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Why does food always taste better abroad?

Here in the UK we always say that food always tastes better abroad. There are many reasons for that. I will use Greece as an example.

Eating can be divided into two categories, the food we eat to survive which is usually in our daily routines and the food we eat for the enjoyment. Before I continue I want to point out that we are blessed living in the part of the world that we do as food is plentiful and I am fully aware that there are many people in this world who starve or barely eat. In this article I am only referring to our part of the world.

Survival food would be considered the sandwich you take with you in the office which is in reality bread with a slice of cheese and ham and maybe some cucumber and you eat that on the side while you continue to work, followed by a bag of crisps and a soda drink. Survival food would be considered the microwaved ready meal you are having after a busy day at work when you can’t be bothered to cook. Survival food would be considered the “cheap” takeaway that you will order as you can’t be bothered to cook. 

Food for enjoyment is the type of food we eat that we actually enjoy. It is the type of food that awakens all of our senses. Food for enjoyment is the food that awakens pleasant memories from the past, or new memories to be remembered in the future. If all the senses are positively affected, the food itself might become irrelevant. If you are in the middle of the summer on an island in Greece and after a great day under the sun, you sit at a table with your bear feet digging in the sand, with the sounds of the gentle waves as they puffing away, the sound of the evening crickets in the background, the smell of the sea, which is combined with the smells of the fresh fish cooking on the grill. When you are at this exact scenario, anything that will be put in front of you to eat will taste 100 times better than if you had prepared it at home after a busy day at work with your kids running around making noise, while you eat holding your plate and watching tv. 

Ok you will say that the actual ingredients in Greece are a lot better than the “cardboard” like fruit and vegetables we can buy in the UK and you are right. Greece is a blessed country with plenty of sunshine that makes everything taste better. You are absolutely right, but even if I manage to get all the ingredients from Greece and cook it the exact same way here and serve it to you in a restaurant, you will probably enjoy it, but because all of the other senses remain intact I have no chance beating this summer evening meal you had in Greece even if I cooked the food better, even if I know a lot more technics than the old lady who prepared your meal over there, even though she is not entirely sure why she does what she does when she cooks, you will still pick on a tiny detail such as the meat was not really tender, or it could have been a bit spicier, or too much salt… This is exactly why a lot of the modern chefs in their gourmet establishments try to recreate an environment that will arouse all of your senses and once this is combined with a gastronomical miracle, then you have an experience of a lifetime. 

Can you imagine then for someone here in the UK with very little culinary skills attempting to recreate a recipe from their holidays using local ingredients from the supermarket, probably adding their own touch on the dish. Do you think they have a chance to ever repeat their experience? The answer is no, because the comparison is not fair. They don’t have the local ingredients from Greece, they don’t have the 50 year experience that old lady had there cooking that dish, they don’t have the sea, the warm summer evening, the day at the beach, the smell of the sea, not even the distant sound of the crickets… This is exactly why food always tastes better abroad.

I am not trying to put you off from cooking, by no means. I want to encourage you to recreate your memories, I want you to try and recreate as many elements as possible that made that meal unforgettable. I want you to learn and cook this dish a lot better than the old lady there, I want you to experiment and get excited even if you will not recreate that evening, but you should feel proud of you for actually attempting to and try every time you cook that recipe to actually have fun while you do it and then spend some time to actually enjoy the food. 

Author:Theo's Cooking


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