Elyse Pasquale is an American journalist and food blogger on a culinary adventure
She plans to sample 100 weird and wonderful meals in 100 countries
So far Pasquale has tried reindeer carpaccio, fried scorpion and raw cod fish sperm sacs
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“If you want to experience the essence of a foreign destination on a short visit,” says Elyse Pasquale, “then nothing beats sampling the local food.”
She should know. The American journalist and food-blogger is speaking at the end of a journey that has seen her traverse Belgium, Holland, France and the UK in under 24 hours.
This whistle-stop European tour is part of Pasquale’s Foodie International mission to consume 100 unique meals in 100 countries.
So far she has eaten in a grand total of 62 different nations and visited all corners of the globe, from India to Ireland and Mozambique to Mexico.
“Food is an entirely sensory experience. You can touch it, you can smell it, you can taste it. What better way is there to learn about a place you’ve never been before,” she asks.
Pasquale has sampled delights as diverse as raw cod fish sperm sacs in Tokyo, reindeer carpaccio in Oslo and fried scorpion in Beijing.
And along her culinary way she has worked out how to make the most of interesting locales on a tight schedule, a scenario that will be familiar to many a business traveler.
“I use social media a lot when I travel. I use it to connect with locals and get recommendations. I find it more effective than guidebooks because things can often go out of date quickly.”
“For example I was in recently in Georgia so I reached out on Twitter about places to go in Tbilisi. A wine reporter in Germany got back and recommended a friends wine bar.”
Being able to go out and enjoy the best activities and places to eat is all the easier with a little forward planning, Pasquale says.
Social media is a fantastic aid for this but a lot of the time nothing beats the pleasant surprises that arise from chatting to the locals and following your gut, she adds.
“When you are traveling for a limited amount of time, go to a local coffee shop and talk to the bartender, talk to the taxi drivers.”
“You have to put yourself out there. You can learn about their words for different types of food and drink. I like to say that I can say ‘can I have a beer please’ in every language.”
“I asked for a beer once in Bratislava and they freaked out because they thought I spoke Slovakian. It was a great ice breaker and people shouldn’t be afraid to look stupid.”
But inherent with such adventurous, free-spirited tactics lurk some obvious dangers. Namely, remaining safe in unfamiliar environments and ensuring nothing gastronomically upsetting is consumed.
As any road warrior will testify, such misfortunes are hard to plan for and can end up eating into precious business or recreational time.
“As a woman traveling alone, I find myself constantly on guard, much more so than if I were a man, or traveling in a group,” Pasquale explains.
As far as ensuring dietary discipline meanwhile, she employs a thorough checklist which has hitherto kept her on the straight and narrow.
“I have a three step process,” she advises. “I eat a lot of spicy foods. This is a preventative thing to kill germs and is something I really believe works.”
“I drink alcohol. I’ll have a beer, wine or even the local moonshine like grappa or ouzo depending on where you are. It can be really powerful but it kills the germs.”
“The other thing I do is eat lots of local yoghurt. Yoghurt is full of good bacteria. So you’re consuming local bacteria and I find that that’s the best.”
But while vigilance and discipline is essential in these matters, Pasquale is clear they shouldn’t dominate perceptions or subtract from the joys of travel.
Going to far flung places and not taking advantage of all the great foods and cultural activities on offer would be too much of a waste to consider, she says.
“When you get to where you’re going, you just have to be open and remember that’s what most expensive isn’t always best.”
“I’ve had some expensive meals that I couldn’t care less about. But there are so many times when I have total food freak-outs, generally yelling to the stranger next to me, ‘I’ve never had this before, and I love it.’”
“It’s these little things along with meeting the people along the way that make traveling so great.”