Food: it’s an essential part of travel. Maybe you seek out special meals, look for a farmer’s market, or happen on a quick snack at a roadside stand. Whatever approach you prefer, you’ll find much of interest in the book Food Trails.
The book’s subtitle is Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations. It must have been quite a challenge pick them, when you think about the range of tastes and places in the world. While you may or may not agree with the choices Lonely Planet’s editors and writers make, chances are you’ll enjoy exploring with them.
Each section begins with a very short introduction to a town, region, or city, sometimes a touch heavy with stereotypes of what to expect. Read on, though, because even when that’s true, the material in the chapters themselves often offers a different perspective or two even for places with which you may be familiar.
The countries covered range from South Korea to the Seychelles, from Argentina to Oman to South Africa to the Maine coast of the United States.
Each chapter comprises an itinerary of sorts. There’s an introductory note about the nearest airport, and whether the tour should be done by car or is good for walking, and how long to give it. Take some of that with a grain fo salt: if you’re good at walking and hiking and/or skilled at navigating public transport, don’t be put off by the suggestion that you have to have a car available. There’s a map on this first page of each section too, which, while not overly detailed, will give you ideas about the territory.
That material gets you into the travel basics. So does the abundance of photographs, which tell the stories of a place as much as does the written material. There are just as many photos of landscapes and people as there are of food.
About the food: take, for instance, the ideas for the Greek island of Crete. The best way to begin to know the food and ingredients of Crete is to visit the Iraklio Market, is the suggestion. There you can chat with fishmongers, try a locally produced cheese, or stock up for a picnic. The itinerary then visits an olive oil farm in Havania, and takes you on to a taverna in Knossos where garden to table cuisine from the lively owner is recommended. There are other stops along the twisting roads of Crete, from a restaurant in Skalani which specializes in very local recipes created by a local chef who trained at Michelin starred establishments to behind the scenes at a taverna cooking lessons in Zoros. You also learn about Cretan culture and way of life at cooking classes at Avli in Rethymno, and enjoy upscale meals and ambiance back in Iraklio at Peskesi. The section concludes with a sidebar with brief suggestions of places to stay, what else there is to do in the area (in this case the palace at Knossos and the archaeology museum in Iraklion) and a note about celebrations, which includes information about festivals and how to find out about local events.
That’s a template for what you’ll find in all the sections. The emphasis is on very local food experiences.
The section on Ireland, for instance, is about Connemara, where you’ll find out about the food trailer Killary Fjord Shellfish, the Letterfrack Ecology Centre, the Connemara Smokehouse, and a place I’ve introduced you to, McDonagh’s in Galway.
In Texas, barbecue is the focus and the Hill Country is the place, where among other things they recommend Freedmen’s Bar in Austin and Louie Muller’s Barbecue in Taylor (you’ll also want check out my colleague Shelia’s take on Louie Mueller’s — with a side of pie added in).
In Morocco there are pointers on how and why to visit a community bread oven, while in Delhi the itinerary follows the street food chaat, offering seven places to experience this snack’s varied flavours. In southwest England, cheddar where it first came to be is on the route, along with the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, which makes the most of the region’s apple crops.
There are thirty six countries visited in Food Trails; Australia, England, France, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States each come in for travels in more than one place. The suggestions within sections are quite varied: you’ll usually find out about restaurants, cafes or pubs, food producers, and cooking classes in each section, as well as, in the course these descriptions, a bit about landscape and foodways.
Food Trails: 52 Perfect Weekends may spark your planning, or dreaming. It’s an interesting read, one to dip in and out of, and see how your choices line up with what Lonely Planet’s editors and writers suggest.
We write often about food and travel here at Perceptive Travel, too. You may enjoy Tim’s ideas about why taking a food tour is a great way to know a place, Skye’s musings about the food of Romania, my take on a place to enjoy classic dishes of Scotland, and Sheila’s experiences cooking her way through history.
Photograph of fish and chips by Alex Chilton; photograph of apples by Kerry Dexter. Thank you for respecting copyright.
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