Break bread — and the ice — with the locals
Looking for a way to get a taste of a foreign culture? A dinner table could be a really good place to start.
At least as far back as Marco Polo, travelers have been exploring the world through food and drink, sampling the unfamiliar and introducing their tastebuds to flavors they never would’ve experienced back home.
For decades, travel writers and bloggers have been encouraging folks to “eat like a local,” and I still do — the global proliferation of Mickey D’s, KFC and Pizza Hut notwithstanding.
But now, thanks to a growing industry of amateur cooks and professional chefs who open their homes and their kitchens to visitors, you can do more than “eat like a local.”
You can eat with them.
They have names like Traveling Spoon, Eat With A Local or Voulez Vous Diner (French for “Do you want to eat?”). And once you know such businesses exist, they’re fairly easy to find on the Web.
Actually, you’ll find a pretty comprehensive collection of links to them at the bottom of this article. And you reserve your spot at the table pretty much the same way you book anything else on the Web, via the company’s site.
For a price, you can be welcomed into a home where people who are at least as passionate about food as you are will prepare a meal for you and a table of fellow tourists, whom you may or may not know.
You spend the afternoon or evening getting to know everybody, locals and out-of-towners alike, while you get to sample home cooking in a place far — maybe very far — from home.
Depending on the set-up, you may even get the chance to help out in the kitchen, and maybe come home with a different kind of souvenir — a recipe from an expert cook in a different city, or even from a different part of the world.
Some of them, like Cesarine or Meet The Danes, concentrate on a single city or region. Others will arrange for you to meet-and-eat in your choice of multiple locations, even multiple countries. Prices generally are comparable to what you would spend in a good $$ or $$$ restaurant.
Nowadays, a lot of travelers want to do more than just the sights in their destinations. They want to connect with the culture, with the life being lived in that place. No amount of staring at monuments or tramping through museums will do that for you.
But for the introverts among us — and I count myself as one of those — that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Outfits like these allow you to break bread and shatter that proverbial ice at the same time.
It’s one thing to have a great night out in some great restaurant or out-of-the-way neighborhood bistro that serves up great grub without the high prices to match. But for real insight into the place you’re visiting and how people live there, can you really beat sitting down them at their own table, to share a meal they prepared themselves — maybe even with your help?