When it is a very long trip around the world or a sabbatical year, fatigue in general and food fatigue in particular can begin to be felt. The same goes for rice in Asia, Pat-tai in Thailand, however tasty it may be.
The food blues can be temporary, but not always. The desire to eat these foods and specialities of the homeland even if it means losing the appetite for new flavours says a lot about our state of mind. This gastronomic nostalgia is rooted in different needs:
The need to rediscover one’s cultural environment
This hunger cries out for our desire to affirm our cultural belonging. In some countries, for example, eating is done alone, standing, in the street, in a hurry. Group meals are reserved for festivities, weddings or religious ceremonies. In France, meals are for sure an opportunity to eat, but also and above all a moment of exchange, communication and reunion. We discuss, we savour, it is at mealtime that we meet again. It is there that we talk about everything, ourselves, the roast that lacks a hint of salt. When travelling, they will be difficult to find these meals or foods and homeland speakers would find themselves gathered at dinner time! When we travel alone, we often eat alone or with the locals, in the language of the country and there, the conversation is not easy, spontaneous.
Away from your country for many months, it may be that this need to meet up with your loved ones, to talk, is expressed by this craving for cheese, quiche lorraine or lemon tartlet.
The need for comforting food
Throughout our lives, what we eat, when we eat it, acts directly on our emotions. We then talk about cuddly food. A Cambodian mother will prepare a spicy broth to cheer up her little one or her husband. In France, a hot chocolate, a ratatouille, an apple tart with cinnamon flavours are comforting foods. But here you are, far from the country and here, no chocolate or apples!
You don’t need to be in a deep depression to feel like biting into a chocolate bar or a pepper steak. It’s just that sometimes it’s just a matter of weariness. Eating rice or foul every day when you are used to European menus is enough to make even the most adventurous traveller despair!
Travel and food sensitivities
Some travellers have more demanding taste buds than others. Some will settle for anything, while others will refuse an unfamiliar dish outright. It’s not a question of caprice but of capacity. I’ve seen travellers vomit after tasting Kumis (the fermented mare’s milk, dear to Central Asia) or feel bad after a soup with unmentionable ingredients. These travellers will obviously be more sensitive to the gastronomic blues on a long trip.
Specific diets when travelling
A vegetarian or vegan in Mongolia is going to have a hard time. It is in his best interest to cook his own food because there is a lot of meat consumed there. He risks to be often disgusted and to eat always the same thing during his stay. Travellers with special diets are the ideal victims of a food-blues blow.
So what to do? Stop the travel of your life for a baguette and an apple tart? Of course not! Here are a few ideas
Heal evil with evil: going to a tourist restaurant and exploding the budget
In these moments of weakness, one should not hesitate to make a pact with the devil: go to a tourist restaurant to fight this gastronomic blues!
With a bit of luck and by sabotaging the budget a little, you will have access to a meal “like at home” with who knows, a glass of wine as a bonus.
With a bit of luck it will be bad, well below the original you are used to and will be charged too much. Once the disappointment is over, you will then dream, lying in your little hostel bed, of the meal that will be waiting for you in France, cooked by family or friends. Reassassured and satisfied, you will wake up the next day ready for new gastronomic adventures. The local markets will fill you with happiness, grasshoppers and tasty soups will make you envious again.
Finding a place to cook
It’s not always easy to find, but a hostel with a kitchen can help to cure a persistent nostalgia for Camembert. Using local ingredients, you can concoct small dishes just the way you like them at home.
Finding fellow countrymen who are settled in the country you are visiting
Social networks can be a great help in finding fellow countrymen who live in the country: expats! There are a lot of groups that offer meals together, outings. It will certainly do you a lot of good to take part in them. They will probably have places to recommend where you can eat, as they know better than anyone what it is like to be homesick!
Able to eat just about anything, I have often had a Food blues on my travels!
I ate so much rice in Asia that I wrote to my relatives: “Since then, I see mountains of rice everywhere: in the landscape, in the sky, in the lakes, in my dinner plate, my breakfast bowl, my lunch… white, sticky, sticky, sweet, banana, coconut, chilli, vegetable, fried, in broth, soup, pancake, alcohol, rice, rice and more rice. I dream of entrecote, cassoulet, tartiflette. In 6 years of travelling, I’ve eaten rice for the rest of my life!“
I was looking forward to eating real crispy bread outside, soft inside, and above all, above all, to find something that would look like cheese again
Just thinking about it made my mouth water. A real blues attack!
I could see Saint Félicien, golden Beaufort, Brillat-Savarin in its velvety white coat, fragrant Brie de Meaux, raw milk camembert. Ah, and wine too! A good wine full of fruit aromas, full-bodied, woody…
I remember having travelled many kilometres in cities like Cairo, Livingstone (Zambia) or Durban (South Africa) before finding something that whetted my appetite. You don’t really realise it until you’re far from home, but some countries have very repetitive gastronomies compared to Europe. In Africa I ate N’shima at every meal, in Nepal it was Dahl Bat and in Romania dumplings in all forms!
My dream meal on my return consisted of dark and elegant Crozes-Hermitage (my favorite wine), a huge 5 cm thick steak, a nice piece of Roquefort cheese, crispy sourdough bread and devilish, black, creamy chocolate mousse in which you could stick a small spoon without it falling down. But above all, no more rice!