their daily routines. I guess the US is still reeling from the shock of 9/11??? It WAS shocking. But it shouldn't stop us from leading the lives we want to lead. It makes me sad to hear some of you say that you think many Americans who might WANT to travel are truly afraid to do so.

And perhaps part of it stems from the fact that (and I'm only speaking from my years in school) we do not have a practice of teaching as much world history as do other countries. We do not get as much news on world events on our main networks as they do in some other countries. I suppose this could all be part of it.

I hate generalizing about any one group of people but when investigating a query of this sort, I suppose one has to...at least a little!

View Post

I disagree.
I would posit that a large number of Europeans travel for the same reasons Americans do.
It has little to do with experiencing different cultures.
For eg if a German person wants to go to the beach they have to go to another country.
If an American wants to go to the beach we go to Florida or any number of places.
Many Brits travel to Portugal for sun and sea if Brittain offered a warm sunny climate within its borders you would surely see a decline of the number of Brits travelling abroad.

In Europe, the Fat Guy noted, Many countries are within five hours flying time. In five hours flying time in the US one can cover an extroadinary range of climate, terrain and destinations of interest.
A lot of this is about two things: geography and motivation.
Less about security.

As for our knowledge of history, that is debatable. I can say that America has more open channels of free flowing information about the world than anywhere else.

Also, I wonder if all that world travel is really all that we seem to be making it out to be.
I have found Europeans to be no more or less zenophobic than we Americans are. No more or less Nationalistic either.
Looking at just the food and culture I would posit that most travellers do not really experience either to any great degree. For eg most people from anywhere in the world travelling to, say, Italy will see the same sights, eat in "tourist" traps and have little real meaningful contact with real Italians.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard a recent returnee claiming: "I had pizza in Naples and the slice you get in Brooklyn is so much better!"

I am making the point here that things aren't as bad as some would have you believe.
We should travel more, and even a "typical" tourist excursion to another country can be enlightening. I do believe that as we learn more about other peoples and cultures (travel is but one way) we will benefit greatly. Food is a great way to go--again I hope that for all the benefits of globalization--we do not dilute our cultures (and food reflects culture like nothing else).

Edited by JohnL, 30 September 2005 - 08:54 AM.


#53 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:54 AM

Des Moines? I just had to look up where Iowa is located. :unsure:

Actually, I had forgotten all about 9/11 and travel. It would be interesting to see pre-9/11 travel figures. In regards to FGs orignal question, I wonder how the reduced travel has effected the local dining scene if at all?

#54 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:13 AM

Traveling has always been important to me. When I moved out on my own and was making a buck and a half more than minimum wage I saved my money and traveled in the off-season. The first trip I had enough money to fly into Geneva in the middle of winter, the flight was less than $300 round trip. I learned that staying at a hotel in France was much cheaper than Switzerland so that’s what I did. I didn't have enough time off work or money to stay very long so it was a 5 day trip. I’m certain that not only did my trip cost less than $500 per person, but the same trip could be done again now on the same budget. As I've gotten older, gotten better jobs, and learned of the magic that is obsessively collecting frequent flyer miles, I've traveled more frequently, farther away, and to places that are harder to reach. Almost anyone can travel. $500 is less than a lot of people spend smoking cigarettes in a year.

#55 mikeycook

mikeycook
  • participating member
  • 857 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:34 AM

I think there will always be a core of people, regardless of where they live, who have no interest in travel. I think it is partly money and partly a matter of whether they were exposed to travel when they were younger. I have lived in New Hampshire, New York City, and the Bay Area and in all places I have found people who have not travelled beyond 50 miles from where they lived and really have no interest in doing so. I knew people in NH who had never been to Maine or Massechusetts and I know people in NYC who have never been out of the five boroughs. In my experience, people are not necessarily more likely to travel in their own country than another country. And you don't have to live in "middle America" to be opposed to travel.

That being said, the importance of travel for these people is not them travelling to the food, but the food travelling to them. Obviously, Chinese and Italian foods gained their immense popularity not from people travelling to those countries, but from those restaurants appearing in their local communities.
"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
~ Fernand Point

#56 markk

markk
  • participating member
  • 1,630 posts
  • Location:Northern NJ

Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:42 AM

I assume over time travel will become easier and cheaper, even if the short term doesn't look all that great for travel. Eventually, faster and more efficient air travel has got to come along. Will this foster more of a spirit of adventure among diners, or will it cause homogenization...


Unfortunaly, it will cause homogenization and it already has, so it will just cause more. Let me try to explain...

I live in NYC, so I have access to lots of great Chinese restaurants, which I love. But only on the nights when I crave Chinese food. On the nights I want French food, I want French food, and sometimes when I crave it too much for too long, I take a trip to France. Well, on my last trip to France, it seemed that all the chefs there had just taken trips to China to feed their fascination with Chinese food. And they were all cooking with heavy Chinese influences. So I left behind Chinese bbq duck, steamed fish with ginger and scallions, and spicy oriental noodles only to find that the various restaurants in France that I went to were featuring "Canard a la mode Chinoise", steamed fish with ginger and scallions, and spicy oriental noodles - and no, the chef's had not turned their restaurants into Chinese restaurants, but rather had done this in the sense of "fusion".

But if I go to China next and find that the chefs have returned from trips to France and are featuring cold terrine of foie gras, and all the things they ate in France, well I'm going to be pretty upset.

