Traveling, to me, is about the places we see, the people we meet, and the experiences that change us forever. Food is one of those experiences. Think of your favorite trips and, chances are, a special meal comes to mind.
The food and drink I’ve enjoyed not only tie into my memories of great trips, they’ve changed how I cook at home, what I order at restaurants, how I shop at grocery stores and what I look for in a vacation or a night out with my husband and friends.
My list of favorite food memories is deliciously long: Gnocchi, gelato and house wine in Italy. Croissants, rosé and smoked salmon salads in France. Jamón, paella and sangria in Spain. Guinness and good bread in Ireland. An Oktoberfest of beer tastings and brezen (soft pretzels) in Germany. Indian food in London. Lobster rolls and Sam Adams in Boston. Blackened grouper fish tacos in Clearwater. Fried finger foods of meat, cheese or fruit in Little Havana. A Chicago dog and an Old Style at Wrigley Field. And the list goes on…
Then travel changed my food habits forever. Back in 2007, I saw a few moments of a farm animal abuse video in a downtown Munich square. It’s not the only reason I gave up meat that day, but the images left their mark. Now my food adventures on the road all come with an asterisk: I don’t eat meat, but I certainly eat plenty of amazing meals.
Fresh off a trip to a vegetarian-friendly area, the Pacific Northwest, I had a few trip-ups along the way. This brings me to my travel tips for the vegetarian, the diabetic, the dieter or whatever it is that makes you more selective when it comes to the menu.
Strike up a conversation with locals on where they go. Avoid touristy restaurants like they’re the last options on earth. And don’t give in to the temptation to hit the local McDonald’s abroad (well, more than once) -- no matter how much you’ve always wanted to order a beer with a burger at the golden arches. That won’t be the memory you’ll go home with.
Oh, and if the idea of going meatless makes your stomach churn, head to Kansas City. There are dozens of saucy barbeque joints -- complete with sides made with meat. It’s there where my husband made up for all of the meat I haven’t eaten in four years … in just three days.