Back before we packed up our own bags and started our own travels, Tony & I were both avid travel-blog readers (we still are!) who loved living vicariously through the adventures of other intrepid souls who had eschewed a conventional life in pursuit of their worldwide dreams. When we stumbled upon the epic and hilarious blog, Landing Standing, run by the delightful and daring Meg and Tony, we knew that if our paths ever crossed somewhere on our travels, we’d have some serious partners in crime when it came to tackling the local food scene.
A little background on Meg and Tony: Back in January 2013, the two left their jobs to go RTW and try out the location-independent lifestyle. Apparently it took, because although these two aspiring entrepreneurs and digital nomads are now back in the US from their adventure around the world they have been house sitting for several months in Northern California in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas. Together, they continue to blog about travel, food, and all things ridiculous over at LandingStanding!
Unfortunately, a real-life meetup between the four of us hasn’t happened… yet! But I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves in the same city (for now, I’d settle for the same continent!). And when we do, things are going to get wild! In the interim, I’ll just have to tide myself over like the rest of you with this week’s Chewing the Fat. If anything, Meg’s enthusiasm and excitement for all things food has just whet my appetite for that eventual meeting all the more! Join us as we chat about the beauty of “binge” days, the hidden gems of the South American food scene, how food and romance go hand-in-hand while on the road, and so much more!
We’re big fans of “foodcations”—on more than one occasion we’ve taken trips motivated solely by the desire to eat our way through our destination. Of all the places you have visited in your travels, if you were limited to only eating the food from one country, which place would you choose and why?
Oh man that is a tough question! I mean, we obviously adored the food in Italy (It is a Carboholic’s dream land!), but could I really eat it all day or every day for the rest of my life?
Yep… But I would probably be HUGE (I don’t have the portion control of Italians!).
Thailand’s cuisine, on the other hand, was equally delicious but MUCH healthier. The dishes in Thailand were so unique, fresh, and flavorful but they were also loaded with veggies and felt lighter on my stomach. I don’t think I could ever get sick of a meal of papaya salad and a steaming bowl of green curry!
And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?
Prior to traveling to Bolivia, other backpackers told us the food there was AWFUL. To our surprise, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. For example, the lake Trout around Lake Titicaca was exceptional… but Bolivia definitely was not what I would call a foodie country. Whenever we ate out in Bolivia, it was either Indian, Italian, American, etc. Their local options were sometimes limited and we never fell in love with any of the dishes indigenous to the country.
What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?
Eating whole Guinea Pig (i.e. Cuy) in Cusco, Peru was definitely our most adventurous food consumed during our RTW. The waiter brought it out fried whole and even decorated the poor little guy with a tomato top hat—it was hilarious and disturbing all at the same time!
It was fried, so obviously it was tasty… But I probably wouldn’t order it again. It tasted like greasy chicken and looking at a rat-looking rodent on your plate is not all that appetizing!
However, I am glad we tried it once. Eating guinea pig did spark a fun debate with Tony and I about what animals we thought were okay and not okay to eat. For us, we draw the line at eating animals that we have once owned as pets… Neither of us grew up with Guinea Pigs, obviously!
Sometimes you don’t know a good thing until it’s gone! When you were on the road, what was the one food from home you craved the most? And now that you’re back in the States, what’s the one food you encountered when traveling that you miss?
I missed peanut butter SO much when we were traveling the world. It was a daily snack of mine back in the US (with sliced apples) and it was impossible to find in certain countries—and always über expensive.
When I came home, I missed ALL the food we had on the road. The steak in Argentina, the fresh pasta in Italy, the curry in Thailand… the list goes on and on! We ate so many delicious things during our travels that made our RTW trip so enriching; for Tony and me, there is nothing better than sharing good conversation with friends you meet on the road over great food and wine.
Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s or other fastfood cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?
But in our defense, we never went there for burgers or fries. We actually became OBSESSED with their McFlurrys on the road. They are SO much better in foreign countries than back in the U.S. Peru, had some EPIC McFlurrys: loaded with candy and smothered in hot fudge… They became a daily treat of ours in Lima!
If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?
Please, one food?! We would take you guys on an all-day food crawl through Boston. On the list would be Anna’s Taqueria for their burritos, pasta in the North End, ice cream at J.P. Licks, lots of LOBSTAH rolls… The list continues!
One of the most memorable stories you shared on your blog was when a stranger on the road misunderstood what you meant by “binge” days and wound up offering you cocaine! What did these days involve when you were back home, and did you manage to keep the binge day tradition alive while traveling? If so, how did you adapt it for the road?