But I'll be most upset of all if all the great cuisines of the world 'fuse' into one, so that you can't tell one from another. I like it the way it is now, Chinese food one night, French food another, and Italian food another.

But when cheaper and faster air travel makes it feasible and affordable for a chef from anywhere in the nether regions of rural France or Italy to travel to any other country for even as little as a week, and when that same cheap, fast transportation means that every foodstuff, every delicacy from every corner of the world is now available for sale the next day in every other, I think we have a problem.

I do think that it's great when peoples "fuse", in that it eradicates a lot of hatreds and wars and makes the world a more peaceful and tolerant place to live. And whether or not 'fused' couples choose to hand down their cultural traditions and keep them strong and alive, they'll always be part of them, and they'll always be part of who their children are. But if the cuisines of the world fuse as well, what we have to eat on Monday will offer no variety of seasoning, or spice, or taste, from what he have on Tuesday or Wednesday, and so on.
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#57 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:52 AM

I think there will always be a core of people, regardless of where they live, who have no interest in travel.  I think it is partly money and partly a matter of whether they were exposed to travel when they were younger. 


I absolutely agree with this. But I don't believe that this is exclusive to the US, and I don't believe that they are the majority here.
"And you, you're just a stinker."

#58 tsquare

tsquare
  • participating member
  • 2,581 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 10:13 AM

Travel and the future of cuisine is the topic, yes?

In 2003 I wrote up my dining adventures in Portugal and ended with this "I think food can provide interesting insights into culture. I was told a number of stories, some of which have been related here, about how and why some of these dishes came to be. This led into discussions about history and politics, as well as current trends in culture and food policy."

As far as the future of cuisine goes, I think there will be more cross-cultural experimentation, but I also think there are some cultures that continue to value their traditions so much that they will remain. Potugal is one, at least for now. And Italians are vocal in upholding their way of cooking and eating.

More likely, they issues facing the world - quality and quantity of available foods and biodiversity are going to influence what we are all eating. If (when?) there is only one apple marketed, cuisine will change. I hope that never happens (and thank our lucky stars that there are family gardeners, seed savers, slow food movements, etc.) But even then, some traditions will continue to carry on and the same foods prepared in different parts of the world will result in different cuisines. And that is a big part of travel for me.

I didn't leave this country, except for Canada, for almost 25 years. I travelled for almost 3 months, right out of college, on about $2500, including airfare (the old charter days.) Then, I got in the rut of travelling to visit aging relatives, going to grad school, paying back loans, buying a house, working too much... Recently, I spent $3000 for 3 weeks, using frequent flyer miles accumulated over years, to pay the airfare. And most recently, about the same for 2 weeks, including a big air plane ticket. But most of my life is quite economically modest, so these splurges are doable.

Edited by tsquare, 30 September 2005 - 10:15 AM.


#59 bleudauvergne

bleudauvergne
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,235 posts
  • Location:Lyon, France

Posted 30 September 2005 - 10:29 AM

I guess the reasons why people don't travel has been pretty much well covered. But what about the reasons they do?

I couldn't afford to spend a year abroad when I was in school. But I was desperate to go. So I joined the Army right out of school and after some years getting into trouble I found myself working in Germany, where I basically ate in the mess halls, and to get me out of their hair they sent me on a mission to Holland. In my early 20's, I had taken the cheapest train I could get out of Rotterdam just to see something, and I was in Delft in the Netherlands and wandering around lost, it was raining. I found this little cafe and ordered some brie on toast, which looked to be the most benign thing on the menu. Now I was in Holland, and I didn't care that I was ordering French cheese, I thought I was going to get what I knew to be brie (which was what you could get back in the early 90s in Central New York, which was something like colorless velveeta.) So I got this hot piece of toast with the brie with crust and all, melting all over the top. I sniffed it suspiciously as I brought this thing to my face and I inhaled for the first time the aroma of warm ripe brie. I ate it in large bites, amazed and reeling with a heady sense of joy, and ordered another one, and this time sprinkled pepper on it. I cannot describe to you the feeling I had at that moment. I wrote an entry in my diary about it.

Are Americans in general looking for culinary adventure? It depends on how much a person's culture is open to differences and curious about what's out there. I remember once meeting a couple in an airplane from Paris to New York, a very nice couple, who complained about the food in France, and how the Mcdonalds just wasn't the same, and would they please just open up a Burger King there. I thought to myself - well, it's a good thing they're going home then isn't it? Paris is not for them.

But at the same time, we have to admit that there are still a whole bunch of people who have had a taste of what traveling can offer them in terms of adventure to the palate, and are hungry for more. I don't think that, for example if gastro-tourism were to really take off and we had the huge majority of Americans crawling the globe looking for authentic this and authentic that, it would homogenize things, no way. Styles come and go and that Asian fusion thing came and went here in France. People take a fancy to things all over the world and then drop it just as quickly once it becomes cliched. In my opinion homogenization is more likely going to come with an infiltration in the food supply channels, where then we'll see a complete change in what people cook at home, thus in a culture overall. But that has nothing to do with tourism.

#60 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,438 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 30 September 2005 - 10:34 AM

I thought I was going to get what I knew to be brie (which was what you could get back in the early 90s in Central New York, which was something like colorless velveeta.)


:laugh:
"And you, you're just a stinker."