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Culture is Food

by Meghann on April 12, 2010

You know you may have overdone it on vacation when you return to the office and the dark chocolate a co-worker offers you isn’t the least bit appealing. At least that’s what happened to me this morning and I think it may have been a first. I rarely turn down dark chocolate. Who am I?

While in New Orleans I had the pleasure of sampling all the great food New Orleans had to offer. I didn’t hold back and had my share of beignets, seafood, biscuits, gelato, muffulleta, beer, and anything else that was offered to me. The only thing I really missed out on was bread pudding – which I’m still bummed about. 🙁

To me culture is food and food is culture. The best way to experience the culture of any new city is to taste your way through it. It just so happened that New Orleans leaned toward the heavy side of things.

As I sampled dish after dish I kept waiting for a sense of guilt to kick in over what I was eating, but such guilt never entered my head. Probably because in the back of my mind I knew eating this way was only temporary. Once I got back home I would settle back into my normal active, healthy routine and all those great foods would just be grand memories of my experiences in the big easy.

I may have returned home feeling a little bloated, but I also returned home with no regrets. No regrets over what I ate and no regrets over what I didn’t get to try – except for maybe the bread pudding. 😉

With all that in mind it was comforting to dive into my big bowl of veggies for lunch today.


I had mixed the left over cold roasted veggies from last night with hummus, kale, dried cherries, and flax seed.


The combination was simple, but amazing. It was really exactly what my body was craving.

On the side I had a piece of pumpkin nut bread with a spread of Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter.


Earlier I snacked on a serving of roasted cashews.


Obviously my biggest takeaway from most vacations is the wonderful local food I seek out. You will NEVER find me eating at a chain while on vacation (unless the chain doesn’t have any franchises in Orlando), instead I seek out local restaurants that focus on local specialties.

What tends to be your greatest takeaways when you travel?

1 theprocessofhealing April 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I completely agree 100%. You can’t get the full experience of another country unless you eat their food. I enjoy myself and don’t stress about it, it all balances out in the end!

2 britchickruns April 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

That’s a really good attitude – there should be nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence sometimes, it’s all about balance! And what’s the point of visiting somewhere and not experiencing its’ culture, including food? It’s pointless!

3 Evan Thomas April 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I definitely like to “taste” wherever I go by their dishes, too. I’m also a sucka for cheap knickknacks and t-shirts 😉

4 dori April 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

All I ate was at chains during this west palm beach trip – haha. 🙂 glad you had such a great time!

5 Hangry Pants April 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I totally agree! It would be a shame to go somewhere like New Orleans and not experience the culture through its food. It’s why I love No Reservations (even though he hates vegetarians).

6 Nicci@NiftyEats April 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Yes, it’s a must to experience the good food, when traveling. It can still be healthy too.

7 Emily April 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Love that attitude about eating out! I need to have that kind of outlook more often!

And no bread pudding? You’re missing out!!

8 Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday April 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Definitely the sights and the history. I love to learn on vacation.

9 Jessica @ Domesticated-Bliss April 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Aw man, sorry you missed out on the bread pudding, it is the best!

My takeaway from vacation is the carefree attitude I have when I’m away from my day-to-day responsibilities at home. Sometimes I tend to get bogged down in the details and forget that every day should be even a little fun and it’s not just for vacations 🙂

10 Diana April 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Definitely the food! I always try to eat local so when I’m on a trip it just makes sense to eat the local foods. Plus, a true foodie doesn’t do that! I love experimenting new foods and if I’m on vacation it doesn’t make sense not trying the local flavors. 🙂

11 Emily April 12, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Great post – I really enjoyed reading your posts from NOLA, especially the pictures.

My takeaway from vacation is a real feel for what it’s like to live in a place – when I’m in a new city I like to do what I would do in my city – walk around a lot, check out the parks, go to coffee shops, and eat at little cafes.

12 Melissa April 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

lunch looks yummy!