When Tony and I were living together in Miami, we made it a habit of eating SUPER healthy Sunday through Friday—we cut out junk food, booze, sweets and relied heavily on veggies and lean protein. But on Saturday, we pigged out on all the treats we missed out on during the week. We had our favorite Miami brunch spot, The Front Porch, where we would start our Saturday devouring their ridiculously good Challah Bread French Toast and would spend the rest of the day baking cookies, ordering pizza… you name it, we ate it. Being on this regime was a fun activity to share with each other and we ate so much on Saturdays that we ONLY wanted healthy food the rest of the week.
Alas, we definitely didn’t keep this up when we traveled. During our RTW, we ate whatever we wanted (when we wanted) and always were open to trying the local cuisine… but we tried to eat everything in moderation (well, except gelato in Italy).
Our epic “binge” day in Peru that Tony wrote about was actually just something we planned on a whim while in Cusco when we became a little homesick and had a real hankering for some American food… and of course, it got WILD. 😉
Many travelers that we’ve talked to have generally had less than complimentary things to say about the state of the South American dining scene… You spent 3 months there, so what are your feelings on this? Are there any countries or specific dishes that are worth the price of a plane ticket?
We enjoyed the food in South America, but Europe and Asia were definitely more foodie-centric destinations!
We especially loved the food scene in Buenos Aires, Argentina: the steak, wine, gelato, and international food scene there was incredible. Lima, Peru also had excellent ceviche and fresh fish dishes. But I didn’t gain any weight during my 3 months in South America and managed to put on close to 10 lbs after spending 4 months in Europe. So… that tells you a lot.
Having spent significant amounts of time in Europe, Asia, South America and North America, what would you say are the key characteristics of each region’s approach to food? Which region has the healthiest food? The least healthiest? And if you were restricted to only eating food from one of these sections of the globe, which one would it be?
South America: Our time in South America was pure chaos – and so were our food adventures! We traveled a lot through Patagonia and lived the true backpackers lifestyle for three months, so our experience with the food in South America was mainly convenience-based and we often compromised our health because of it. In Patagonia, we ate food geared towards hikers (any packaged food was game!) and when we dined out, we ate at the cheapest places we could find.
Europe: We splurged a little more on our food budget in Europe. And can you blame us?! We traveled to places like France, Italy, and Croatia where food is the essential ingredient to what shapes their culture. Eating a meal in Europe is an entire experience that is always enjoyed in a relaxing and inviting environment… And a meal is always made complete with aperitivos and wine (I was a fan)!
Asia: Eating in Asia is all about awakening your senses. The envelope is constantly pushed in regards to the flavor profiles and level of spiciness in each dish. We loved getting adventurous and tried so many fruits, vegetables, and dishes that we have never heard of while in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. We also felt that Asia had the healthiest dishes out of any place that we traveled to. If I had to choose an area of the globe to eat food from for the rest of my life, it would be Asia – Thailand in particular!
North America: Not too much to elaborate on this… Food in the States is large and in charge! I adore my home comforts and love the diversity of all the different cuisines that are readily at your fingertips in the U.S. After a year of traveling the globe, I am also confident that cookies, milkshakes, and Mexican food in the U.S. CANNOT be beat (well except for Mexico when talking about Mexican food).
One thing that’s surprisingly difficult for most couples when traveling long-term is keeping the romance alive, in part because many of the activities you would normally reserve for special occasions—such as eating at a restaurant—become part of your day-to-day life. Were there any meals that you reserved for special/celebratory moments or for when your relationship needed a food boost? Is there one meal in particular that you would consider the epitome of romance while you were on your trip?
On our RTW trip, we did a few sponsored trips and activities that were food-related and these were incredibly fun and romantic for us to enjoy together as a couple. For example, one of our activities involved an all-day cooking and wine tasting class in beautiful Tuscany… You can’t get more romantic than that! These activities were definitely special occasions for us.
The most romantic meal we had was on a sponsored dinner out in Koh Samui, Thailand at the restaurant Dining On The Rocks at the Six Senses Resort. Our unbelievably delicious multi-course meal (with wine pairings) was served on a beautiful deck overlooking the Gulf of Thailand during sunset and the staff treated us like royalty. It was absolute perfection and was a date straight out of the show, The Bachelor. That meal was definitely the epitome of romance on our trip!
A thousand thanks to Meg for taking the time to answer all of our questions and relive her food journey so far. Tony & I have succumbed to the siren song of the McFlurry on more than one occasion and while it may not have the same prestige as the fresh churned gelato of Italy, it’s certainly given us our much-needed sugar fix and brought smiles to our faces. No judgment here, that’s for sure!
Like what you read here and want to be featured in a future installment of Chewing the Fat? Great! We’re always looking for new people to dish about dining with! You don’t have to be a long-term traveler, or even have your own blog to participate; all you need is a healthy appetite and an appreciation for food. Contact Us letting us know that you’re interested in taking part in this series, and we’ll get back to you with all the information you need to get started.