“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

A Taste for Travel

One thing I’ve learned while trying to sell various destinations to my travel clients is that a lot of people are worried about what they’ll find to eat in places they’ve never been before. Boy, can I empathize with that!

I used to be a very picky eater. I didn’t even eat salad dressing until I was well into my twenties. I just ate the lettuce and tomato with nothing on it. Salad dressing just looked too gloppy. When my late husband finally convinced me to give salad dressing a try, it was, of all things, blue cheese. I fell in love with it.

By the early 1990s, I had begun taking my annual holiday trip to NYC with my travel buddy Jeanie and that started expanding my food horizons at home. New York City has every kind of food you can imagine. Sometimes I think, our reluctance to try new things on vacation is that we don’t want to order a dish we’ve never had and end up paying for something we don’t want to eat. In New York, I discovered a couple of ways to try stuff without committing to a whole meal. It seemed there were food trucks and push carts on every corner! It was easy to walk up, grab a nosh for a couple of bucks and if it was something I didn’t like, I’d give it to Jeanie! Then we discovered food tours. For a relatively small amount of money, a nice guide would take us to a series of restaurants serving all kinds of ethnic foods. A little something here, a little something there, and if I got something I didn’t like (which truly didn’t happen often), there was always another chance just down the street. Plus, you got some food history and local history from the guide. My favorite food tour companies in New York are Urban Oyster and especially Foods of New York. Now I always look for food tours when I’m abroad, too.

Even when I started seriously traveling overseas, I still looked for things that were familiar and avoided anything strange. The first time I went to Greece, all I ate was Greek salad. Thank God by then I was eating salad dressing. I guess my real breakthrough was a trip to Spain in 2006 with my friend Lynette. We had crossed over to Morocco for a one-day tour. At lunch, the guide took us to a local restaurant and left us to our own devices. When I looked at the menu, I didn’t know what anything was. Not. One. Dish. We asked the server what some of these things were and got enough of a description to risk a couple meals. I ended up eating things that I knew absolutely nothing about and enjoying them. The tagine we ordered turned out to be a chicken stew with onions, tomatoes, olives, and a mix of garlic, saffron, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric. Lynette ordered a pastille, which was a pastry full of chicken with lemons and onions, parsley and almonds, seasoned with saffron, ginger, and cinnamon. We shared both dishes and I’ve never been as scared of unknown foods since.

Probably my greatest gastronomical challenge was my first trip to Japan. I was going to visit my niece, Justine, who is a Japanese scholar. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of her and so I decided that I would just eat everything that was put before me, even if it sounded strange or looked weird or I had no idea what it was. I figured in Japan I was going to have to eat something or I would starve. I was a little bit right and a little bit wrong. A lot of the food looked very much like the Asian dishes I ate in Orlando. Some of it did not. I tried everything—even the things I thought I would hate and was, frankly, a little leery of. To my surprise I loved almost everything—including tiny fried fish no bigger than my little finger. I can’t even think of anything that I didn’t think was at least okay. Except that hamburger with the fried egg on top. My food world was immensely expanded by that trip. I didn’t even need the two boxes of cheese and crackers I had packed.

Now when I travel, new food experiences are at the top of my list.

In Tuscany, we had a local chef come to our villa and teach us how to cook some Italian dishes.

In Germany the schnitzel and sauerbraten were so good!  Wasn’t so fond of the sausages, but I did try them!  The currywurst was better than I thought it would be. And, of course, the pastries and cakes were delicious!

In Spain and Portugal, it was the pork and the Iberian ham that I loved, but I even tried octopus prepared in several ways and loved it!  I didn’t quite have the courage to taste the tripe though. Just couldn’t get past the look.

So, my advice is when you’re in a foreign country, try every bit of food you can. I bet you’ll find a lot of things to like that you never dreamed you would. One more way that travel is an adventure!