Generation Y: travelers of taste?

Generation Y: travelers of taste?

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it, Rudyard Kipling once said. But perhaps we should add that the next condition is to taste it, to drink it.

Christine Amorose in +39 Pizzeria, Melbourne, Australia

Food and travel are inextricably linked. You might be able to skip museums or avoid much interaction with locals, but at some point, you have to eat. And often, a place’s culinary traditions are a destination in themselves. (Paris food and wine envy, anyone?)

But will the world’s edible diversity last forever?

Globalization and a convenience culture are slowly changing our plates and our palates. It’s a bit awe-inspiring and quite terrifying to think that I can get a McDonald’s burger, a Starbucks latte or a glass of Bodega Renacer wine at just about every corner of the globe.

Stacked baguettes in Lyon, France

In Europe, the village model is starting to crumble. There was a time in France where a village wasn’t a village unless it had a bakery (and, perhaps, a church). Now, young people are rushing from the villages for the big cities, leaving empty storefronts and a bustling, sterilized hypermarché in their wake. Instead of sipping Chateau La Lagune, Coca-Cola is the drink of choice of many young Europeans.

“If all else passes, love of their own food still remains.” But the problem is that we can no longer cook it ourselves. We rely on our mothers and our grandmothers to create our favorite dishes, gorging at holidays and family visits while sustaining ourselves on takeout, ready-made meals and cheap bottles of Innocent Bystanders Wines the rest of the year.

I’m just as guilty of this as the rest of my generation. I’ve had “tutorials” with my grandmother to learn how to make my favorite recipes: rolled almond cookies, cheese pie, pizzelles. But, like my mother, I’m overwhelmed by the time and effort that goes into producing the delights that are swallowed down in an instant. My mom is a fantastic cook in her own right, but prone to the shortcuts—like premade pie crust or brownie mix—that are a godsend for a working mother and a staple of today’s convenience culture.

Different types of lettuce at a farmers market in Lyon, France

I worry about the culinary legacy my family will leave my children: even though my grandmother has painstakingly written down her tips and tricks, will anyone take the time to follow them? I also worry about what my children will find when they travel the world: will they still be able to experience Thailand street food, Parisian bistros, Mexican cantinas? Or will the same homogenized palette dominate the world?

At home, cooking shows people we love them. On the road, food is a rare chance to experience another culture in the same way that natives do. Sometimes I wonder if my generation is doing enough to maintain our cultural and culinary diversity, or if our tech-savvy ways (and laziness) will lead to the decay of world food culture.

Last week, I attended a panel at The Wheeler Centre (my favorite burst of intellectual activity in Melbourne) on the relationship between food and travel, featuring three of Melbourne’s most well-known food personalities–and providing much of the inspiration for this post.


  • I know that already in my small town in Verdun, “food culture” of small town France is evaporating! It’s really such a shame. Most of my friends love eating out – but I agree with you, with their pace of life they like everything “semi-homeade”. Interesting post!

  • Unfortunately, the only reason young people are leaving the villages, in Spain for example, is there are NO jobs. None. They have to leave. However, most young Spaniards I know have a better working knowledge of food preparation than most young Americans I know. Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I’m the exception. I like cooking, baking, food preparation – but most of my friends do not. They like easy, fast, convenient. That includes travel food.

  • Yeah I find that to be so true of our culture today.  Everyone goes out to get something rather than knowing how to actually cook it themselves.  What happens 10 years from now when mom and grandmother are no longer here?  I really like restaurants and going out but there is nothing like how mom and granny use to cook.

  • Ted Enriquez

    It’s a challenge for me to copy the taste of my great grandmother’s recipe. I found out that the difference is in the ingredients they use.  Most ingredients now are processed or has been touched by chemicals and enhancers, thus changing the original taste. 

  • This was a very interesting and thought provoking post.  I hope it means this fast paced world is ready to slow down a bit and do things the old fashioned way.  I can hope! 

  • Modern life is ruining, well – life. And as the demise of diversity on our plates is concerned, I’m most concerned with Monsanto and the role it’s playing …

  • Oops. Apologies. Dang iPod. Can’t delete the dupe 😀

  • Really thought prooking post. Globalization is good in some ways, and not so good in others. I never understand why people want to spend all their time eating at western, chain restaurants when they travel. When I go somewhere new I like to try the local food as much as possible, and support local restaurants.

  • Anonymous

    Such a shame to see the food culture die out in France–I hate it when I see people buying pre-made packs of pain au chocolats or croissants in the hypermarches there! It’s a sign of what’s to come, and it’s not nearly as nice!

  • Anonymous

    None offense taken–I totally know where you’re coming from! I love cooking for other people, but the problem is that I’m usually just cooking for myself–and that allows me to be pretty darn lazy! It’s unfortunate that the village system in Europe is failing–will be interesting to see how things are in the years to come.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried to learn–and I can actually replicate most of it–but I’m usually just not willing to put in the hours and heaps of effort necessary to make some of it! Some day when I have lots more time…and no Facebook/Twitter/blog to distract me 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Very true! Have definitely discovered this in a few of the recipes I’ve tried….good point.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t we all? Let’s cross our fingers–and get cooking!

  • Anonymous

    Very good point…I try to buy local and organic when I can and avoid processed foods, but it can certainly be a challenge to stick to “real food”.

  • Anonymous

    So true! I can count the amount of times I’ve had Starbucks and/or McDonalds in another country on one hand! Would much rather enjoy the local specialties 🙂

  • Anonymous

    So true! I can count the amount of times I’ve had Starbucks and/or McDonalds in another country on one hand! Would much rather enjoy the local specialties 🙂

  • Great food for thought here!! Never really thought about it before but it is really true. I guess, I don’t feel like I have a great culinary tradition. Food was just food., we never had any traditional handed down recipes in our family. McDonalds and Starbucks are ruining the world!!
    I love watching cooking shows and reading recipe books dreaming of the amazing meals I can cook. But, when it comes down to it, I just don’t have the time. This is unfortunately the reality of our modern lives. Time once again to move to Thailand

  • I agree that most of the time, if the cooking requires more than 20-30 minutes… I don’t just even try it. Cooking feels such like a waste of time when there is no special occasion, but really it’s not! I’m trying to make efforts to spend this time with my fiancé and talk about our day. And I definitely try to forget my North American recipes and try some French ones instead. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I’m lucky enough to have a grandmother who is an amazing and baker–although I’m much more like my mom when it comes to cooking. We can cook, but rely on heaps of shortcuts and ready-made products! I found an American food store in Melbourne–and almost embarassed at how excited I was to find ready-made pie crusts, brownie mixes, etc…

  • Anonymous

    I love cooking for special occasions but I’m hideously lazy when I’m just cooking for myself! And I always end up dating people who are great cooks, which doesn’t help me improve at all 🙂 However, I have vowed to cook a 30-minute meal by Jamie Oliver for my flatmate on Monday–so hoping it goes well!

  • I absolutely LOVE to cook and if I have the time, I love the whole preparation process of it. While I would love to say that we are super budget travelers, when it comes down to it, we’re not. We go out to eat almost every day – because we want to experience the culture of the place we are visiting. I’m not willing to miss out on those experiences to make our travels last longer.

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree! I love to cook, but more so, I love to eat–and I think it’s really important to experience a culture’s culinary heritage. I remember cringing at a hostel in Paris as all the backpackers ate the stale bread and store-bought jam every morning because it was free–you could walk right outside to a bakery and get a delicious pain au chocolat and coffee for just a few Euros, and have such a better experience to start your day!

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