A headline on WaPo’s site earlier caught my attention: “Skipping the must-sees for the must-eats.” Hubby and I are a little bit guilty of this. We certainly could’ve squeezed in a little more sightseeing time in London last summer if we hadn’t been so concerned about our dinner reservations. But we have no regrets about our decision. If anything, our next trip will probably be more food-centric.
Food has been a central part of our travel experience since our first trip together. We had only been dating a few weeks when Hubby joined Mom and me in Vegas for the July 4th holiday. I made dinner reservations for the three of us at Mix atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. Hubby impressed Mom when he picked up the tab (that was a first among my boyfriends).
Later that year Hubby and I returned to Vegas for New Year’s Eve. Before heading to Voodoo Lounge for the party part of the evening, we had a sumptuous dinner at Spago in Caesar’s Forum. We still talk about that meal: the quail egg with the caviar and edible gold leaf, the “pope’s hat” pasta (agnolotti) in a divine cream sauce, the turbot (first time either of us had eaten it), the dramatic chocolate sphere we were served for dessert.
The time spent researching restaurants and planning our food itinerary has increased with each subsequent trip. We strive for more authenticity now. We’re going to NYC in July and have already considered at least two dozen restaurants for our five-day trip. I know this may seem crazy to people, so I’m going to try to explain what’s going on here.
I would argue that eating the food of a culture allows you to get more inside of that culture than any museum could. When you’re in a museum, you’re an observer, usually at a great historical distance. When you eat, you are an active participant. Food is present, tangible, and fundamental.
Think back to some of your earliest childhood memories. I bet they involve food. We lived in Ft. Worth until I was five, which means I grew up eating Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can’t begin to count how many sopapillas I ate at Pancho’s. I also ate a lot of brisket at Riscky’s and had afternoon tea with my parents at the Worthington Hotel. Those three experiences highlight the dominant cultures in Ft. Worth at the time. Food traditions are a part of our lives before we’re even aware of it.
To underscore the centrality of food to our lives, let’s talk about “food issues.” I bet you have been told or have told someone else: you’re too fat/thin/eat too much/don’t eat enough/eat the wrong things. Food is surrounded by control. As children, our parents dictate what we eat (or should – letting your kids eat candy for breakfast would be stupid on so many levels). Some religions dictate what the faithful can eat. Culture can dictate what we eat. Many people with eating disorders are searching for a way to control lives that otherwise feel very out of control. Food is not just fuel for living; it’s a statement about who you are, where you’re from, and what you want out of life.
I would say we balanced sightseeing and food pretty well during our London trip. We even do a decent job in NYC. But I definitely see merit in Mr. Yonan’s travel style. Food isn’t just something to keep you from fainting at the Louvre – sometimes, it’s the main attraction.