Have You Eaten Yet?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Any society where people greet one another by asking “Have you eaten yet?” is my kind of place. It’s a simple question that says quite a bit about a culture and its savory way of life. Food is just one of those magical things that bind people in the plainest and most complex of ways—an unspoken connection of sensory overload that speaks volumes in an otherwise non-connected situation.

Travel and food have always been the links to many of the people I have met and befriended—whether it was feasting on casado with strangers at a local soda (small restaurant) in Costa Rica, or snacking on biltong under the dim light of a boma in South Africa, food kindled conversation and sparked the beginnings of transcontinental friendships.

On the other hand, foreign fare can sometimes be quite intimidating to the untrained palate often creating that consuming panic that blasts “I hope I don’t die from eating this” through one’s brainwaves. Pungent smells, spicy sauces, bowls of braised lard, man’s best friend (read: dog) hotpot, and salted insects, could test the true gusto of any food-fiend traveler. There are many places around the world where daring gastronomes can tempt and torture their palates, but none like the great Republic of China to experiment with the odd and unusual, devilish yet delectable, and often synthesized cuisine.

Lonely Planet invites readers to “Come on a Tasty Tour of China” in their online China Travel Information and Travel Guide. The article features several regions and “the most staggering assortment of lovingly prepared culinary delights imaginable; a taste sensation never to be forgotten.” Among the many interesting dishes mentioned is the ever-popular Peking Duck, but probably not the way you’ve tasted it here in the States. The article points out that “Peking Duck is similar to the crispy duck and pancakes you find on menus in the West, only more care is taken to keep the duck meat from turning dry, resulting in a far juicier and more flavorsome dish.” The famous favorite began as a treat for royalty, but has since trickled into many of the local eateries in Beijing.

Other unusual bites mentioned include: barbecued scorpions, hongshao rou (braised pork belly), lamb kebabs and, yes, hard to swallow but true—dog meat hotpot.  The most interesting aspect of most of these dishes is the unique flare of fused ingredients derived from a mix of foreign cultures. Which brings me back to the quintessential question examined earlier in this post: “Have you eaten yet?” I would say, yes, we as a world have eaten, and shared, and influenced one another in the most satisfying of ways; we have passed on the best (and maybe worst) of who we are, one unfamiliar bite at a time.

[Photo by avlxyz/Flickr]

By Maria Russo


About the Author

Maria Russo is a freelance writer who loves natural wonders, good eats, ethical travel, and boutique hotels. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, USA Today.com, People.com and A Luxury Travel Blog, among others.


When Maria is not writing for her all-time favorite site (that would be The Expeditioner), she spends her time blogging about foreign jaunts and delectable food experiences for her site: Memoirs of a Travel & Food Addict. She is also up to no good on Twitter (@traveladdictgrl, @expedmaria).

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