Half the allure of travel is what’s on the table | Columns


You still had a sandwich for lunch today.

If you had to guess, you’ve eaten thousands of these things over the past five years. Chicken sandwiches. Sandwiches with meat for lunch. Sandwiches with a burger. Vegetarian sandwiches. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, yeah, you might be in a rut. So tomorrow, why not try something different? Read “Gastro Obscura” by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras and see what else is on the menu.

Let’s face it: part of the fun of traveling is eating, and a lot. Whether it’s authentic Thai dishes or locally sourced fish, mom’s secret sauce recipe or grandma’s pies, half the allure of the trip is somewhere on a table, and why not ?

In the worst case: you don’t like it but you have tried. Best case scenario: The best meal ever.

So why not start with something easy: On your next trip, try Bovril, a ‘beloved’ beef product that is sold as a paste in England. Go to Italy and stand in line for the chance to taste “what maybe the rarest pasta in the world”. Take a bowl of “Sumo Wrestler Stew”, knowing that no wrestler was injured during its creation. These foods would taste great when paired with bread baked in sand or lava in Libya or the Solomon Islands, and perhaps mustard pickles from Canada.

If you’re thirsty, how about an Irn-Bru from Scotland, a kind of soda with “.002% Ferric Ammonium Citrate”. A Mlíko, or “mellow beer” from the Czech Republic can taste great, and “Naked Boy Tea” doesn’t sound so bad when you know it didn’t come from a real boy.

And then there is the dessert, perhaps an ice cream presented as spaghetti, a dish that the Germans love; or Russian blood sweets, made from cow blood. No matter; how about a chewing gum that proudly tastes like soap?

But wait, you are traveling, remember? Yes, and while you’re out you can grab a ‘Cow’s Head Barbecue’ in Texas, a food tour of Jim Crow South, lunch in Mumbai, or a Hollywood studio.

Enjoy your lunch!

Open “Gastro Obscura” and you’ll notice one curious thing: Much of what you read will make your mouth water.

Yes, there’s plenty to make you say “Eeeeeuuuww” and curl your lip here, but give authors Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras a paragraph to change your mind. What they have prepared in this book are the types of food items that hosts from other countries would prepare for a fancy company. Some dishes are old, passed down from generations of cooks; others are new versions of old meals similar to some you might already be enjoying. Here you’ll find treats for kids, unique bucket lists for the discerning palate, and easy-to-learn comfort foods for young adults – and if you don’t believe it, there are recipes you can try.

Reading this book is like taking your stomach on vacation, and no foodie should be without it.

If you are looking for something unusual for the foodie, “Gastro Obscura” is what there is for lunch.

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