Have you walked for hours through a foreign city, starving and grumpy, because you can’t find a restaurant that looks “authentic” enough? Have you made fun of travellers who eat at McDonald’s? Have you walked around a foreign supermarket just for fun?
Maybe you’ve photographed your exotic meal and posted the picture on social media? Or made yourself sick eating street food because “it’s what locals eat”?
Congratulations: you’re a food snob.
But don’t worry, it’s not as if you’re alone. The world is filled with food snobs, an ever increasing crowd of travelling Matt Prestons who turn up their noses at the inauthentic, who boast conquests of Michelin stars like they’re notches on a bedpost, who’ve always eaten better food than you.
I’m kind of a food snob. Some of my friends are food snobs. And I find myself surrounded on my travels by a growing cast of fellow wannabe connoisseurs, all of us scouring the globe for the perfect meal, and the perfect story to tell about it.
“Did you try the grasshoppers in northern Thailand?” they’ll ask. “Argh! You missed out! And what about the grilled sardines in Morocco? You didn’t even visit if you didn’t try them!”
It’s a global game of one-upmanship, a race to be the most authentic, the most daring, the most original eater. Of all the travel-related snobbery – from the hotel snobs to the culture snobs to the airline snobs – foodies might just be the most annoying of them all.
I’m an annoying foodie. I love food, I travel for food, and I like to talk about food. But at least I realise how painful it can be, how tiring it becomes listening to fellow travellers obsessing over their cuisine day after day. Just eat the stuff! I don’t need a 20-minute description of your entrée. I don’t care about every ingredient in your 15-course degustation.
Want to really ruin your dining experience overseas? Try travelling with a bunch of food bloggers. I did that for a while last year, and discovered that they could suck the fun out of eating like they were vacuum sealing a sous vide bag. What should have been my three favourite times of the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner – became painful exercises in self-control as I tried not to hit anyone with a chopstick.
The food would arrive on our table, but we wouldn’t be able to touch it until every dish had been carefully photographed, on phone and then SLR. Then tidbits of food would be nibbled, and painstaking analysis would be undertaken. “I’m not sure they’ve balanced the spices right here,” they’d say. “This is so not as good as the breakfast I had in the markets this morning,” another would add.
I’ve been that guy though. My mate Richie travelled around Laos for two weeks existing purely on a diet of dodgy ham sandwiches. He’s a Geordie, and doesn’t deal well with vegetables, let alone Asian food. To the rest of us this was sacrilege of the highest order – you don’t travel to South-East Asia to eat ham sangers – but that’s what he likes, so that’s what he had.
The rest of us spent the holiday telling him about the amazing food we’d been eating and how he was missing out. Richie, for his part, couldn’t have cared less.
And there’s a lesson to be learned from his ridiculous diet: food, like anything good in life, probably shouldn’t be taken so seriously. If you’re getting upset at other people’s choices of cuisine, or lording your superiority over them because you found a better meal, it might be time to take a little step back and reassess.
Food is there to be shared, to be enjoyed, to be savoured, even to be discussed. But don’t become obsessed with it. And please don’t take so many photos.
Are you a food snob when you travel? Have you ever been annoyed by other food snobs?