23 Aug Confessions of a Traveling Picky Eater
For most, one of the many perks of traveling is trying amazing dishes from all over the world. Some people travel to sample cuisines so different from what they’re used to that it blows their mind. They yearn to understand the people of the places they visit by tasting what they eat. But what happens when you love traveling but you’re a picky eater like myself? How do you immerse in the culture if only the smell of their gastronomy makes you sick? How do you survive?
In reality, that’s exactly what you do. You survive.
We’ve been in Thailand for almost two months now and there was actually a point when I said to myself that it was time to leave.
To all of you who like everything, you must think that I’m overreacting, that I shouldn’t complain about food when I have the opportunity to be in a place like Thailand. And I know you’re right! But try to imagine finding only curry after getting food poisoning and see if you wouldn’t crave, like me, something that tastes like home.
I always try new things. Everyone who knows me can testify in my behalf. It’s just that most of the time, I simply can’t eat them.
I’ve said it over and over again but the hardest thing for me about being so far from Mexico (besides missing my family and friends) is being away from the food. I miss it so much!
The problem is not just Thai food though. When we lived in Spain for a year, I had the same exact problem. It would be easier, in fact, to list the things that I do eat, than those I don’t.
So you can imagine the hard time I have while traveling, especially given how I like to take care of my body. It’s sometimes frustrating thinking I’m not eating what I should and that it’s impossible to find what my body needs.
The US prides itself on being culturally diverse in terms of food: Indian, Japanese, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese… whatever you’re craving, they’ve got it. So when I lived there for three years I slowly discovered more and more things that I actually liked. I opened up to the possibility of becoming one of those people (like Isaac, practically my entire family, and specially my mom-who was a Chef) who not only likes everything, but also relishes on the experience of exploding flavors in their mouth. I was proud of myself because my palate was evolving. Or so I thought…
I liked (some) Asian food! Full disclosure, though, I hadn’t actually been in Asia for the past nine years. Imagine my surprise when we finally make it to Asia and realize, to my dismay, that just like Mexican food, if it’s outside the country of origin, it will never be truly authentic, and that what I’d been eating all this time was actually a version aimed to please palates like mine. So it dawned on me that although I do enjoy eating more stuff than I ever did in my life, when abroad I’ll still stick to white rice…for now.
The good thing is that I don’t have to break open the piggy bank when traveling. My bucket list doesn’t include a single food-related experience. The idea of going to a Michelin-star restaurant sends me running the other way and, between lobster and rice, I’ll always choose rice.
I’m pretty fed up of rice at this point, and I foresee lots and lots more in my future. But you know what? It’s okay. After our time in Thailand I can now tolerate Massaman Curry, Tom Yom, and papaya salad. It’s way more than I could say when we first got here. And who knows? I could eventually become a foodie who enjoys eating local food and who even travels with that sole purpose in mind. Though if I were you, I wouldn’t bet any money on it.
So until that day comes, I’ll be content with experiencing new places through adventure and my four senses (we’ve established that I’ll leave taste out of the equation), and in my own way.
We’re heading to Japan now and I’m looking forward to eating sushi, udon noodles, and tempura. Only thing is, I usually don’t eat anything that comes from the sea. In the US it’s easy to find Japanese restaurants that can accommodate my pickiness. I suspect it’s not gonna be as easy in Japan. But when you love traveling as much as I do, you suck it up, you get used to it, and everything you learn, see, and live, more than makes up for the frustrating meal times.
In other words, to soak up the culture of a place I’d rather practice Muay Thai than eat Pad Thai.