13 Britt @ Runnerbelle April 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Agreed! I’m all about the local food when on vacation!! The indulgence is worth it to me, plus I try to keep my workouts up as best I can. I also tend to walk A LOT on vacation so that helps balance things out a bit…. if I was home I’d be sitting at stupid desk all day. 😉

14 Lacey @ Lake Life April 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Oddly enough, I take music as memories from vacations. Specifically, when I went to Nawlins we drove there from NY. 3 long days in the car and I listened to Fiona Apple’s “Tidal” CD on repeat. Now whenever I hear any of those songs, and jazz of course, I always think of my week in New Orleans.

15 Lauren @ Eater not a runner April 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I always want to experience the place I am fully, so I try to eat the local food and immerse myself in the culture. For me that is the fun of traveling!

16 Danielle April 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I think it’s great that you are at a place where you can indulge a little bit while on vacation and really ENJOY being somewhere and truly experiencing all the location has to offer. I also agree that food is a HUGE part of the culture of different places and should be enjoyed and that it’s okay to indulge a little bit.

I think I’m still in a place that I still need to work on getting back to healthy habits when I return home, but I know that it will come with time. I hope you’re having a great day 🙂

17 Johanna B April 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I grew up in New Orleans. They are known for their rich foods. You really have to look for the healthy. There used to be (I’ve been gone for 15 years) a little vegetarian restaurant right off Canal St called Old Dog, New Trick. I loved their lentil loaf. Glad you had a good time and ate plenty of beignets.

18 allie April 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

one of my favorite things about travelling is sampling the local cuisine. i would also never ever set foot in a chain restaurant while away (actually, i rarely do that at home!). i love your no guilt attitude- life’s too short and precious.

i love that you threw cherries in the lunch mix. yum!

19 thedailyoatmeal April 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Some of my greatest travel takeaways are also food– I will never turn down trying a local specialty if possible. Travel might be the one downside to being a vegetarian! Still, my favorite takeaways are the locals themselves. I find that if you are open and friendly, people will welcome you into their community and often their homes– sharing stories and pointing you to the really can’t miss spots!

20 Matt April 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

To me, traveling is all about the experiences with the people I am with. Who likes to travel alone?

21 Paige April 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I just got back from New Orleans as well…and I know exactly what you mean! When we got home Thursday night, I sat down to my Greek yogurt, granola, and pineapple…and the yogurt did not taste good to me at all. Normally, I love it!!! I knew it was because it was so much different than the other foods that I had eaten (in New Orleans) the few days previously. Like you, I know that the food of the city is the heart of it all; so I indulged a little as well. Check out my trip here:

I loved reading your NOLA account–makes me miss it even more!

22 Sarah-Mae @ Eat, Run, Knit April 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I agree with you about avoiding chains while travelling, Ryan and I make sure to never stop anywhere we could stop at while at home – unless a Starbucks (or Tim Hortons) really is the only option for a coffee in the area!

My biggest ‘takeaway’ though is grocery shopping in new places. Who knows what new products I can pick up and take home to savour! Edible souvenirs!!!

23 foodlovingpolarbear April 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I totally agree. Travel = culture = food 🙂

24 Sarah Jane April 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

The BEST part of living in Louisiana is the food! I would have the hardest time living out of state. I am working in north Louisiana, and being from SOUTH Louisiana, let me tell you, I may as well be living out of state. NOTHING compares to south Louisiana! I’m glad you got the experience it to the fullest!

25 Amy @ Second City Randomness April 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I don’t even enjoy chains that much when I eat out where I live! I’m ALL about the local spots/dives… so much more fun! And usually with better food!

26 Sarah for Real April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I LOVE eating (and drinking!) my way through different cities.

I also always try to find some (inexpensive) artwork to use for decorating my home. It’s a slow process, filling up my wall space, but I love looking at each piece and remembering where I bought it.

27 Rachel April 12, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I LOVE this post. Thank you for your healthy outlook and perspective. I hope to develop such a healthy and positive attitude towards food and eating one day. I think you are 100% right in that food is a major part of experiencing a culture. I refuse to travel to Europe until I have developed a healthy relationship with eating and can enjoy the local food without guilt. Thank you again for such a great example of health. You are an inspiration to me!

28 Katie @ Health for the Whole Self April 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Great post, Meghann! Have you ever watched the television show “No Reservations” with chef Anthony Bourdain? It’s on the Travel Channel. He basically travels to different countries/areas of the world and learns about the culture by sampling their traditional food. It’s a great show!

