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An Ode to Foodie Travel

As anyone who has traveled with me (or is casually acquainted with me) can attest, the first travel-planning question I ask is not “Where should I stay?” or “What should I do?”, but rather, “What do I want to eat?” For me, a trip is defined by its meals. I’m all for amazing sights and sounds, but the smells and tastes of a place stick with me the longest and most profoundly. Likewise, when I decide where to go, it’s the promise of new flavors and textures that calls me to my chosen destination.

Because of that, one of my favorite things to do is reminisce on particularly great meals I’ve had. I grew up in a place where burgers, barbecue, and Tex-Mex might very well seem to encompass the world’s culinary landscape; when we got a McDonald’s in my hometown in 1994, it made the front page of the newspaper. And while this did instill in me a reverence for good Tex-Mex (and an occasional craving for a Happy Meal), it actually made me a more adventurous eater from a young age. One of my first memories (at age 4) is of relishing pillowy scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam from Marks & Spencer in London—a food product I would still gladly board a plane for at any hour of the day or night (yes, they’re pre-packaged, but you’d never know it).

I remember my first time trying sushi, circa 1996, at the only restaurant in a 200-mile radius to serve it. The restaurant had just opened, and a single sushi chef was employed after 5pm to prepare what was still an alien food in the Panhandle of Texas. I remember the thrill of feeling my first piece of tuna sashimi on my tongue, wincing at an overly optimistic dab of wasabi, reveling at how fish could taste so…not fishy. I remember leaving the restaurant and being absolutely bowled over that I felt full, but not weighed down (a novel sensation for someone used to the post-Tex-Mex, time-for-a-nap full feeling). It’s strange now to travel back to a time and place where sushi was unfamiliar or even completely unheard of, but my discovery of it was nothing short of life-changing. Since then, reproducing that feeling has become something of a life’s passion for me, especially when I’m traveling.

As a result, my list of meals I’d cross an ocean to have again is always growing. I’d drop everything for a full breakfast spread of gallo pinto and pancakes with guava jam in Costa Rica; I’d brave Prague in winter for a plate of earthy, warming goulash and a pint of Kozel; I’d swim all the way to Tobago for a fresh-caught flying fish fillet, fried up and served on a sandwich with a healthy lug of homemade pepper sauce; I’d endure a middle seat for steak tartare and French cheese to finish in the Place des Vosges; I’d lay down my life to relive this meal.

It’s because of people like me (and all of you who are nodding your heads, remembering your most memorable meals) that IgoUgo has launched the IgoUgo Community Table, a one-stop shop for travelers who factor food into their travel decisions (and you’re in good company: 75% of us do). To celebrate the launch, March is Food Month at IgoUgo; keep an eye out for celebrity chef Q&As, top tips, and food features at the Community Table.

Now, your turn: what meal or food item would you cross an ocean for at the drop of a hat?


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