Foodie Underground: How to Travel Like a Foodie

ColumnA step-by-step guide to making sure you travel like a food lover.

“You can’t eat yet.”

My tablemates were ready to dig into their meal when my best friend and travel partner Rachel alerted everyone that they had to wait for a few.

“Just one second,” I said, while whipping my phone out to snap a quick photo.

“She does this a lot, you just have to get over it,” my friend said matter of factly, with a slight eye roll.

It occurred to me then and there that most people don’t take a photo of everything they eat. Let’s not go overboard here: I don’t photo document every single thing that ever crosses a plate in front of me. I do however like to have inspiration for other meals, and when it comes to travel it’s all about keeping a visual diary of all the new foods that were experienced. Again, normal for some, not so normal for others.

But there’s just something about the right composition of your passport, a postcard and a double espresso that you don’t want to miss out on. If you have mastered how to pretend you’re a foodie, now you’re ready to travel like one, and this guide will help you do just that.

1. Take the Same Daily Photo

Every day is a little better with good food porn, and this way you have a good visual comparison of what you consumed during your travels. Choose one meal or a specific thing to photograph every day. It could be your morning cup of tea or coffee or simply your daily afternoon snack. Get creative.

2. Order Sparkling Water With Everything

Because espresso never tasted better. Just be aware that when you do so on your flight home you might get a “what is the deal with everyone ordering sparkling water? Do they think they’re French?” from your flight attendant.

3. Keep At Least Two Photographic Devices on Hand At All Times

You never know when you need to take a photo, and sometimes the DSLR is just too obnoxious. You have to maintain a level of class after all, and sitting by your meal with a huge camera in your lap through the entire meal isn’t really the way to do so.

4. When All Else Fails, Use Your Journal.

Keep a notebook and write down meals, ingredients and translations of new food related words. It will be like your own food encyclopedia when you’re done.

5. Befriend a Local and Make Them Order

Forget Yelp and Travelocity and every other restaurant recommendation service out there. Find someone that knows what they’re talking about and ask them for advice.

6. Spend Quality Time in a Local Grocery Store

It doesn’t need to be a fancy market, because in this case, the more basic the better. Some of the best food adventures can be had in the biggest of supermarkets, because you get the chance to find out what locals eat on an everyday basis. You’ll never know what you might find.

7. Always Say Yes

Unless of course this is in regards to an in-flight meal, then go with your own sense of culinary discretion. In other words, you do not need to say yes to that odd looking potato, jello sausage thing with a cold mini sausage served on Lufthansa.

8. Write Down Every Single Meal and Where You Ate It

When you’re later asked for food recommendations by fellow travelers you won’t be stuck saying to yourself, “what was that one cute place by that one river called?” Flipping open to page 6 of your food journal and knowing exactly where to tell them to go is much better.

9. Plan Your Day According to Food Stops

Why stand in line at museums when you can plan your entire itinerary around breakfast, lunch, dinner and frequent coffee breaks?

10. Learn to Say “Cheers” in Every Language of the Places You Are Traveling

Not only will you impress locals, but you’ll seem so worldly when you come home and refuse to cheer in your native tongue. Worldly or pretentious, depends on your friend circle.

11. Forget Your Normal Self-Imposed Food Restrictions

Just say yes to carbs, dairy and more. Because why would you want to miss out on fennel seed salami pizza? You wouldn’t.

12. Select Airlines Based off of Food Selection

Air France? Almost as good as actually being in France. KLM? Always a good selection of hearty European breads. China Airlines? They happen to serve really good Chinese tea.

13. Carry a Spork At All Times

You never know when you might need it.

14. Avoid McDonald’s and Starbucks At All Costs

You’re traveling, no need to be the obnoxious American who can’t ditch their chain food habit.

15. Learn About The Process From Something Basic

Take a class on cheesemaking, or a tour of a winery. Learning the background and history of a local specialty makes it that much more special.

16. Always Choose Cheap Lodging in Exchange For Being Able to Splurge on Meals

Five stars all the time is certainly not an indicator of a good culinary trip, but if you can order that aperitif or go all out and get the dessert without thinking about what it will do to your pocketbook, you’ll be much better off. 10 person dorm room in a hostel? If it means you get an extra bottle of local wine at dinner, by all means.

17. Be Willing to Mark the “Foods and Seeds” Section on Your Customs Card Just to See What Happens

Chocolate does not count.

18. Find a Couple of Key Items That You Always Buy Abroad to Add an Extra Level of Foodie Pretentiousness at Your Next Dinner Party

You can’t deny how much fun it is to say, “try some salted licorice! I stocked up last time I was in Europe.”

19. Get Lost

Leave the map and guidebook at home and let your stomach guide you. Whether you end up at a farmers market you didn’t know about, a hole-in-the-wall candy store or a friendly neighborhood joint, you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.

20. Celebrate the Unknown

You don’t have to always know what you’re eating. Life is more fun that way.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.