Travel Smart Mark – Eating Abroad

Traveling abroad can be one of the most amazing experiences of one’s life and even more so if you are a foodie! Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best when he said “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail”. You can eat at McDonald’s or KFC anywhere! When you travel, your best bet is to forget the tourist traps and the familiar chain restaurants, and experience the native local cuisine! Sometimes the dingiest looking dive can provide the most amazing experience!

When I was 16 I traveled to Munich, Germany and walked into what looked to be a small hole-in-the-wall family run restaurant. When I sat down I thought, “OH, this is going to be interesting”. The decor needed some serious updating and in hindsight, the place looked like something right out of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. I decided to have the Wiener schnitzel, which is a traditional German dish made from veal that has been pounded thin, coated in bread crumbs and fried, served with potato salad. Based on how the place looked, I was expecting to get deep fried rat. Fast forward twenty years and that is still BEST schnitzel I have ever had!! My point is that you are on vacation, take a chance, try something new, eat at places you normally wouldn’t. Luckily that was Germany and I felt fairly confident that I could eat the food, drink the water without any issue.

Now, let’s say you are traveling to Mexico. Many of you know that you can’t drink the local water as it contains bacteria to which the locals are immune. However if Americans drink the water, or brush your teeth with local tap water, you would experience what some would call Montezuma’s Revenge, or specifically horrible diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. No one wants to deal with that when you are on vacation. And, drinking more tequila doesn’t keep you immune to the bacteria either. Trust me.

Some countries have very bizarre delicacies. When traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines, a common dish is balut, which is a fertilized duck or chicken egg containing an early-developed embryo that is boiled. Often times, the birds features are clearly developed and you eat it right out of the shell. In China, a common snack is scorpion on a stick. And, it is just that – a scorpion on a stick, deep fried in oil and sprinkled with spices. In Italy, perhaps you want to try some Casu Marzu cheese. This cheese contains live insect larvae which are deliberately added to promote a level of fermentation that is close to decomposition, at which point the fats are broken down. The tiny translucent worms can jump up to 6 inches if disturbed. This is why some prefer to brush off the insects before enjoying a scrumptious spoonful of this pungent cheese. Going to Iceland? Try the hakarl, which is made by gutting a shark and allowing it to ferment for two to four months. hakarl reeks of ammonia and is served in cubes or on toothpicks. YUMMY!

Before you travel to a foreign land it is always best to check with the World Health Organization ( and the Centers for Disease Control ( to see if there are any food outbreaks related to your destination. Most importantly, ALWAYS research the local cuisine on your own so you know what to expect before you get there. If you do have the displeasure of experiencing Montezuma’s Revenge, look on the bright side. You will lose about 10 lbs. and may be able to fit back into those skinny jeans without lying on the bed and holding your breathe.

Art by: J. Szekeres | article by: Mark Coones

Article Originally Published in What’s Happening Magazine – Florida’s Premiere GLBT Entertainment & Lifestyle Magazine

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2 Responses to Travel Smart Mark – Eating Abroad

  1. Engeseeelus says:

    Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.

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