Can This Vacation Be Saved? Travel and Foodies versus Food Camels

For some of us, travel is an excuse to consume great food, the world over.

One of several bottles of bubbly I enjoyed with like-minded foodies one
fateful night at Les Halles. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
A starter of beet salad with goat cheese at Les Halles.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

I once met up with Wisconsin relatives of a dear friend, who were visiting Manhattan. Their eyes glazed over as they contemplated the meals that awaited them, among them, a trip to Les Halles on Park Avenue. The meal included four bottles of champagne and wine, foie gras, steak frites, coq au vin and a rather forgettable-regrettable vegetarian quiche. In spite of the champagne, I have never forgotten that meal.

Foie gras at Les Halles. I blame this meal for my evolution from vegetarian to carnivore.
I suspect Anthony Bourdain would be proud of that. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

They also spoke passionately about a dinner at Gramercy Tavern which I did not have the pleasure of sharing with them. Their journey to New York from the Midwest is a trip they take annually, and one I suspect they take more for foodie experiences than to cross Times Square and the Statue of Liberty off their bucket lists.

Coq au vin at Les Halles. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
The forgettable quiche at Les Halles. No wonder I went to the dark side!
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Their enthusiasm for the meals that awaited them, as yet unordered and unprepared, was palpable. It was the last time I got to truly enjoy food with people who take it as seriously as I do.

Creme brûlée at the famed Tavern on the Green, now no longer. 
May it rest in peace. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Tapas at Solera in Minneapolis. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Truth is, I follow my stomach in its journey around the planet.

Pizza at Lucali in Brooklyn, widely regarded as one of the best pies in the U.S.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

There are those for whom food is a relative non-issue. I know one guy who referred to eating as “an inconvenience.” He said if he never had to do it again, he’d be glad. Rollerbag Sis can eat a single meal and go the rest of the day without. And I recently traveled with a friend who is also what I like to call a “food camel;” she went full days, full speed, without so much as thinking about food.

My foodie friend from the Les Halles experience described the mindset of food camels best, “Food is a utility, not something to be enjoyed. White bread, bologna, and ketchup five days a week.” Hey, whatever makes you happy. It works well if you’re raising a family of food camels, if you socialize with food camels and if you travel with food camels.

The trouble is, when a foodie travels in tandem with food camels, it stunts the foodie travel experience. When forced to feed on mediocre grab-n-go food, my stomach leaves the destination disappointed.

Homemade burek, lovingly prepared in Banja Luka, Bosnia. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

On a typical journey, I’m enjoying an amazing meal while concurrently planning the next…if not the next two or three. Sometimes, I plan meals years in advance. (Reason #1095 why I am not a size 2.)

Mussels in white wine and herbs with breadcrumbs, served in Zadar, Croatia.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

My bucket list is a moveable feast, a love letter to chef greats, like Thomas Keller. I dream of the days when I can somehow, miraculously score a reservation at The French Laundry. My one attempt came up short when I was in the Napa Valley area; reservations open a month in advance and fill within an hour.

I envision my pockets flowing with cash so that I can someday take a trip to New York to feast at Per Se; $300 be damned. I’m ready to give that meal my full, reverent attention. Maybe this year, as I enter my fifth decade, will be the year I make it happen.

But my bucket list includes far more than Michelin-starred altars to foodgasms. And, it overlooks entirely the genre of molecular gastronomy. (I have no interest in foam. Zip. Zilch.)

Unforgettable khao soi in Chiang Mai, Thailand, served with pickled vegetables, lime
and fresh shallots. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

It includes that elusive bowl of khao soi I had in Chiang Mai, which I can somehow never find elsewhere–at least, nothing that comes close. It’s flush with food carts, their exemplary goodies made in an impossibly small space.

A chip butty in London, essentially a french fry sandwich. Not a foodie find, but my
stomach led me here, nonetheless. I have no regrets. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

And it includes that little family run restaurant around the corner that everyone goes to for the perfect version of whatever it is they do better than anyone else.

My first question when I’m going on a trip is never, “Where should I stay?” But instead, “What can I eat?”

My Food Camel Friend knows me a little better since we traveled together. I told her I was returning to the scene of the crime, i.e. the place where we traveled and I went hungry. She sent me an exhaustive list of foodie must-dos, and wrote, “Get as many in as you can.”

Maybe food camels and foodies can make it work, after all.

I’m willing to try it again, but truth be told, I’m jonesing for another lip-quivering-rollback meal with my foodie friends.

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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