This is the post in which I encourage you to enjoy the culinary delights of the places you travel. To skip the tourist hot spots, English menus, and sanitized scenery. Go for the street meat. Don’t ask what everything is with an eyebrow raised and a hesitant fork. Be an adventurous eater.
Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and one of my favorite parts about travelling. Some of my favorite experiences abroad have included churrasco in Brazil, a big bowl of noodles in a Burmese village, and a fish dinner from a market stall in Egypt. None of these experiences would be possible if I followed to my guidebook or travel magazines. So put down that dog-earred Lonely Planet and follow your nose. Let your local friends order and forget about your diet. I’m pretty sure in Hong Kong I ate (and enjoyed) a big plate of stir-fried fat and cartilage; I can’t confirm this because when I asked my host he just laughed and said, “It’s good, right?”
This is also the post in which I implore you to be smart. Don’t be surprised if that deliciously juicy mango you ate at 4 am in Cairo, leads to you vomiting on the Aswan High Dam hours later. And when a dish is supposed to continue to cook tableside over hot coals, give yourself a generous amount of time before digging into that fish dinner. Or else you may find yourself in your dream vacation spot – a hut over the water in the middle of a beautiful lake – alternatively vomiting and shitting for the next six hours.
I ask you to be smart, but I realize that after a long day of sightseeing, or hiking, or wine tasting, your brain’s objections to the food placed in front of you are shut out by the alluring smell, taste, and sight of the said food. And so for this reason we each have our own anecdotes about miserable bouts with the infamous TD (traveler’s diarrhea). While certainly a low-point of any trip abroad, these anecdotes make wonderful dinner party conversation – only the most staid individual could help but laugh as you regale them with the time an ancient Bedouin man handed you a single sheet of toilet paper and stood alongside you as nature took its course and you wished you would die of simultaneous embarrassment and stomach cramps. What a bonding moment such an experience provides! The friends that stood by you, alternately laughing and comforting, suddenly able to traverse the taboo subject of bodily functions. Or when such food poisoning is shared by a partner, and you each take turns utilizing the tiny bathroom for the worst reasons possible.
These mentions of the lows of eating abroad are not intended to scare you, but instead to remind us of the universally bad and good moments we each have enjoyed on our worldly travels. Because to miss out on the local pleasures of food is a mistake; do not let the fear of microbes control you! There is nothing more beautiful than a plate of sliced dragonfruit in the morning, an Indian smorgasbord of unnamed pleasures at a seaside resort, or fresh-caught conch in the Caribbean. Drink the snake wine, down that shot of cobra heart, and eat the fried chicken feet. One of the best parts about traveling is stepping outside of your comfort zone. So I implore you, reader — grab that Immodium and go!