Cia B, creator of Writing With My Mouth Full is a long-time blogger and self-proclaimed "food monster." Her extensive travels and love of food give her the expertise to share her insights on such a tasty topic. Her long list of media publications aids to that credibility; you can find her and her work in Food and Wine Magazine and New York Magazine's photo section, among many others. She shares with us her thoughts and views on travel, food, and sticking to a budget.
Love your take on travel and food. How important is immersing oneself in local cuisine while traveling?
Immersing myself in local cuisine when I travel is very important. There's always a story when food is involved, and learning about the local cuisine means learning about that place's history and its people as well. For example, if you want to know about how Keralan cuisine came to be, you have to touch the history of the ocean traders from the Mediterranean and Arab countries.
For those who worry about spending too much money on food while traveling, what is your advice?
I love visiting the local markets when I'm traveling. People work at the markets to feed the rest of the population, but those working people need to take a break and eat, too, so not only do I stop by the markets to shop, but I also go there to eat. The best momos I had while I was in Bhutan came from the Sunday produce market, not from the restaurants. I saw some vendors eating them, and I had my tour guide ask where they got them from. He found the lady with a pail selling them to the workers and bought a few for me.
Can eating the local fare save you money when traveling?
You get the local price too when you eat the way they do. When I was in Luang Prabang, the nighttime activity is to walk around the craft market. I did that until I found a tarp off to the side where I discovered the vendors eating Laotian pho during their break. I joined some of them that night - they were all wondering why I wasn't at the restaurant next door - and then ended up spending the rest of my stay eating several dinners there.
What's the best thing you ever ate while traveling?
There've been so many after 35+ countries! The ones that jump and bring immediate memories are the doubles in Trinidad, the croissants in Paris, the noodles in a plastic bag in Bangkok, aaahhhh - the Hainan chicken in Singapore, blood sausages in Colombia, barnacles in Portugal...I could go on and on!
What is the worst ;)?
I wouldn't say "worst" because there's still a good story that comes from awful experiences, but the chapulines in Oaxaca did not do anything for me. I expected them to be roasted and crispy, but the ones I ate had probably been sitting out for a while that they were just chewy with some squishy stuff coming out of them!
What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
I'm very partial to Vietnamese and Thai flavors: lime, cilantro, mint, fish sauce.
Any other suggestions for traveling on a budget? Exploring other cultures is so gainful, it should be accessible in one way or another regardless of budget, right?
Use public transportation as much as possible. Check out the local tourism office for discounts and coupons. Some cities offer admission deals to the local attractions packaged with the train tickets. Temples and other places of worship are nice to visit - just make sure you're not being disrespectful. And like I said, produce/farmers' markets are always a good way to explore and learn about a culture.