Most addictive cuisines?
- grocerytrekker Mar 10, 2008 04:12 PM
Tourists are notorious for seeking food they are used to, while they are travelling.
Which countries or regions are most guilty of lacking a sense of adventure when it comes to choosing dinner away from home? Are they addicted to their own cuisine?
I wouldn't want to make any general statements, but I'd say it's a tossup between Americans and Germans. This is only after witnessing the behavior of an admittedly small number of the latter, and my experiences traveling with the former. And it must be said that those Americans were US military people who were not in Italy because they wanted to be...but on a bus trip to Rome I was thrilled to learn that we'd scored dinner reservations at a convent/restaurant I had read about, run by a bunch of gourmet-cooking nuns. I was SO looking forward to it...and then word swept through the group that someone had located a Chinese restaurant, and they all voted to cancel the convent meal! I was traveling with my mom and my sister (who was married to an Air Force guy, who incidentally HATED Italian food), and we just stayed behind and ate in the hotel restaurant.
All of the German tourists I encountered in France and Italy looked as though they'd come down on a bus just so they could openly despise everything. I can't decide which trait made them stand out in the crowd more, their sour looks or the mostly unfortunate clothing... I know it's not necessarily a cultural thing, as my grandfather was of German Mennonite stock, the first in his family to marry "English", and he was as adventurous and omnivorous an eater as they come.
re: Will Owen
Its interesting... when I was a teeny bopper in Mexico City... we always knew how to spot the German tourists... they would be sitting on some park bench eating Sandwiches, packaged snacks & drinks.
The English were unmistakable... because everything they saw they compared back to something in England.
The French were the ones who looked for the least expensive options, dug right into a bowl of Pancita, Lengua, Cesos.... and were the worst tippers.
The Spaniards were cheap, dug into everything... but the most likely to complain about spicy condiments.
Of course cultures change... and our last couple of trips to the Yucatan & Peru we happen to spend time with a lot of young German tourists... and they came across as the most embracing, open minded, fun loving tourists I have ever encountered.
I've noticed that a lot too, but it usually happens only with Chinese tour groups, not tourists visiting a country on their own. It seems that tour companies make a deal with certain Chinese restaurants that will offer tour groups meals at a low price. The tourists may not like the food, but sadly it's part of the tour package.
How disappointing. I thought this was going to be a thread on which cuisines were most addictive... to me. In which case I would have voted for sichuan, closely followed by thai and vietnamese. And then maybe southern.
If it's which nationalities/tourists are most addicted to their own cuisine, and thus do not eat the local fare when abroad, well then I'd have to vote for the Indians (Asian, not US). They travel the world, and bring their own chef. Not everyone of course, but the travel groups I've known about definitely fit the bill.
That's a fun interpretation of this question - "which cuisines are the most addictive to you?" Chowhounds, the exact antitheses of these impervious tourist types uninterested in local offerings, would come up with many exotic cuisines that may, in fact, be addictive.
One point I should add - if people insist on their own cuisine, aren't they really proud of it, and are refusing to let it go even when abroad?
It was my first day in Paris. My aunt/uncle drove us (Mom and I) down from Germany where they live. I was so excited to eat at a Parisian restaurant for my first time and where does my aunt take us...a Chinese restaurant b/c in Germany where they live, there are no good Chinese places. I don't think it is b/c they are addicted, just b/c it is hard to find good stuff back in Germany for them, whereas in CA we have an abundance of great places to choose from.
What a strange question. First of all, people traveling go for their own cuisine not because they're addicted to it, but rather because they want a level of comfort, when they're otherwise uncomfortable with their environment. And usually, it's when they're traveling over long periods of time, or when they're stuck somewhere for an extended period of time. For instance, the Israelis who live in the Los Angeles area largely go for Israeli-type food. They've left what they know in order to pursue a more affluent life, but the Israeli food helps to anchor them, and that's why there are so many Israeli-type restaurants around. But probably, if they were just on a short trip to, say southeast Asia, they would go strongly for exposing themselves to the indigenous food.
I would say that for me, there are 3 basic cuisines I feel strongly attracted to to the point of addiction, only one of which is a typical merican cuisine, though I'm all American, and that would be BBQ, and the smokier, the better. But I also find myself addicted to northern Italian cuisine, and specifically to the dairy components such as cheese (I could eat Parmesan continuously, for instance), butter and oil. And almost any southeast Asian cuisine for the third. I don't see how anyone could be addicted to German food (although the beer and wines I could understand), and French food, though regional and exciting at first, eventually gets boring (though I could eat various cheeses forever).
Im definitely going to say that Americans are among the BEST about being willing to experience other cuisines when out traveling. Yes there are a lot of insular "ewwww sushi ewwww duck liver" American eaters but Im an American but second-gen Asian immigrant and by golly I will say most older Asians of every stripe including subcontinent are very unadventurous eaters.
I really think this is a function of how long its been easy and affordable for a countrys citizens to go traveling around the globe, plus how well they assimilate immigrants into their own culture. If your fellow Whateverians are comfortable eating Italian, Korean, and Ethiopian food at home and if they have the opportunity to travel and see the rest of the world as fellow citizens then they will be happy to eat as Romans when in Rome.
