What is food travel?

Eating adventurously

Food travel means discovering and exploring a place’s foods. The joy of food travel means exactly that, the pleasure of trying new dishes and culinary traditions, and learning about the history and culture of food in the place visited.

Enjoying the pleasure of food shared that has a deeper meaning than just the items on the plate. Food travel is about eating adventurously, it is not just about travelling beyond your neighbourhood or country it is about exploring all food, everywhere and learning about its history, its influence on culture and the culture’s influence on the food eaten.

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Yes, I am a travel and food writer aka foodie traveller, there I admit my obsession and my secret is now out in the world. I can’t pass by a farmer’s market without dropping in. A food truck is my happy place, and I can’t resist trying new food when I travel.

Travelling for food and finding a colourful food stand on the streets of Malaysia. A man sits reading his newspapers while waiting for customers at his sidewalk food stand selling all kinds of fried rolls.

Food travel is our idea of heaven and we wish we could do more of it. Food and travel go hand in hand and most travel writers I know are obsessed with trying new foods and even weird food that no one else will try.

Campo Grande, Brazil - February 24, 2018: Square that has some indigenous people selling fresh foods. Square named Praca Comendador Oshiro Takemori, beside the Mercadao Municipal.

Food travellers will go out of their way to taste foods that are new to them and food travel is a key theme in many travel blogs.  

Garlic and butter snails served in France on a silver platter glistening with butter and parsley - travelling for food

A favourite saying is “I travel for food” and compiling lists of their favourite world foods keeps many travellers drooling at the thought of trying something new.

How do I plan a gastronomy travel trip?

Travelling for food may sound a bit off the wall but truth be told what is the second thing you do in a new place? Look for something to eat – am I right? Once all your trip planning is done and you have your bucket list of places you want to see next up is where you want to eat or what you want to eat.

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Having said all that about travelling for food don’t forget you can travel and find really great food right in your own backyard.

indian Tacos travelling for food in my own backyard

In Ontario where I’m from, I can find authentic Mexican Mennonite food, gorgeous farmer’s markets with a locally produced ethic, indigenous foods such as the Three Sisters, bannock, Indian tacos and more. So don’t forget to travel for food in your own country. This is food tourism or in more pretentious terms Culinary Tourism.

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What is food tourism?

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Food tourism and culinary tourism are buzzwords these days and growing segments of tourism. The World Food Tourism organization says this: “Food tourism is the act of travelling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place.” New food experiences enrich any travel experience trying unique local dishes creates memories that live with you forever.

a Mexican woman making tortillas - food in the Yucatan

Examples of Food Tourism

  • Wine tasting
  • Exploring local beer brewing
  • Cooking Classes
  • Staying at local farms
  • Taking in a tasting
  • Touring local producers
  • Shopping at a local market
  • Dining at local produce focused restaurants
  • Food Festivals
  • Celebrations of locally produced food
  • Visit and shop at local farmers’ markets
  • Food tours
  • Beverage tours
  • Agritourism
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What is Agritourism?

Agritourism experiences are where you get to stay and be part of local agricultural movements such as wine growing, cheese making, learning about local agriculture and working on farms or food growing small ventures. Visiting farms and farmers markets and buying local – these kinds of food tourism experiences help to connect us to the land where the food comes from and supports the local community. Visiting a vineyard or a cheese factory are both examples of agritourism and therefore food tourism.

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If you want to become involved in agritourism look into “WWOOFing” (worldwide opportunities on organic farms). Beyond the beautiful scenery and camaraderie, agritourism helps foster a deeper understanding of global farming processes through hands-on experience. The most popular agrotourism regions are Tuscany (surprised?), Taiwan, Mallorca Spain, Brazil, Hawaii, Grenada, California, and the Philippines.

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Why food travel?

I have wonderful memories of all the foods I have tried whilst travelling. From elotes, the Street Food of the Yucatan, a full Irish breakfast, Doolin crab on the Wild Atlantic Waytapas in Andalucia the list could go on forever. There are so many international foods that I haven’t yet tried in their home countries and some intriguing foods that I never would have suspected would be so good.

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When we combine our love for travel with our love for food we open up a whole new world and new experiences. We get to learn about the traditions, the history of food, environment and local culture that goes beyond the fact that we simply visited a place.

Travelling for food allows us to see a different version of the world than the one we were taught about in classrooms. Eating indigenous dishes teaches us about how colonialism destroyed early cultures and yet appropriated their foods and incorporated them into the colonizers own culture without crediting the source.

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We get to explore and understand the way Western society developed its culinary heritage based on its own food travels. By incorporating foods and methods of cooking developed in the countries they explored, by tasting new spices and herbs used by those they met on their travels, experiencing the indigenous ways of food growing and preparation, and sadly claiming slave foods as its own creation.

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As food travellers, we are often surprised by the fact that items we consider Western are not in fact western at all but were appropriated from other countries. We all know for example that tomatoes and potatoes are native to North and South America but they are now found all over the world and considered “local”.

January 20, 2015 San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala: tzutujil mayan women preparing traditional food together

We don’t even have to travel abroad for our food tourism. Right in our own backyards, we can experience the joy of the Three Sisters and other indigenous foodways. We can often find restaurants or festivals around cooking methods like BBQ or ‘soul food’ which descended from the slaves of the deep south. Much of our western food is derived from the foods of the working or poor folk which of course came from the observation of how those even poorer than themselves managed to sustain themselves.

We can travel for food in our own country and explore that food history right on our doorsteps.

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Food travelling

Travelling for food is not just about fancy cheese tastings in France or dining in an expensive Michelin starred restaurant. Food travel should be creative, flexible and democratic.

Random types of yellow french cheese at Provence market

Food travel consists of a broad range of food experiences. It can be luxurious and explore the ‘best’ a country has to offer, or it can be based on locally produced items from the countryside.

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You can immerse yourself in a home or farm stay and help harvest the items for the daily menu. You can learn to make pasta with an Italian grandmother, live in a Yurt and milk the animals, forage for food in virtually any country in the world. Food travel is about the experience of food and the culture that food is embedded within.

pasta, fresh pasta, machine

How to Food Travel

The best way to food travel is to open your mind and be curious. Try that thousand-year-old duck egg in China, take that pasta course in Italy, explore the culinary expertise of the Jewish people in New York. Immerse yourself in the culture of Japan or the far east. Visit India and learn about the wide variety of spices used and what curry really was.

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Ask what it is you are eating when travelling, find out the story behind the foods prepared for you. Don’t turn down a dish you don’t’ understand learn its history and how it is made. Explore, taste, try and learn about the place you are visiting through its foods.

Food Travel is more than travelling to eat

Clearly, food travel is about much more than eating. Food travel is about supporting local communities and contributing to local economies. Food travel is about valuing differences and learning from other cultures.

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Travelling for food means that we can momentarily become a part of a different culture and learning about that culture through its food can change the way we view the world. We all know that travel “broadens the mind”, but it also helps us as Westerners get rid of our shallow world views and embrace differences and expand our world.

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