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Oct 4, 2007 05:16 AM

Pet Peeve – Peculiar (IMHO) Requests on Chowhound

“I’m vacationing with my family in Emilia-Romagna, Italy and we would love some killer Thai. Any suggestions?”


“Will be in Lyon, France next month. Where can I get great fish and chips?”


“Will I be able to get any Japanese beer when I'm in Germany?”

As a person who loves both food and travel I find these kinds of questions on chowhound bothersome. Now I can understand if you grew up in say Texas eating fantastic bbq and were RELOCATED to another place (not renowned for their bbq) and requested bbq suggestions to settle your craving. But if you are somewhere for a short period of time for work or vacation why not eat what they do best WHERE YOU ARE? Isn’t that the point of being a chow or foodie; to get the "best" chow?

Off of my soapbox

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  1. I'm thinking that the point of chowhound is that you do not have to buy into someone else's idea of what is good food. You ask, if there are experts on that topic, they answer. You would never find it strange to ask for any of those things in any city in the US, or for that matter London.

    I say judge not, lest ye be judged.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bess

      What you state about our expectations both here and in the UK when it comes to diversity of high quality cuisine is completely reasonable and accurate. It is when we have similar expectations in places that for a variety of reasons don’t have that same level of diversity of high quality cuisine that I find bothersome.
      There are places around the US and the world that have great cuisine but that are provincial. And due to their provincialism an expectation of getting great or even good food that is not “of the area” can be very low.
      For example if a Chow finds him or herself on a short trip to say Charleston, South Carolina, looking for authentic New York style pizza will not only leave a Chow very disappointed but will also deny him or her of some pretty interesting and delicious chow wouldn’t you agree?
      So I’m asking some Chows to perform a balancing act between their personal tastes or craving and what is available and done well where they happen to have sojourned:
      • New York or London – Go for it!
      • Parma or Loire Valley – Not so fast.

    2. I actually find it interesting to try local versions of other "ethnic" cuisines when I travel. Brazil, for example, has large populations of Italians, Germans and Japanese, but the versions of those foods that get served in Brazilian restaurants are sometimes quite different than the versions that get served here, and at least in the case of Germany and Italy, quite different than what gets served in the home country, as well (I'm sure the same is probably even more true of Japan, but I've never been to Japan so can't say for sure). It can be really interesting to see how those foods are reinterepreted with local tastes in mind.

      Plus, if people have travelled to a region extensively, they may be familiar with its local offerings of local cuisine and looking for something different. Maybe they heard Emilia-Romagna has a large Thai expat community and wanted to try that, instead.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jacquilynne

        I agree. I had a friend who travelled through Europe and only had Chinese food. I thought it was a waste at the time but he was able to compare the regional differences. I know people who love to check out McDonald's around the world because they vary so much. There's a place for both.

      2. Anyone who has ever read any of my posts has probably figured out that I am truly passionate about Italian food and wine. However, I must admit that living in a city like Rome, as I did for an extended period of time, can start to get a bit monotonous when you are from a city like NY and accustomed to eating a variety of cuisines. I did actively seek out some alternatives to Italian food while I was there, and I have, on a couple of occasions, recommended such places to posters on this board who just really really want to know where they can get something Asian (the answer here is *nowhere*), something Indian (a couple of good places), or a cheeseburger (Hard Rock Cafe)...anything but pizza! :) But I do agree that a person on vacation for a week in Rome had better not be be wasting a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe just so that they can get their nacho fix... because that is just sad (and I've seen it with my own eyes).

        1 Reply
        1. re: vvvindaloo

          And it's not just ordering nachos in Italy for instance but then being pissed when they taste awful, which to me shows real ignorance.

        2. I agree with some of the sentiment behind your post, but otoh, a craving is a craving, whether you have been somewhere a week or ten years....when I was in Australia the first time I was just dieing for a beer and a burger. Seems like this would be an easy craving to satisfy in Australia, but no. And the more I couldn't satisfy it, the more I wanted it. Maybe it was jet lag, I don't know, but I really, really, really wanted a burger and a cold beer and my craving was never satisfied: we looked all over Sydney, but we happened to hit town when 'burgers' made with foccacia (which I DETEST) were all the rage...(sure enough, second trip to Oz four or so years later, we found great burgers with real buns and the lot everywhere we went. Go figure...)

          Then there is also serendipity. On my first trip to Paris I ducked into a doorway when it started raining. Turned out it was a dim sum take out place, where I had the best steamed bbq pork bun of my life! Wish I could remember the name of the place, I would definitely recommend it to others no matter how long they were visiting for...

          Besides, there could be reasons why a particular locale is a good spot to find some item that seems like it would be out of place if you didn't know it well....unless hounds asked, how would they really know what is best where you are? Are you *sure* that there is no good NY style pizza to be had in Charleston? (I've never been to Charleston, so I don't know, but if I were in the mood for NY pizza when I was visiting Charleston, I would surely ask. If nothing else, I might get a good recommendation along the lines of, 'oh, don't bother with pizza...the thing to eat here is X". However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: susancinsf

            I appreciate your thoughtful responses. I lived in Charleston for 6 months btw. I guess for me it is this expectation (usually fostered by us Americans) that the wonderfully diverse cuisine that many of us have available to us here in the States should be readily available to us on the road as well. Having that specific expectation (not a craving per se) in a way shows a real provincialism on our part I think.

            1. re: Chinon00

              i agree. it is bothersome. on my recent trip to hawaii, i searched out for poke, plate lunches and other island specialties instead of french food. as i would never go to kansas city and search for NY pizza. why bother? you'll most likely end up complaining about it. However, to counter my nod to this post I have to say the best won ton soup i have EVER had was at this chinese restaurant in germany. i went to the restaurant out of desparation and turned out to be the best decision i made.

              1. re: trolley

                Surprises are always wonderful. But I think too that being or becoming more knowledgeable about what a city or a region or a country does "well" cuisine wise can only make for a more pleasant experience and not lead to any unnecessary disappointment.
                As I mentioned on another post I was in Marseille on vacation and while there I made some friends. And while looking for a place to eat along “Vieux Port” one my new friends kept repeating in an irritated tone: “nothing but fish!”

          2. Did you ever get an answer to the Japanese beer in Germany question? I'll be there next week on business and I LOVE Sapporo. Thanks!

            1 Reply