“Those are delicacy only to be savored in
states.” He was right, of course, but he
carried his rules regarding the consumption of local delicacies just a bit too
far. This was a man who only ate peaches
if he was in Georgia, and he only mixed cherries into his ice-cream if he were
and they were fresh. While I respect and
understand his rules, I live in Minnesota now… a state so starved for local
delicacies that they still soak their fish in lye (like their Norwegian
ancestors did) before they consume it.
I’ll take frozen crawfish over lye soaked fish any day.
I have some
fairly rigid rules of the road when it comes to food, but I also have an iron
stomach so, I bend those rules on occasion and sometimes it costs me “in
the end” (pun, intended). Some
foods can make you sick if you’re not used to them so you should be careful.
Always, ALWAYS drink bottled water while in your hotel. Your body gets
used to local water and over time, you gain a bit of immunity to the minor
impurities found in local tap water. Obviously, tap water varies from
country to country, state to state, and even city to city. I know that if
you fill a glass with tap water in certain suburbs of
the bottom of the glass if you let it sit long enough. When our family
moved there as a child, I got sick several times from the water during the
first few months while I got used to it.
Rule 2: As
a general rule, I avoid street vendor food. This lesson was taught to me
by my clients who flat out refused to allow me to consume ANY local food from
street vendors. “You have to live here to eat it,” they told
me. It was safer to believe them and to eat my meals in my touristy
hotel. I will make an exception for a Philly-cheese steak vendor in
but only because I dearly love an authentic cheese steak sandwich!
Rule 3: Be
safe around seafood. Coastal cities are
famous for their local seafood. The trouble is, clams, crabs, and shrimp
have a very short shelf life. Locals know what restaurants are safe and
which ones carry the best reputations when it comes to freshness, proper storage
and cleaning, etc. Some of the Lobster shacks in Maine or the Dungeoness
Crab bars in San Francisco may look quaint, appetizing, authentic, etc, but I
would make doubly sure they’re not selling you tainted food.
Beware the word “Authentic!” Everyone wants to try authentic local cuisine,
but they should be wary of just how authentic some foods can be. Many
“Authentic” tex-mex restaurants around
but greasy), Barbacoa (shredded beef meat from the head and brain), and
Huitlacoche which is the fungus that grows on ears of corn. All of these
things are common on “Authentic” southern Tex-Mex restaurant menus,
but they can be a bit much for a novice eater of any of them. “Authentic”
Norwegian food includes Lutefisk, a fish dish that requires the cook to soak
the cod filets in lye (yes, the corrosive alkaline substance that causes
chemical burns) for preservation, prior to it’s ultimate preparation.
It’s best to visit “Authentic” restaurants with a local friend or
colleague who can help guide you through the menu.
foods are absolutely delicious and you’d do yourself a huge disservice if you
avoided them in favor of your favorite “safer” alternatives. So by all means, try the local cuisine; but
be mindful of what your body is comfortable with and don’t be afraid to ask
questions of the cook, the waiter, your clients, etc. No dish is worth being sick on your trip!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding
business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send
an email! Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the
best ones in his Ask
the Expert podcast show.