We all know one; a friend or family member who knows what they like, and won’t diverge from that path. The kind of person who orders ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ at every Indian restaurant and has a complete aversion to seafood, the kind of person who will only eat cornflakes for breakfast and cheese sandwiches for lunch; the picky eater. Generally living with a fussy eater is something we get used to, but when travelling, it becomes a little trickier.
With the world of TV seemingly obsessed with pandering to ‘the foodie’, it’s easy to make our fussy friends feel ashamed of their habits, but they needn’t be. Indeed, some people simply can’t stomach exotic foods and this only becomes a problem when travelling in countries where there are no familiar fast-food chains or supermarkets to fall back on.
Here we’ve compiled a selection of handy tips that you should keep in mind when travelling with a picky companion.
Whilst a packed lunch might conjure up memories of soggy school dinners, when you’re stranded in the middle of a Bangkok side-street with the smells of exotic street food wafting through the air, and your companion simply refuses to indulge, having a meal on standby is vital. Of course, a decent meal will require a decent amount of preparation, so make sure everything is sorted before you leave the hotel. It’s also worth taking into consideration that not all foods will keep in certain climates. Sandwiches are always a good bet, as they can be wrapped in cling film and stored in a small plastic tub in your bag.
It’s not just main meals that you’ll need to consider when travelling. If you’re planning a particularly active day you’ll want to eat smaller snacks throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. To keep your picky eater satisfied, try packing a small bag with fruit, crisps, nuts and other small snacks.
By necessity, at a restaurant you’re essentially flying blind, but by visiting local markets, you’ll find many stalls willing to let passers-by sample their wares. Take your fussy eater to a market and you’ll be able to sort through hundreds of foods in small portions for next to nothing. Make a note of the foods they like and a note of the foods they don’t like (one list is bound to be longer than the other, but persevere!) and take this list with you to every restaurant.
Even the pickiest of eaters should be able to find at least one dish wherever they go that they will be able to stomach. Once you’ve found that one dish it can always act as a ‘backup plan’ in case there is nothing else on the menu that takes your fussy companions fancy.
Just because you’re travelling on the other side of the planet, that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional dish you recognise from home. Remember, the western world has stolen many of its favourite delicacies (spaghetti bolognese, curry, even the beef burger) so if you find something that looks familiar to your fussy friend, chances are it will taste pretty familiar too.
With the ubiquity of the smartphone, it’s doubtful you’ll be travelling without one, and with apps such as Trip Advisor you’ll be able to read up on reviews from restaurants all over the world. When you arrive in a new destination, boot up your phone and set to work looking for places that offer food you and your picky eater fancy. You can also see what other diners thought and search within your budget range.
Whenever you find yourself staying in a hotel or hostel with cooking facilities, make the most of them!
Of course, if all else fail,s and you’re willing to put up with more than a little whinging, try and actively encourage your companion to step out of their comfort zone. It could result in some uncomfortable arguments (and possibly a few uncomfortable mornings on the toilet when their systems struggle to digest such exotic dishes), but they might just discover a new food they love! It’s a risk, but a risk that’s sometimes worth taking…
Are you a picky eater, or know someone who is? We’d love to hear your hints and tips for eating abroad!