Traveller's tales

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: Eating foreign food

That’s no big deal these days – most of us eat foreign food every day of our lives.
Vindaloo curry on Saturday, (but always - roast beef and Yorkshire pod on Sunday) pizza on Monday, chop-sue on Monday – that kind of thing.

Where foreign food really does taste foreign is in the country it’s cooked in – the one where the locals eat it like the English eat roast beef and Yorkshire pod – abroad!

First of all, you can’t recognize one single item on the menu, if there is such a thing – so then you ask, and, failing to understand the reply, you go up to where the food is on show or being prepared and point at something that you think might be edible.

Appearance is everything – if it doesn’t look right, if it looks slithery or slippery, if it’s the wrong color – the odds are that you won’t choose to eat it.

And that goes for the restaurant or café you pick. I was horrified by a restaurant my friends elected to use in the first few days of my time in Khartoum, Sudan. However, some months down the road, I unknowingly chose the same place to eat it, commenting, “This place looks nice.”

Appearances and what you get used to are both important; tourists compare what’s on offer where they are holidaying with the kind of places they eat in back home – a lot go hungry for just this reason.

Getting used to eating out, means getting used to the different dishes out there, and the surroundings in which you are going to eat in.

You can easily walk out of a restaurant before you’ve really sat down at a table, but once you’ve ordered, that’s it – you’re obliged to try to eat what is put in front of you.

Now, if it’s under or overcooked, you can send it back – change it for something else, and I suppose you can always do that if you really don’t want to eat something, but it’s more embarrassing and difficult if you’ve already eaten half of whatever it is you’re trying to return.

On a more local level, once you’ve put something in your mouth, it can be quite embarrassing to have to remove it in front of the others at the table. There are ways to do this, and I was thinking how to do just that when this photo was taken.

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