I think among Asians the Japanese are most willing to try foreign foods and you can find lots of foreign food in Japan albeit Japanized. (no Im not Japanese)And I think this is directly a result of the fact that they have been doing foreign travel among the middle class for longer than any other Asians have. Singapore too but Singapore is a unique case.
Chinese and Indians are the new tourists these days and I think they are both acquiring the worst reputation on this front. Im certainly familiar with some who have insisted on eating only "their" food even on short week-long trips to Europe. Although with Indians some of it is a caste issue as there are still holdouts who will only eat food cooked by someone they can associate with in that fashion. Little bit Like some Jewish people who will have glatt kosher food flown in or carried along for them on vacation.
I would expect eastern Europeans from poorer contries to also be pretty bad on this front. Insularity, poverty, historically an inability to travel freely. Equals disgust with foreign food.
What cuisines I find most addictive. Anything friendly to hot chilli peppers. Anything friendly to high intensity of flavor and complex aromatics. Oddly enough I think this rules out things like traditional Japanese and traditional Scandinavian and yet i love both. Aw heck I like it all. WAITER! BRING ME ANOTHER! OF EVERYTHING!
I was travelling from Reno to Mammoth in January with an Italian-Canadian acquaintance. We stopped at a casino/coffee shop/greasy spoon in Topaz at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning. My acquaintance said she would like a latte. I told her a place like this would not have an espresso machine and they would only have regular drip coffee. She proceeded to ask the waitress for a latte. The waitress looked at her like she was half-crazy. I explained that the coffee shop like this only served drip coffee. She said that was ridiculous. She couldn't believe a coffee shop would not serve espresso or latte. She started to whine that drip coffee was too strong and she couldn't drink that. She then said she would like a tea with milk. The waitress bought about a 1/2 cup of milk, for the coffees and teas for about 4 people, and my acquaintance dumped the entire amount of milk into her tea. I think she was trying to make some sort of tea-latte. Did her behaviour have anything to do with her being Italian-Canadian? Probably not. I think she's just finicky, and hasn't visited enough of America to realize that espresso is not common outside big cities and tourist traps.
On a trip to Aspen, the Italian-Canadians (3 born in Italy, but living in Canada for 40 years, and 4 born in Canada) I was staying with brought raddicchio, parmesan, frico, friulano, bolognese sauce, vodka sauce & polenta with them in their suitcases from Canada. When we went out to dinner, we went out for Italian food.
I'm having a little trouble with this thread. I love to generalize as much as the next person, it's a lot of fun to make sweeping statements. But this is a little too sweeping. From what I can see so far, most of the posts are anecdotal (ie. based on a few experiences) or discuss certain artificial situations (tour companies forcing everyone to eat at a cheap resto).
If this was a post entitled "Funny stories about tourists being picky about their food", well no problem! Great stories! But to use these stories to comment on an entire nation or culture?
Most tourists, regardless of origin, lack a sense of adventure about their food. This is not specific to one culture, everyone is guilty. Most people are fussy about what they eat. Chowhound is a unique forum, because there are so many people who are curious about food, and who care about what they eat. That's why I love all of you guys, even the ones I might disagree with on certain points! But we are a niche market, a minority, a special interest group. I am happy that this group is getting larger every day, but the fact is we are all obsessed with food, and that ain't the norm. Most people look for what is familiar and safe. Most tourists are this way, and there isn't a country or region which is free of this behavior.
I have a problem with this thread as well. The thread's basic question, as it's worded now and first read on the list of General Chowhounding Topics, seems to ask which cuisine is so immediately captivating you could eat it over and over and over again. Or which cuisine would be the easiest to fall in love with and forsake all others.
Instead the question is really, "Which people or culture is the least open to trying new foods outside their culture?" Which is really more of a psychological question about a willingness to try new things, rigidity, desire for sameness, risk aversity, and ethnocentrism.
I'm not sure an affection for, or addiction to, one's native cuisine is even an issue here.
Grocerytrekker, probably the best thing to do is to re-phrase the question that begins the thread, then start a new thread. "Addictive" is not at all the right word for the question. Feel free to use my paraphrase above, or to use your own question under the header, that I've paraphrased to: "Which countries lack a sense of adventure when trying new foods?"
In Anthony Bourdain's visit to Korea, he went out with some American service men and women who had been stationed there for several years. They hadn't eaten any of the most common of Korean foods, and only hesitantly tried some when along with Bourdain. Sad, sad, sad!
Besides Japanese, I'm addicted to Sechuan, Lao, Thai, and Mexican. Semi-addicted to Italian, Pakistani, Indian, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Basque, Armenian, and French.
My personal favorite cuisines are Italian, East European, Chinese, Mediterranean (Greek, Spanish, Israeli). Living in Central Ohio, we don't get a lot of cutting edge cuisine, but we have Somali, Ethiopian, Japanese restos as well. Don't care for sushi, not really crazy about fish, will eat certain types. My issue is spiciness or heat. I can't eat extremely spicy food (hiatel hernia, indigestion) so I have to carefully evaluate ingredients. This doesn't always turn out good abroad with a language difference. You would never see me traveling with Andrew Zimmer eating insects either. It's not a lack of adventure, but a great deal of squeaminess when it comes to experimenting with odd ingredients.
