Archives for: June 2006, 05
There's something to be said for eating what you're served. And when you're a tourist, to some extent it's a good standard of conduct. Sometimes it'll be a matter of choosing the least of all evils: The O can "pass" on the bread, the A on the beef, etc., where possible...but it isn't always so.
Some hosts may take it as an insult if you don't "fill your plate", and, I have to say, you may miss something extraordinary. If you're not ill, think "Tier One" when you travel, understanding that you may have to expand on that, to take in a "serious Avoid", perhaps daily. Enjoy your trip and take "Deflect", I say.
Despite my B loyalty, there's a particular Palestinian chicken dish I wouldn't refuse if it were offered to me under ANY circumstances. It's a regional specialty requiring not only alot of time and experience, but...unspeakable love. It's an HONOR to be served this dish, and, once you've tasted it you may actually, as I did, weep. OK? I might select something different at a restaurant, but if someone's Palestinian mother were to serve it to me, I'd melt. In NO case would I refuse to taste it.
If I were at a Sicilian trattoria and I were told "Today we're serving the Specialty of the House: Blah Blah Marinara etc.", I'd never be so picky/gauche/B-fanatic to say: "No marinara for me, thanks." The rationale would NOT be: "Hey, I'm on vacation, so I'll feast on Avoids." It would be this: "I've CHOSEN to be the guest, this week/month, of numerous hosts. Some are more personal than others and might take offense at my rejecting their hospitality." And then, "WOW! I'm REALLY in SICILY!!!"
And, if there's a very, very special dish in a less "personal" restaurant/buffet setting, e.g., couscous or bisteeya in Morocco, bouillabaisse in Marseille, paella in Barcelona, I'd be at least willing to TASTE it on the side! Why? Just to indulge the proprietor? No. There are other reasons.
To have an Experience: You're not at some formulaic AmerItalian chain: This is The Real Thing: Wake up! Cuisine is an essential aspect of ANY culture. To be unwilling to TASTE the marinara sauce of a Sicilian host who's proud of it, whose ancestors have perfected the recipe over generations, defeats the purpose of Tourism, no? It, in effect, carries an attitude of "closedness" to new things that doesn't quite jibe with the whole notion of Leisure Travel, does it? (Is it even POSSIBLE to know a place without tasting its signature dishes?)
Maybe I'm saying that really sick people shouldn't be tourists, and that if you're ill, you should consider postponing that sojourn in Provence 'til you're better. And that if you're NOT ill, you shouldn't be the guest of anyone you've misled to believe you ARE. Think about it: "I can't eat this" "I can't eat that" (?) - or - "Wherever I go, I just order broiled salmon and rice, daily..." Is THAT the way to learn, experience? And yet another angle is: Is that the way to endear your hosts to Americans?
See, there are 3 questions most American tourists don't ask themselves:
(1) "What am I saying, what is my conduct demonstrating, to non-Americans,about 'American Tourists'?"
(2) "What am I learning about the host culture? How many personal interactions am I actually having with regular local people? How much 'inside information' am I taking away from my travel experience?"
(3) "If the above two issues are meaningless to me, why am I a tourist?"
This "We-carry-our-own-food, thank-you" attitude is really off-putting, anti-social, and actually savors (globally) of Imperialism. It says "We might set up our own versions of 'fast food' all over your cities and towns, but we sure don't stoop to eat what you mistakenly/ignorantly call 'Food'." I wonder: Do many American tourists know how to comport themselves as GUESTS? And are we sensitive to avoid giving the impression of Conquerors?
Spend some time daydreaming before you embark on that whirlwind tour. Imagine yourself being invited by locals, all over the world, to enjoy the very best that their countries have to offer. Then imagine yourself open to, and meriting, those invitations. See yourself accepting the fact that many, if not most, of those experiences involve the sharing of food. It means leaving the beaten path, choosing the road not taken, being open to surprises.
Unless, of course, your diet's pristineness is sacrosanct, in which case your parameters must remain restricted; food serves a socially separative rather than convivial role in your life, in which case: Stay home and remain "compliant". That might be the best option for the ill, whether physically or spiritually. Or: Drop down to Tier One Compliance that you're willing - on sheer whim - to ignore, if "kismet" so require. Now THAT'S an Adventure!