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The importance of travel


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#61 markk

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 10:47 AM

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 once made the mistake of speaking to an American gent in a restaurant in Rome. He knew that we were Americans from eavesdropping on our conversation, and commented to me how utterly astounding it was that I had spoken Italian to the waiter. The foolish part was that we actually conversed with him for a minute, and at one point asked "Did you have the prosciutto and melon?" and he answered, "no, haven't had that and we've been here a week. Ham and melon - I just can't see that combination."

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.


Well, based on the numbers that people are quoting, and on all the various experiences like ours, do you think it's more likely that there will be a burst of Gastro-Tourism in numbers sufficient to keep foods from homogenizing, or do you think that in order to keep tourism alive, restaurants in tourist desinations will start to accommodate the McDonalds and Burger King Lovers even more?
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#62 Pan

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 12:47 PM

Does overseas travel really still mean just Europe or Caribbean resorts to most Americans today, or is that mostly an Eastern US (and Canada) phenomenon? I believe that people on the West Coast of the US and Canada are much less Eurocentric and are travelling to Asia in larger percentages. It's 5-6 hours closer to them by air, with Europe correspondingly farther, so that the travel time from San Francisco to Tokyo or Rome ends up being about the same. And if we think about it that way, maybe it starts to become clearer why California and Northwest cuisine isn't called "fusion" but California style, Vancouver cuisine, etc., whereas we are still talking about "fusion" in New York. When people stop assuming that overseas travel means a week in Paris, rather than a week in Shanghai or Singapore or Bangkok (not that there's anything wrong with Paris; don't get me wrong!), we may stop talking about "fusion" and start having the "merged" (I think the word was) cuisines that Jamie Maw, Fat Guy and others have been talking about in the "More about fusion" thread.

#63 M.X.Hassett

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 02:46 PM

I thought I would add this. I have gone to Paris a few times, one of these trips was with two friends of mine(non food obsessed) they did not want to even try any of the French rest', and proceeded to eat at Mcd, Hard Rock, etc... Needless to say I dined alone, and had great food. I did get them to try Fouqoes(spl) the place with the red awning on Champ.E. they complained about the menu not being in english, it being to slow(service), and "How cant they have hamburgers, what the hell is this", I do not speak french and have never had trouble ordering. So it is possible to travel to one of the best citys for food and learn nothing, other than "none of these people speak fu%$^ng english".

Edit: For fcc compliancy

Edited by M.X.Hassett, 30 September 2005 - 02:47 PM.

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#64 Eden

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 03:58 PM

The following quote surprised me

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

In contrast, I heard a few years back, that a large percentage of americans (40%?) had never even tried mexican or chinese food, and considered those both "exotic" foods, much less anything as outlandish as french, japanese or persian... (sorry I cant cite better or recall where this came from!) This makes me feel so grateful to have had a mom who fostered an interest in other cuisines from the start!

I'm also fortunate enough to have travelled a bit & experienced cuisines from other countries first hand. For me travel is a priority - the 30 year old siding on our house may be ugly, but it's durable, and the re-siding $$ was much better spent on travelling to France and Italy! :biggrin: And my travel has affected not only my own dining habits but also those of my friends to whom I bring home new foods, new recipes etc from every trip. bresaola & arugula salad is every-day food for us now, but I still remember the first time I had it in Positano :wub:


on totally different point

A passport isn't required for travel to Mexico, Canada, and possibly other countries IIRC.

Actually a passport IS needed for travel to & from Canada these days. (at least crossing the border north of Seattle.) It maybe not technically required yet, but just you try getting back into the US without one & see how the border guards treat you. (and as Holly Moore pointed out above, it will be legally required starting in 2008.)
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#65 Behemoth

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 05:28 PM

Combination of limited money, interest, vacation time, fear...all of it. I'll just share one of my favorite recent stories, though I don't claim it is illustrative of the general population...

To set the scene, this was on the bus from O'Hare heading to central IL. We'd just had a lovely conversation with our bus driver, a nice black gentleman in his late 70s. He had spent about 10 years in Germany, during and following WWII, and had loved it, found it really easy to live there, been really sad to leave, is hoping to go back one day, etc.

Lady in nearby seat, loudly:

"We've never had a passport, but we did drive down to Tijuana once. It was so dirty! Boy, were we glad we lived in America. "

It was sort of weird.

#66 tsquare

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:17 PM

A story I was waiting to tell - on the plane, returning from Milan last fall. A slight delay. A young woman with an "Olive Garden" backpack (I kid you not) was complaining loudly about Italy and just wanting to get home. I wanted to ask if she cooked for Olive Garden and had been in Italy to be trained (like they suggest in the TV commercials.)
And then there were the Americans in Florence complaining that the pasta wasn't served at the same time as the other entrees - and the meatballs weren't served with pasta at all. I couldn't believe how rude they were to the waiter - I actually apologized to him!

