Things to Consider About Culinary Travel
Eating your way around the world sounds an easy and pleasurable vacation but there are some things to consider before setting out; although the most important for the foodie is always how to avoid the dreaded stomach lurgy.
If your travel is just about sampling a country’s various cuisines you will probably find a week to 10 days is enough time to visit a few markets, restaurants and festivals. However if you wish to learn some intricacies through a tasting or cooking class you will need a bit longer, possibly a full two weeks.
If you’re planning on sampling the local cuisine a good adage that can save you a lot of hassle is "boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it". That means avoiding things that have been washed in tap water (eg. lettuce) or unpeeled fruit. Grilled meats, boiled soup and noodles should be fine.
If you come across a buffet consider how long the food has been keeping warm. These kinds of buffets are okay at breakfast or early in the evening but not if they’ve been sitting there a long time. Likewise lukewarm food should be avoided.
Other things to avoid are milk products that go bad in tropical heat, shellfish or seafood particularly if you’re a long way from the ocean and empty restaurants that even the locals avoid! If a restaurant looks suspect i.e. the tables aren’t clean or there are a lot of flies, the food is more likely to be bad. Another good test for hygiene is the cleanliness of the cook’s shirt! This might be a bit hard to gauge in fancy restaurants but many places in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America will have open kitchens. Street food in much of the developing world can be a bit dicey, particularly for those with sensitive stomachs.
Always get in the habit of washing your hands before you eat, particularly if you’ve been wandering through a bazaar or near animals. Rub your cutlery down with serviettes/napkins before using them and check your plates and cups are dry.
Always drink bottled water or boil any drinking water you are unsure about. Check the seal on all water or drink products first. Bottled water is also good for cleaning your teeth in some locations, and you should be careful not to swallow water when in the shower or swimming. In developing counties avoid ice drinks or even roadside ice cream that might contain unpurified water. You should also wash your fruit after purchase.
Traveler’s diarrhoea is a common health problem, particularly in developing countries. It can affect anyone but is more serious in the elderly and young children. If you get diarrhoea drink plenty of clear, clean fluids to rehydrate. You should take some rehydration fluids with you and medication. Although in many developing countries the local chemist will know what you need if you describe your symptoms to them. Only take the medication if the problem persists and if that does not clear it up after 48 hours seek medical assistance.
Familiarize yourself with the medical facilities of your destination. Get the emergency numbers for your locality and find out where to go for help.