29 runningwithsass April 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm

A LITTLE on the heavy side, lol! Way to put it nicely hehe! it’s not the 2nd fattest state for nothing! I moved form the 2nd fattest state to the fattest!

30 Carolyn @ lovinlosing April 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Definitely agree about experiencing new places through the food!! I still dream of Japan.

31 Jacquie April 12, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I completely agree with your travel style! Especially after getting better, I have enjoyed food so much more (and like I used to) that I love to see other places prepare it. I also love to go to the local spots and really mingle with the people because you can learn so much. I’m going to Italy and Switzerland in about a month and I can’t wait to eat and walk my way through 🙂

32 Lindsay April 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Food is definitely a big thing to me when I travel, too. I live in a slightly remote city in the Midwest, and there’s not much in the way of ethnic food here. So, I make sure to get my fill whenever I go to a big city. So, when a place I’m visiting has great local cuisine, I’m especially happy!

33 Jenny April 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Food & conversations with people are really great… i love immersing myself in another city or country!

34 Jo April 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I love seeing the history of a place- be it their monuments, or art and especially archeological museums (if you ever go to Greece, you must go to places like Delphi and Knossos!), also their scenery/landscapes (Switzerland!)- much walking/hiking done. I also like to time it during a local festival time… Such a shame you didn’t get to try a bread pudding- it means you’ll simply have to come to the U.K. to try the original version 😉

35 Carly @ April 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

The local tastes and flavors are vital to a true travel experience. I also enjoy going through the local art scenes – museums, eccentric galleries, interesting architecture, etc.

36 missyrayn April 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I hate eating at chains on vacation. There is so much better food out there.

37 Fancy April 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Hey Meghann! That pumpkin nut bread looks amazing, did you make it? If so…did you post the recipe? If not…where is it from? I’ve tried to search the blog for the answer, but I can’t find it! Help! Thanks 🙂

38 Meghann April 12, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I got the Pumpkin Nut Bread in my Easter basket. It’s from a place called Sunrise bakery in my parent’s hometown.

39 Fancy April 13, 2010 at 12:02 am

Thanks, Meghann! It looks delicious 🙂

40 sarah (the SHU box) April 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

LOVE your philosophy 🙂

also: after you feel like you’re ready for it, bread pudding sounds like it would make a fun cooking project! bringing a li’l piece of nawlins back to FL . . .

41 Meghann April 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Great idea! Any good recipe suggestions?

42 Jo April 13, 2010 at 6:48 am

You could try healthifying one of these:

would be fun!

43 Erin April 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I travel a LOT and loving coming home with amazing pictures. My dream apartment will be covered with my own photos, which is so much better than generic posters.

44 Emily April 13, 2010 at 12:41 am

I felt the exact same way when I was in NOLA for a conference right around this time last year. I tried all of the local (and cultural) specialties that weekend without ever feeling guilty. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and I think it wouldn’t have been the same without allowing myself to try the unique dishes of NOLA!

45 Donna Brown April 13, 2010 at 2:58 am

I am agree with you, When you are on traveling you miss your country food but when you enjoy the travel country local food it gives a real taste of your journey.

46 Emily April 13, 2010 at 4:01 am

I felt the exact same way when I was in NOLA for a conference right around this time last year. I tried all of the local (and cultural) specialties that weekend without ever feeling guilty. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and I think it wouldn’t have been the same without allowing myself to try the unique dishes of NOLA!
Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

47 Janelle April 13, 2010 at 10:32 am

What a great “vacation attitude!” It would have been a bummer to see a “foodie” eating salads and yogurt while in a city known for its signature dishes.

48 Courtney @ Pancakes & Postcards April 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

food is the best thing about traveling! going to an amazing new place just to “feel guilty” about an elevated caloric intake is one of the most depressing things ever. Where I live in Africa the food sucks most of the time, meaning pretty much everytime I leave my village I am indulging in something! Preferably something that I can’t get anything resembling it at home… those are the most worthwhile 🙂

49 hungryforbalance April 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Food is SUCH an important part of travel- that’s so great you got to sample some tasty bites! It’s also good to hear the part about “no guilt”! Life is too short to worry about silly stuff and too wonderful to deprive yourself of the goodies!

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