How to Eat Abroad

Every trip should include a food tour. It’s an invaluable experience that I feel enriches every travel.

I’m not a foodie, which is probably why I like them so much. I couldn’t tell you anything about palates or pairings. I’ll taste whatever you give me and comment “that tastes good.”

Tour guides will tell you what your destination is known for, how people buy food, and what to look for when you are purchasing.

One of the best food tours I’ve ever taken was with my mother in Paris. The mere act of being in Paris everything better and it’s a city bursting with great food. The very fact of Paris is great food.

The food tour in question was one where our guide took us through the steps of assembling a charcuterie in Montmartre. He showed us how to identify good butchers, bakers, and fromageries (lots of little plates dangling from door handles). We ducked from shop to shop, since the French prefer the qualify of qualified tradespeople to the convenience of a Super Stop and Shop, or god forbid a Target, where you can buy clementines and garden hoses at the same time.

In the basement of the Secret Food Tours Paris headquarters, our guide went over different cheeses, sausages, and breads are supposed to taste; how the combinations unlock something on your tongue. I couldn’t tell you really if it tasted that much better in certain combinations. I just liked it.

He gave us head cheese, a kind of meat jelly I recall as fairly pleasant and light. It was smooth to spread on the baguette, almost foamy. Head cheese is made of the head meats, far more enjoyable in practice than in concept.

Because I’m fairly certain it’s illegal to end dinner without a pastry, we ate two different types of éclairs (chocolate and pistachio, if you were concerned). According to our guide, the chocolate-covered custard-filled éclairs on American shores would be considered crimes in France. NOt just because of obvious inferiority, but because in France éclair toppings must match their interiors: a chocolate eclair must have a chocolate filled, a pistachio éclair must have a pistachio filling.

If I never went on a food tour, I would have never known that I abetted food crimes.