#67 touaregsand

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 06:54 PM

Interesting and honest thread. I was beginning to believe (not) that Americans had a global grasp of all things culinary.

For instance how Koreans eat rice. :wink:

#68 SuzySushi

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 07:46 PM

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. 

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A friend of mine who lives in Queens (NYC borough) knows people in her neighborhood who have never so much as crossed the bridge to go into Manhattan! Their explanation is that they simply don't feel the need to.
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#69 Tess

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:13 PM

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?


You're right, I think. (My boyfriend works in the travel industry.)

I think there's travel and there's travel. When I was a kid, my family used to go to various places in Europe (from the midwest US) for a couple of weeks at a time and while I really appreciate that they did that for us, I don't think it was enough to broaden our food horizons very much. Later, I went to school in Italy and was there long enough to get an idea of how people actually shop, cook and eat. A trip to Rome, Florence and Siena with my parents before that was fun and we ate at some nice restaurants but it was not that eye-opening with regard to cuisine. You have to get into the life of a place somewhat. There are a bunch of places I want to go, and I accept that in some cases it will just be for a couple of weeks as a tourist, but I can understand why people wouldn't see the point of doing that.

#70 prasantrin

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:17 PM

IFor instance how Koreans eat rice.  :wink:

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What do you mean? Don't all Asians use chopsticks? :biggrin:

#71 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:36 PM

O.k. so I'll agree that people tend to do as they were taught or exposed. Those that grew up vacationing/vacationing, take vacations/travel. Those that did not, still don't.

All that aside I think a person interested in cooking and eating has no similarity to a person who loves to travel......other then they both have hobbies/interests. Really good food happens randomly. More consistantly (hopefully) then randomly at restaurants that employee serious culinarians. As a person who hasn't traveled off the continent that I was born on I find it really hard to believe that I'm going to experience something better in the country the food I'm consuming orginated in. Well.....if your talking fresh produce, o.k. I'll agree you need to travel to the source for the best produce. But when you take a handful of ingredients and combine them into a meal what matters the most is the expertise of the cook.

Having great theater (the theater of your enviroment) along with your meal as Bourdain does is auesomely cool. But I have a hard time believing that the theater changes the actual taste of my meal. My senses might be heightened and that may do some enhansing.............but I could have had a couple of drinks and that may enhanse my dining experience too. Someone will have to do a better job explaining to me how the taco in my hand from my Mexican freind (who's a cook too) is any different then a taco they got from another Mexican that was standing in Mexico when he made the taco. How's one more authentic then the other? Then you need to explain that to the rest of the millions of people in America next to me that don't get it either. Convince us.

Combining travel abroad (an expensive hobby) with fine dinning (another expensive hobby) you've got something that excludes the majority of people. If you strip away the cost factor you still have another glass ceiling, education. Those of you that talk of how you traveled during your college years might not realize that alot of people didn't go to college. For many people, college is the first time they got away from home and were exposed to other cultures.

#72 touaregsand

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:04 PM

As a person who hasn't traveled off the continent that I was born on I find it really hard to believe that I'm going to experience something better in the country the food I'm consuming orginated in.




French pastries for instance are much better in France then they are in the States.

#73 touaregsand

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:05 PM

IFor instance how Koreans eat rice.  :wink:

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What do you mean? Don't all Asians use chopsticks? :biggrin:

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I hear "Asia" is really diverse not just in the use of cutlery. :smile:

#74 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:06 PM

French pastries aren't better because they are made in France. They can only be better because they were made by a more skilled craftsman.

We've got some of Frances best pastry chefs living and working here in the States.

#75 melkor

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:09 PM

Someone will have to do a better job explaining to me how the taco in my hand from my Mexican freind (who's a cook too) is any different then a taco they got from another Mexican that was standing in Mexico when he made the taco. How's one more authentic then the other? Then you need to explain that to the rest of the millions of people in America next to me that don't get it either. Convince us.

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Local ingredients. The corn or flour used to make the tortilla tastes different, the water tastes different, the meat tastes different, the entire dish while visually similar will taste remarkably different in another country.

#76 touaregsand

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:11 PM

French pastries aren't better because they are made in France. They can only be better because they were made by a more skilled craftsman.

We've got some of Frances best pastry chefs living and working here in the States.

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Something to do with the water, flour , butter and the fact that there are more French in France than elsewhere.

Where are these best French pastry chefs? In New york? There not in LA. I've been to NY, ate my way around lots of times.

#77 touaregsand

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 09:14 PM

Someone will have to do a better job explaining to me how the taco in my hand from my Mexican freind (who's a cook too) is any different then a taco they got from another Mexican that was standing in Mexico when he made the taco. How's one more authentic then the other? Then you need to explain that to the rest of the millions of people in America next to me that don't get it either. Convince us.

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Travel and taste?