Funny, I am not addicted to a particular cuisine. I am addicted to foods that are prepared in mouth size bites, wonderfully seasoned, and made from fresh ingredients. I love stews and braises and fritters. Some of my favorite ingredients are beans, rice, cruciferous vegetables, any member of the onion family. I love Indian and Middle Eastern food a lot and the cooking of northern and central Italy and southern France.
Would it be fair to say that there are certain qualities which make certain cuisines more addictive than others? (Or is this an individual preference, as well?)
For instance, food cultures which are used to using more spices (curries, Mexican chili peppers...) are more often than not reluctant to "dumb" it down. Food cultures which habitually offer foods dripping with fat are reluctant to give them up. On the other hand, people who are used to leaner foods react strongly to fatty foods and find their fat tolerance very low indeed.
Cultures which have developed cured or fermented foods (olives, cheeses, fish and meat...) cannot live with fresh produce alone. And so on.
I spent a couple years working in travel, and therefore I learned a bit about tourists' apprehensions when dining abroad. (My clients were primarily Americans traveling in Europe.) Most people were interested to try the native cuisine, and a good number of them considered themselves foodies. Of course, some of them were surprised when the food didn't conform to their preconceived notions, but they got over it -- more or less.
To the extent clients were reluctant diners, it often revolved around religious, health-related, or other dietary restrictions. Understandably, it's easier to gauge whether a dish contains ingredients you can't have if A) you can read the menu and B) you have some familiarity with the cuisine.
Also, I kept a list of restaurants that served burgers and pizza for clients traveling with young children. I agree that tourists should try the local food, but you can't expect a 7-year-old to tolerate novelty for 3 meals a day.
In my experience, I don't think it's as much a question of nationalities as it is of individuals and their inate senses of curiosity. A great deal depends on the family culture when one is growing up. I come from a fairly adventurous group of eaters. My uncle (father's brother) was undoubtedly the most adventurous of the lot. He was a construction boss who worked his way around the world, including building the first Aramaco headquarters in Saudi Arabia, after WWII. While there, he made friends with several sheiks, and as guest of honor on more than one occasion, was served a dish of raw sheep's eyes. I don't think I could have handled that, but he said they were good and he ate them all. And alcohol is forbidden in that culture, so the "anything is good with enough booze" philosophy wasn't available.
My second husband was the only child of a couple that considered Waffle House adventurouus eating. When we lived in El Paso (the world capital of TexMex), he made his first trip to Jedda, Saudi Arabia, for Raytheon. Prior to departure, they supplied him with a lovely book that included a list of all of the exotic restaurants in town. The array was simply incredible. I gave him a list of places I wanted him to try and report back. When he called me his second day there, I asked if he'd tried any restaurants yet... "Yes. Some of the guys and I went out for dinner last night." "Really! Where did you go?" My mind was racing through all of the exotic restaurants. His reply" "Paco's Tacos." Yup. Waffle House. But I will say that when we were together, he would go anywhere I wanted to.
Given my druthers, when I travel, I like to spend at least a couple of weeks, if not months, in one place and stay away from other tourists. I love small neighborhood hole in the wall restaurants where they take you into the kitchen to choose your meal when you don't speak the language. Hey, not only do you get a first hand look and smell of the dishes, you get to do your own health inspection of the place!
As a rule of thumb, I think kids are more adventurous about where and what they eat when travelling than adults. When we lived in Greece, we were in a local restaurant when a bus load of Swiss teen aged tourists came piling in for lunch. They all had something different, and were sharing with each other with great glee. Which only underscored the older German couple in the corner eating pork chops. I remember looking at them and thinking they must be on vacation simply because it is expected of them, but deep down they were wishing they were home. Sad...
I don't think I'm addicted to any one type of food and I think that's the problem if you see me ducking into a non-local type of place. When traveling I look for what's regional and typical, but after a couple of weeks I get the edible wanderlust and am curious about the country's take on someone else's cuisine. Sort of how Chinese and Mexican have morphed into something very different here from the original.
had Vietnamese in Paris once (surprisingly un-interesting given the history). After about 10 days of Italian in a couple of different regions, we broke down in Rome and had sushi for a light snack, Chinese for lunch. don't get me started on what Germans might do to a pizza. oh and this is going to sound absurd, but the filet-o-fish sandwich at the McDonald's under the Spanish Steps is fantastic - they use real fish and fry it properly unlike here.
This is really odd to me because what defines "American" food? As an American, our food is totally regional. Personally I think eating chili on top of spaghetti is weird but to some Ohioans (is that a word??) eating Chitlains, boiled peanuts, or grits is horrifying.
With so many climates and diverse geographies that make up the United States and the sheer amount of vast produce and proteins available, I'd say we were amoung the most likely to accept other cuisines.