One of the great joys of travel, and indeed the culture of others whether abroad or at home, is food.
Whether it is the beautiful smell of garlic, basil and fresh bread emanating from a restaurant in Rome; local bread, cheese and wine in a street cafe in France; the hustle, bustle and wonderful sounds, smells and noise of the street food stalls in Asia; or the fresh and vibrant seafood of the Caribbean: food is one of the main factors in deciding where to travel, and in forming the memories of the trip.
It seems, however, that not everyone shares that view.
On a guided tour of Rajastan in India, our guide positively discouraged eating local food. The general view was that she didn't want anyone to venture off piste in case anything went wrong and she then had to do some work to sort things out. She refused to recommend local restaurants, discouraged venturing from hotels and even encouraged members of the tour to eat western style food in the hotel buffet rather than sample local style food. I shall always remember the look on her face as I tucked into complimentary spinach and paneer daal served on a train journey as everyone else made do with their limp sandwiches from the exorbitant hotel provided packed lunches. My final triumph was that those of us who ate local food in spite of her best efforts had no ill effects, whilst all those who got ill during the trip had followed her advice.
On another trip to Singapore and Malaysia, one of our number, in common with many English people abroad, lamented the difficulty in getting a decent cup of tea. I am not a tea drinker so the desperate need so many of my countrymen feel bypasses me. However, I have some sympathy with lack of availability of something as there are parts of the world that are incapable of producing decent beer (e.g. mainstream USA, unless you know where to find it). Therefore, as we headed for the Cameron Highlands, a tea growing area in central Malaysia, I had no doubt our fellow traveler would take the opportunity of a decent cup of tea. Everyone on the tour (except me - I stuck to coffee, I have to draw the line somewhere) went for tea. Most of them tried pots of one of the local teas, grown and blended on the plantation we were visiting. The one tea-drinker who bucked the trend was the very one who apparently craved a nice "cuppa". She picked an international brand tea bag, and stuck it in a cup with milk and boiling water. Why have steak out when you could have a burger at home?!.
Finally, there was the lady I meet in the Caribbean. Her husband was unwell so she was in the hotel bar on her own. She latched onto our group. Again in the English style, she had a good moan - cleanliness, entertainment and food. We joined in at points, especially as I have to admit the hotel was not as clean as it might have been, although I have stayed in worse. The entertainment was passable but a bit amateurish and a bit repetitive. But we were in a three star hotel, not Broadway, so what did she expect? But when it came to the food, I had to take issue. I thought the food had been excellent, and said so. She retracted slightly, and changed tack to "but don't you get tired of this spicy foreign stuff. I could really go for some good old English food like lasagna and chips". There are times when I think you ought to have to pass a test to go abroad.