I am presently in Asia, sitting under those good old golden arches, eating a fish filet sandwich with french fries and a medium sized Coke. I'm also considering the possibility of getting myself a twist cone very soon.
It seems to me that a lot of travelers would be ashamed to admit this openly, but I happen to be fine with my current dining choice. Just because I choose to stop by and say 'howdy' to the yellow-and-red clown, (literally, they have one at the front door,) does not make me any less of an avid globe drifter. Ronald McDonald and I go way back, and I am not about to forget an old friend now.
Too many times I've seen fellow travelers turn their noses up at 'western' franchises. “Why would you fly halfway across the world to eat something you can get at home?” they say. Or, “I hate it when people give in so easily. That's not experiencing a new culture!” And they're right, chowing down a double cheeseburger is no way to experience the local cuisine, but at the moment I'm not interested in local cuisine, I'm jonesing for something comfortably familiar.
Of course, that's not to say that I don't enjoy indulging in the local cuisines of the places I visit. On the contrary, there's something excitingly invigorating about having your first taste of pungent, saucy 臭豆腐 chou doufu, or burying your chopsticks into a steamy bowl of fried pig intestines. It makes you feel like an authentic traveler, braving the world head on and embracing all things foreign. When you experience the local cuisine, you learn that things usually taste better than they initially sound, and some things that seemed strangely unpalatable at first could even become a part of your regular diet given time.
It's true, getting a taste of the local dishes wherever you are is always a highlight of any trip. This is definitely a big part of the reason why we travel. But does this mean that we are restricted to solely enjoying the local cuisine? As globe drifters, should we be expected to completely deny ourselves of any food that is comfortably familiar just because it may be considered too 'western' by our traveling comrades?
When I am home, I eat hamburgers and french fries, hotdogs, pizza and deep fried foods. But I do not always eat these things. In fact, I usually don't. Coming from Hawaii, we actually have a very culturally diverse and extensive cuisine.
In Hawaii we eat white rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, literally. We commonly use sauces like shoyu, bagoong and kimchee in our every day dishes. We have lunch-plates called locomoco, mochiko chicken and pork tonkatsu. And everyone in Hawaii knows that a big fat bowl of saimin noodles with fishcake and wontons is the perfect accompaniment to a rainy day. At home I am accustomed to having a vast majority of dining choices, western or otherwise, and my appetite at the time governs my decisions.
Sometimes other travelers will assume that the only reason you would go for a basket of fish and chips while cruising in Tokyo is because you just can't stand the thought of stomaching a big bowl of slimy natto. And this may actually be true for some. But as for myself, you can see that the art of eating has always been a multicultural experience, whether at home or abroad.
So, why am I sitting here at a western food chain? Well, simply because it's what I feel like eating at the moment.
I eat hamburgers because they make me think of backyard barbecues, and pork adobo because of its sweet, tangy flavor. I eat hotdogs because they have always been a cheap, quick meal, and bibimbap because my friend loves to cook it. I eat pizza because I love the taste of salty pepperoni and tangy tomatoes smothered in cheese, and fish-head soup with eyeballs to suck on because it reminds me of my dad. And I eat fried chicken with white rice and macaroni salad because I love mixing those crispy, crunchy golden flakes with rice and mayo.
I eat what I eat because I enjoy it when I'm eating it, and not because I'm too afraid to step out of the cuisine box. This globe is peppered with a plethora of scents, flavors, dishes and bowls of foods, all fantastically mixed, stirred, baked and fried to be eaten and enjoyed.
Personally I feel that as long I'm always open to experiencing the local cuisine, than there's nothing wrong with me falling back on the old familiar every once in a while. When it comes to eating, I choose not to limit myself to just foreign or just familiar. I choose to go with what I feel like enjoying at the moment.
And at the moment I think I'm ready for my McDiggities twist cone.
And now we'd like to ask you: What do you think when it comes to dining out in other countries? Are you open to trying out other flavors, do you stick more towards familiar dishes or a little bit of both?
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...