Several years ago on my first trip to France, my French was still a work in progress. A group of 15 classmates and I were spending two weeks in the Poitou-Charentes region, whilst staying with host families and attending the local lycée.
Now, I wouldn’t call myself a fussy eater. I eat just about anything, and am willing to try new foods as well. Although I have to say, I’ve yet to come face to face with some of the world’s more exotic cuisine. Donkey testicles, I’m talking about you.
I am also a very firm believer, that is extremely rude, and makes you look like a giant foreign ass if you refuse the local food and make comments about how “that’s disgusting”. I have dined with people who snub beans that are cooked differently. Beans. There are few things that rile me more than this attitude.
So having said that, I came home to lunch one day to find my lovely host family have an anxious discussion around the table. Looking around at me, they enquired whether I liked boudin. Not understanding the word, I looked quickly at the table for my cue. Upon seeing the plate of sausages, I smiled and reassured them that of course I ate this! The looks of surprise on their faces should have tipped me off. However, as I cut into the plate of food, it quickly became apparent that the sausage, was not sausage. Blood sausage. Now, I sure plenty of veteran travellers will smirk at this. I mean, it’s hardly rare or exotic. But for my yet unchallenged 16 year old palate, it was a big deal.
However, with the thought of being a good guest, and representative of my country, I fixed a rather forced smile of my face and chewed up every last bite. And guess what? It
wasn’t half bad was entirely edible.
So there you have it. When dining in another country, it is always important to give the cuisine a chance, as it is one of the best ways to experience a new culture. Also, if you’re learning another language, chances are you won’t have the vocabulary to discuss the free market system, or the European Union’s stance on immigration.
But you sure can run a pretty decent conversation talking about food! Although that may stem from my own personal interest in the subject, I’m not entirely sure… Just remember to be polite, and please don’t turn up your nose at the food someone has worked hard to for you! You never know what you might end up liking, and even if you don’t, the best travel stories all begin with: “When I was in Cambodia, I ate fried spiders…”