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Fat Guy

The importance of travel

77 posts in this topic

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 (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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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.

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!

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 (log)

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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?

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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.

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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

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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

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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.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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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 (log)

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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.

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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:


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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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?


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

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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.

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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 (log)

Matthew Xavier Hassett aka "M.X.Hassett"

"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters-it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to be an exellent electioneering potion..."

- Balance and Columbian Repository. May 13, 1806

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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.)

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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. 

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.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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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.

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IFor instance how Koreans eat rice.  :wink:

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

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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.

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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.

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IFor instance how Koreans eat rice.  :wink:

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

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

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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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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.

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.

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