Food is one of the highlights of travel for many people including myself. Some travellers meticulously research and plan where they will dine. Others simply choose where to eat at random according to what is available at the location they're in when they feel hungry.
Nearly always I'm in the latter 'hit or miss' category. Some might consider this lazy. But I'm pleased to say that in my experience, eating randomly usually makes for a more satisfying experience than faithfully submitting to the recommendation of a guide book.
Frequently those who plan will discover that the restaurant they've spent an hour or more trying to locate is simply not what they'd hoped for. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. In other words, it's every bit as hit or miss as my random selection approach.
These travellers are trying to replicate the experience of somebody else. That could be the author of the guide book or travel article, or perhaps another traveller who had a very satisfying meal at the particular restaurant at some other time. Travel is about your own experience of the moment.
For example, I was walking along the Brighton beachfront yesterday and came upon a shellfish stall selling cockles, whelks, mussels, prawns and jellied eels. I always love eel but have mostly had it smoked. The 'jellied' aspect seemed like a leap into the unknown. But I took the plunge and found that the jelly was every bit as flavoursome and satisfying as the eel itself.
However I don't always stick to my principle. A few minutes earlier I missed an opportunity to experience fish and chips with 'mushy peas'. I'd never heard of mushy peas and assumed that it was just another of the trashy British comfort foods that I sneer at and condescendingly dismiss.
That is because I pay more attention to received wisdom of what good food is rather than my own curiosity, judgment and pleasure on the spot. This morning I did some reading and learned that mushy peas is quite a thing in British regional cuisine.
For Wednesday evening in Brighton, I'd received a restaurant recommendation but decided to take my chances and select something at random. I discovered another traditional dish that I'd never heard of and probably wouldn't have sought out.
Gammon steak. It was served with pineapple and we'd probably just call it ham steak. But it is not simply a thick slice cut from a whole or half ham, which I understand is how ham steaks are produced in the US and Australia. It is cured like bacon and has to be cooked.
I saw 'gammon steak' on the menu. I didn't know what it was but I ordered it anyway, trusting in fate and hoping for the best. That is the way to experience the best as a traveller.
Links: shellfish mushy gammon