Book Review: ‘The Food Traveler’s Handbook’

Full disclosure: I know Jodi Ettenberg, author of “The Food Traveler’s Handbook.” I’ve eaten with Jodi and explored cities with her; she’s even inspected the spices in my Istanbul sublet apartment. Rather than let my friendship with her just guarantee a great review of her book, I will use it to vouch for the fact that she’s the perfect person to write a food guide for travelers: intrepid, resourceful, curious and (of course) always hungry.

On the road full time since 2008, Jodi has explored the world through food on her blog Legal Nomads. To keep costs down and her palate happy, Jodi strives to eat as locally as possible, chasing down the best street eats, cab driver hangouts and mom-and-pop restaurants. With this handbook, she shares her tips and resources for eating well, cheaply, and safely anywhere in the world. The guide is peppered (pardon the pun) with anecdotes from Jodi and other travelers (blogger Nicola Twilley recommends revisiting a market at different times of the day for different experiences), quirky facts (how about a 1742 recipe for ketchup that will keep for 20 years?!) and guidelines for local dining culture (you’ll keep getting your coffee refilled in Jordan until you learn the proper way to shake the cup and signal you’ve had enough). The book is infused with an enthusiasm and passion for food that’s contagious, and you may quickly find that planning a tour of the world through dumplings seems like a must.Jodi’s travel style may not be for everyone – some people crave familiarity and easy comfort, especially when traveling, and the prospect of eating a mysterious dish at a tiny food stall might be daunting. But for those looking to expand their horizons through food, connect with locals while traveling or just get a good meal without risking food poisoning, “The Food Traveler’s Handbook” is worth tucking into. Just be wary of reading it on an empty stomach, or you might find yourself, as I did, propelled out of bed at 8 a.m. with a strong craving for soup.

The Food Traveler’s Handbook” is available in paperback and as an e-book for Kindle. Additional books in the Traveler’s Handbooks series include guides for Career Breaks, Solo Travel, Luxury Travel and Volunteer Travel. Additional resources for food travelers can also be found on Jodi’s blog here.

[Photo credit: Jodi Ettenberg]

Do Good Travel: Bridges For Education is a way to head to China–or elsewhere

If you’re looking for a cheap way to travel, and a cultural experience that will bring you past wandering in a country, hoping something significant in your life happens, here’s an organization that looks like a promising possibility.

I read about it in a travel blurb and then headed to the Web site to check it out. Bridges for Education is a short term program where participants teach conversational English in exchange for cheap room and board and a week of cultural tours at the end of the teaching obligation.

The premise of the organization is that, by using teaching English as a tool, tolerance and understanding between cultures is fostered. Originally set up to answer the need for English language acquisition programs in Eastern Europe, the reach has expanded to Zhangzhou, China.

One thing I like about Bridges for Education is that it’s a non-profit organization, non-religious, and it coordinates with other organizations like UNESCO. It also looks HIGHLY organized and well-thought out.

There is a balance between giving of your time and talents and being able to see the country where you’re doing your good works. Although, the trips aren’t free, the price seems doable–although you’ll have to hustle to find an inexpensive flight. The fees cover everything except travel insurance and the cost of airfare to get to the country. Once you’re in the country, you’re taken care of unless you go souvenir shopping. Admission to places during the week tour are also included. For more program info and locations, click here. If you find out it’s too late to sign up for this year, there’s always next summer.

Here’s a quote from the Bridges to Education Web site that captures the flavor of what the organization is about. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain