Tuesday, October 16, 2012

RRb: Culinary Tourism

"While the industries associated with tourism... have been made possible by the availability of leisure time and expendable cash, the phenomenon of individuals exploring other cultures out of curiosity is neither postmodern nor peculiarly Western.  I see tourism as a universal human impulse--curiosity and an adventurous spirit are facets of personality that are shaped in their expression by the ethos and institutions of specific cultures, but the impulse itself is not dependent upon particular historical circumstances.  Food is an arena in which that impulse can be exercised regardless of the institutionalized practices of tourism."  [7]  ~ Lucy M. Long - Culinary Tourism

Indian was a cuisine that my Mom and I would indulge in when my Stepfather wasn't around (he doesn't like curry).  When going to India the food wasn't anything like I expected, but I embraced it.  "consuming, or at least tasting, exotic foods can be the goal of a touristic experience, but food can also be a means by which a tourist experiences another culture, an entree, so to speak, into an unfamiliar way of life." [2] The desserts were more sweet in a natural way, the taste of food cleaner, and the stickiness and licking of my fingers enjoyable.  I felt like what was going in was healthier, that the things I was eating and the way I was eating was right, even though it was mostly Naan, rice, and spices every day.  The chai tea there, made of old tea leaves boiled in the sugar and milk and water mixture (as apposed to adding it afterwards), tasted better to me, even though State-side I prefer tea heavily steeped, strong, and with honey.  I've tried making chai since and it's just not the same.  "ethnography rests on context, on observing the immediate setting and surroundings of an event as well as the historical, social, cultural, and personal background of the event and participants.  People react to all these forces, so that context shapes their action." [12]  In the same way, Indian food wasn't just different between it's Americanized counterpart, but the experience of sitting with the cooks in the kitchen, eating a meal with my castmates, and preparing to perform a piece set in India, in it's actual setting, all primed my tastebuds.
When Lucy Long says, " "The culinary tourist anticipates a change in the foodways experience of the sake of experiencing that change, not merely to satisfy hunger." [21]   in Culinary Tourism, I think of a few things.  Anthony Bourdain in the Cook's tour mentiones in his reaccounting of France that the crabs just don't feel right, even though is Brother is there, and they're in the same location. I can look back at the turtle I tried in the Cayman Islands or the Goat I tried at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where I'm from) and look fondly on both experiences, even if one was next to an ocean and one was next to a busy intersection.  I'm sure my peers who got sick from trying pan they bought off the street (beetle nut wrapped in a leaf with tabacco and such) might have enjoyed the initial flavor and experience, but will never want to try it again, even if it's not questionable street food.  That being said, they would have regretted not trying it, purely because it was a trait of Indian culture.  It's all about situation.  Like Long, I think food in tourism is determined just as much by location and culture as it is by the context. 

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