I had just been presented with another anorexic, tasteless, limp, pink disc of a thing and posted a moan on Twitter about the general poor state of hamburgers on the Canary Island I call home, Tenerife.
One of the responses had me rubbing my chin in a ponderous fashion.
“What are you doing eating hamburgers in Spain? You should be trying the local food.”
It seemed like a fair enough point. Clearly it’s a given we should try the local nosh when we’re spending time on foreign shores.
It should be against some sort of travel law not to wrap your teeth around something peculiar to the country you’re visiting, or even something peculiar in the country you’re visiting. But the floppy excuse of a burger was one of the reasons that illustrated with food and travel things aren’t always as simple as that, especially when you spend a lot of time in the one location.
What is Local Food Anyway?
For a start, the locals here love hamburgueserias, generally preferring their own to the big boy franchises. In that respect, hamburgers are as local in Spain as they are in Britain where they are also a ‘foreign’ import. However, it’s unlikely that anyone would chastise a visitor for not trying the local fare because they were sinking their teeth into a beefy burger in a local junk food joint down Princess Street in Edinburgh.
But the main reason why I won’t be eating Canarian cuisine tonight is that I live here; I love food and I am also a believer that variety is the spice of life.
If You Love Food You’ll Never Just Eat Local
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve chewed on a tough old goat, tasted a dish called old clothes (not an unkind description), eaten a basic paste of flour and stock that hasn’t evolved in centuries and popped tentacles into my gob with relish.
The octopus was actually quite a modern fusion of styles but the rest were about as basic a cuisine as you can find; great when you’re on a brief visit and every authentic plate put in front of you tastes like the best thing you’ve eaten. But if you’re a foodie, you need your palate to be treated to a bit of pizazz every now and again and the local simplistic rustic fare doesn’t always do that.
The upshot of this is that much of the time, although we do use local produce, we don’t eat local dishes. There is simply not enough variety or sophistication to keep my buds perky.
The thing is, that is no different from when we lived near Manchester. Sometimes we’d eat British, sometime Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai, Spanish, Mexican etc. And most of the time we’d cook at home choosing a recipe because it appealed, with not a lot of thought about which country’s cuisine had influenced it.
Travelling around another country is one thing (even then there are destinations where we’ve given the local restaurants a body swerve after a few days because the menu in each was exactly the same), spending a lot of time with a different country’s cuisine is another.
Basically, this is a long-winded way of saying that as long as you give the local food table space as well, there’s no need to feel any guilt at eating a burger in Spain, or anywhere for that matter.
Unless it’s beneath the golden arches, in which case I say ‘shame on you; call yourself a traveller?’
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+