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Great Guidebooks for Traveling Foodies

by Sharon Hudgins

When you're traveling abroad, a good guidebook can often make the difference between a memorable trip and a mediocre (or even bad) vacation. And since you have to eat every day, accurate and informative guides to the foods of the foreign countries you're visiting should be on the top of your list. Who wants to end up eating nondescript fast food near the train station when right around the corner is a really good mom-and-pop restaurant that serves up tasty local cuisine at reasonable prices?


Joan Peterson's award-winning series of Eat Smart culinary travel guidebooks definitely tops my own list. Every book in the series is chock full of useful, authoritative, and well written information, packaged in a durable paperback book that's still small enough to carry with you.

Each book focuses on a different cuisine, including some that are lesser known to travelers: Sicily, Poland, Turkey, Morocco, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil.

All the Eat Smart books follow the same useful format: a historical survey of that country's (or region's) cuisine; local ingredients and regional specialties; an extensive menu guide (alphabetically arranged, with useful notations such as "national favorite," "regional classic," "excellent choice"); a comprehensive alphabetical glossary of ingredients, kitchen utensils and cooking methods; tips on shopping in local food markets; and even a couple dozen authentic recipes.

The author's knowledge of—and enthusiasm for—the cuisines that she writes about makes you want to book a flight on the next plane to that country. (Peterson also offers culinary tours to some of her favorite places abroad.) I wouldn't go to any of those countries without an Eat Smart guidebook in my luggage. And I'm looking forward to seeing even more Eat Smart books about the world's other interesting cuisines.

Eat Smart culinary travel guidebooks and tours, www.eatsmartguides.com.


Italy has been seducing travelers for more than two thousand years. In our own era, Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Americans, who flock there for its art and architecture, its vibrant urban life, its rural villages and pastoral scenery. And of course the food! Some people go to Italy just to eat. That's a good enough reason for me!

Among the deluge of Italian cookbooks and guidebooks published in the United States, the following recent guides are recommended for people who want to delve more deeply into the food culture, restaurants, and food producers of contemporary Italy:

The Food Lover's Guide to Florence: With Culinary Excursions to Tuscany, by Emily Wise Miller (Ten Speed Press, 2nd edition, 2007).

The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania, by Carla Capalbo (Pallas Athene Ltd, 2005).

Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, by Fred Plotkin (Kyle Books, revised edition, 2007).

All of these books are available on www.amazon.com.


Don't go to Budapest without carrying along a copy of Carolyn Banfalvi's Food Wine Budapest, the best culinary companion you can have (except someone else to pick up the check). Banfalvi's book is the most comprehensive and authoritative English-language guide for people who want to discover the delights of this capital city's excellent cuisine.

This nicely illustrated guidebook includes chapters on the basics of Hungarian cuisine, specific Hungarian ingredients, and local culinary specialties; wines and other alcoholic beverages; restaurants, coffeehouses, and pastry shops; indoor and open-air markets; and specialty food and wine shops. Banfalvi also conducts food-and-wine tours of Hungary (for more information, see www.carolynbanfalvi.com).

Food Wine Budapest is available at www.littlebookroom.com/foodwinebudapest.html


Greenwood Press is publishing a series of books on Food Cultures around the World, focusing on the culinary history and contemporary foodways of many countries and regions on the globe.

Titles already available in this Food Culture in.... series include Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, China, India, Japan, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.

Written by academic specialists, but for general readers, each book includes a historical overview followed by chapters on major foods and ingredients, typical home meals, eating out, special occasions, diet and health, recipes, and a glossary of food terms.

These relatively expensive hardback books aren't what you'd carry along on your next trip to Europe. But if you're really interested in learning more about the foods of the countries you'll be visiting, Greenwood's books are certainly worth reading before you go.

For more information, go to www.greenwood.com, then type "Food Culture of the World" into the search field on that website.



Sharon Hudgins is a cookbook writer, culinary journalist, and world traveler. She is the author of The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East (Texas A & M University Press, 2003, 2004).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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