There is nothing more depressing than watching a family of tourists, tired from a long day of exploring, sit down to their dinner at the local Pizza Hut or Applebee’s. It´s even worse if right across the street, a small mom and pop café or a locally run pizza place is open and waiting for customers.
Without a doubt, food is one of the most important aspects of any local culture. What we eat, defines who we are, and small communities from all around the world offer an incredibly rich and varied palette of local cuisine. Unfortunately, many tourists choose to opt for the familiar instead of venturing out into the world of local food. Though your chain restaurant may offer familiarity, you will also lose out on the opportunity to truly experience the reality of the place you are visiting.
I´m Dr. Foodle, and today I´m going to let you all in on four secrets of how to truly experience another culture through food. Of course, the first step is to be willing and daring enough to let go of the comfort that Pizza Hut and Applebee’s offer and believe that there is an opportunity to discover something much better for dinner. If you´re prepared to leave behind the recognizable and common, get ready for some advice that will help you to truly engage with the places you visit.
The most important part of discovering the sumptuousness of truly local food is to get out of the city. Urban places do offer nice variety of food, but they often pride themselves on being worldly and cosmopolitan. You may find excellent Thai food while visiting downtown Baton Rouge, but if you were to travel outside of the city, you´d probably run into some home cooked Cajun food that would blow your mind. Rural places maintain traditional, local food traditions more firmly than urban places, so take a ride into the countryside when you´re searching for that perfect local dinner.
Secondly, don´t judge the book by its cover. Commercial restaurants in today´s world are many times housed in luxurious buildings with special lighting and flashy interior decorating. Though these places may be fun to look at, the quality of the food doesn´t necessarily reflect the opulence of the building. On the other hand, a small, one-room restaurant tucked into the side of someone´s house may not be flamboyant, but the cooking may very well be ridiculously delicious.
Next, if you have the time to walk and wander, you may very well come across hidden culinary treasures that are simply unnoticeable while you fly through the streets in your car. Some of the greatest local food restaurants are tucked away in an ally while their sign may be hidden behind an overgrown bush.
Lastly, don´t be afraid to ask local people for suggestions. Chances are that local people know who cooks well and will be able to point you in the right direction. Many guidebooks and websites simply can´t compare to the advice offered by the old man you find reading the Sunday paper on a park bench.
Follow these simply ideas and you´ll see that local food not only offers you the best option for your dinner, but will also allow you to discover the richness of local cultures.