Book Review: Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe

Food & Wine, Travel Books & Movies — By on December 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm

The Lost Girls have long agreed that one of the best reasons to travel (if not the number one motivator!) is for the incredible meals, snacks and random tastes you can indulge in en route to your real destination. As eager as we were to see the great monuments of the world, to commune with locals and to explore strange new lands, Jen, Holly and I rarely made it a few hours overseas without stopping to fill out plates and stomachs with some exotic local fare. It was a ritual that never grew tiresome, and helped us to learn more about the culture than touring through ancient temples or visiting museums ever could.

And so, international gourmands that we are, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to call in this new culinary tome from the National Geographic Society, Food Journeys of a Lifetime. While it masquerades as a coffee table book, to us, this volume will be used as a guidebook to all of the delicious destinations that we’ve yet to visit-and those that warrant another taste.

Food Journeys of a Lifetime
500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe
by Ashley Flintoff
Special to The Lost Girls

Is a meal a worthy enough reason to make pilgrimage halfway around the globe? According to the editors at National Geographic-absolutely. On the back of this 319 page ode to the world’s top culinary destinations, they instruct us to “Travel the World to Eat,” the proceed to give us 500 reasons to do just that.

This hefty guide to grub is broken out into nine sections, which explore everything from “Outstanding Markets” to ” Favorite Street Foods,” and ” Ultimate Luxuries” to ” The Best Wine Beer & More.” In addition to exploring the history and mystique surrounding a dish or meal from a particular destination, the book provides critical info on when to go, how to plan and relevant websites in order to help you plan your trip. And of course, being National Geographic, each entry is brought to life through one or more glossy, gorgeous images.

Also included in the book-and one our favorite features-are the Top 10 Lists, which cover a broad range of topics from the “Top Ten Chinatowns,” “Top Ten Chefs the Sun Never Sets On,” and “Top Ten Culinary Surprises.”

As a traveler and perpetual organizer, I appreciated the planning information provided for each experience. The photographs were beautifully arranged and the clean graphics made this rather large book a quick and easy read. A tip from one reader to another, do NOT flip through this book on an empty stomach (This goes double for the chapter on “Just Desserts” which chronicles some of the world’s most decadent and delicious chocolates, pastries, ice cream and even marzipan). Another gem is the occasional sidebar recipe which allows the home-bound traveler to get a taste of a location right in their own kitchen.

One of the few disappointments was the book’s heavy emphasis on Western Europe and Japan. While I realize that these locations do offer a plethora of experiences for any palate, I had hoped to discover more hidden treasures and diamonds in the rough. It would have also been helpful for National Geographic to provide some general pricing information for travelers on a budget. Often, when traveling, I only plan on a few splurges. Providing a range from low to high (i.e. $ to $) would have been helpful in determining upon which experiences to spend my budget.

Travel is about more than how many cities you visit or what sights were seen. Travel is about experiences and memories to last a lifetime. What and where we eat becomes a much a part of our travel as what we see. And as a conversation piece and supplement to your planning, Food Journeys of a Lifetime truly delivers a delectable meal. In his forward, Keith Bellows, the Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler, said “A meal abroad is more than an intake of calories: it’s an exercise in cultural immersion.”


Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe
by National Geographic Society; $40
* * * *1/2 out of 5

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