Every traveler can relate. We get to our destination, the food is a huge part of the culture, and we don’t want to miss a thing. Literally. Well, I’ve found that more is not always better. In fact, too much more than what’s sane consumption can not only result in you being grumpy about just not feeling the love for what were your favorite pair of jeans, you can end up putting a damper on your travel experience simply by taxing your digestive tract more than it’s set up to take. And that really, really sucks. So over time I’ve developed a system that works pretty darn well and I want to share it with you.
There are two basic categories when it comes to food. The first is what we feed ourselves in order to maintain optimal health and energy levels. The second category is the category of gustatory delights. Sometimes these categories intersect, which is awesome. However, when traveling, more often than not a very large portion of your eating experience will fall into the latter. In a nutshell, I’ve taught myself over time, like any learned skill, to be really discerning as to what falls into the gustatory delights category. It has to have meaning, in that I need to understand its history (how and why the dish developed in that particular part of the country/world). I seek out the juiciest of examples for said food (and beverage). There is street food… and then there is STREET FOOD. There are pastries and then there are PASTRIES. For instance, just about any pastry shop in Italy worth its salt will offer their version of sfogliatella, a shell-shaped filled pastry whose origin is Campania. Since it was on my list of musts, I scoped out my sfogliatella spots – mostly in its birth place. There were some really tasty looking sfogliatella along the way as I trundled through the country and I could have sampled from each town/city, but when I’ve gone that route (the aww hell I’m in Italy after all so it’s I’m actually required to eat that) the result is not more enjoyment, but in fact less!
When the time came and I had my nose pressed up against the window of the shop or trattoria that I had researched, I sampled the best that Italy has to offer, especially in the region in which each heavenly dish was created. This went for the rabbit I had in Turin, and the pizza I had in Naples. Be picky. Be discerning. Make it really matter. Balance eating to sustain your healthy self with eating for the pure pleasure of the experience. I’m pretty sure that sfogliatella fits into the latter of the two categories. You can learn this skill over time. Mostly it requires practice and taking note of how much more you enjoy yourself when your energy levels are stoked and you’re not walking around in a food coma. Take the time to stop long enough to identify which category the dish belongs in and proceed accordingly. Learning new skills do take us out of our comfort zone, but that’s a good thing! People stress out about how they will handle the whole food thing while traveling/on vacation. This technique automatically narrows the playing field to the best of the very best and gets rid of all the mediocre at the get-go. Aim for the highest quality you can get your hands on – and that goes for everything in life, not just food! Mediocrity is not something that any of us need or want in our lives!