A Foodies Guide To Study Abroad
I stared down at the cast iron skillet, steaming and bubbling, making the saffron look like melted gold. The smell of the fresh fruit in the sangria and freshly made paella made my mouth water something fierce. I lifted my fork slowly, and took a bite. In that moment, I became a foodie.
The only thing better than getting to see the world is getting to taste it. Whether its paella, pasta, sushi, or tapas, experiencing the food anywhere you visit is just as important as experiencing the culture and its sights.
I would like to start this guide out with an unpopular opinion: Italian food was not the best food that I have had during my time abroad. While I did have the most bomb lasagna I’ve ever had in Florence, by and large, I prefer “Amer-Italian” food. That is, the gooey, cheesy, garlic-y appropriation of “Italian” food that can be found in every Ohio city back home.
All across the Mediterranean, I experienced countless, incredible dishes that are hard to rival: souvlaki in Greece, paella in Spain, and who can deny the delicious simplicity of pita bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar?
Maybe it was just the restaurants I visited in Italy, but I did not experience the gastrointestinal salvation that I, like many others, dreamed of. That’s not to say that Italian cuisine is a lie. It’s simply to say, don’t expect one food or culinary region to be the ‘end all be all’ to food.
In fact, I was very surprised to learn that Peru, known mostly for ancient ruins and alpacas, is actually considered a top culinary destination. This country is known not only for the thousands of tourists dying to get a glimpse of Macchu Picchu, but it is also home to over 500 national dishes. Ceviche, chaufa, and pisco sours. Sometimes some of the best foods you’ll eat are in some of the most unexpected corners of the world!
Speaking of the unexpected, another important thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to travel, cheap does not always mean bad. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite. When it comes to a long day of sight-seeing and tourism, the first thing you want to do after all that exploration is to sit down at the closest restaurant you find and chow down. But if you want the best food for the best price, you aren’t going to find it on the main strip or city center of where you are.
The best tip I learned while abroad is, the restaurants closest to tourist attractions and on the main streets, near airports, hotels, and ports are normally mediocre, overly expensive food catering to tourists who are too lazy or too tired to find a better option. These restaurants draw in tourists because of convenience and advertise authentic, national cuisine. However, if you take the time to walk a few blocks or down a couple side streets, you’ll probably find a much tastier restaurant. If you find locals in this restaurant, then odds are, you are in a good place.
Unbelievably, TripAdvisor is also a great source of information on the restaurants and cuisine of your destination. Never has a TripAdvisor sticker in a window steered me wrong. This is because tons of other people have also agreed that this place has great food, drinks, atmosphere, and other aspects to it, too.
If you plan to travel long term, give up on the diet plans and food restrictions — at least for a little bit, and allow yourself the freedom to eat like a local and experience the culture through their spices, foods, and drinks. You won’t regret it!