Culinary Tourism

CULINARY TOURISM: “Eating Out Of Curiosity”

—“the intentional, exploratory participation in the foodways of an Other” (Long, 2004) “Exploring the world through food.” Also known as gastrotourism and food tourism.

The phrase “culinary tourism” was coined by folklorist Dr. Lucy Long to explore the meanings, motivations, and implications of seeking food experiences different from our usual ones. She introduced it at scholarly conferences in 1996 and first used it in print in 1998. It was later the title of Long’s edited volume (2004) and has since been adopted internationally by the tourism industry to refer to highlighting food as a tourist destination and attraction. Long has also applied her concepts to food-related programs throughout the world, to educational strategies in museums (particularly the Smithsonian Institution Folklore Festival), and to tourism initiatives. She developed a model for culinary tourism in the Bowling Green Tourism Trail (Ohio) that focuses on introducing tourists to the food culture of the area.

Long’s model of culinary tourism offers ways in which tourism can be used for cultural education and interpretation as well as for economic, social, and environmental sustainability. This “eating out of curiosity” also offers a way of exploring the world. Food opens up new cultures for us. It offers a window into the lives of other people, other times and regions, religions, belief systems, and social classes. Such exploration can be done through cookbooks, cooking shows, grocery stores, family recipes, and everyday meals in our own kitchens as well as through travel, fine dining restaurants, and exotic or gourmet foods. This understanding of culinary tourism also makes us aware of the power food has to carry memories, affirm relationships, construct identity, and encourage artistic self-expression.

Most of us approach new foods with a certain amount of curiosity: will it taste good; will it make us sick; can it really be eaten? But some of us also approach new food as an adventure, as an opportunity to try new experiences. This spirit of adventure characterizes culinary tourism. “Eating out of curiosity” introduces us not only to foods that are new to us, but also to a way of exploring the world. Food opens up new cultures for us. It offers a window into the lives of other people, other times and regions, religions, belief systems, and social classes. And such exploration can be done through cookbooks, cooking shows, grocery stores, family recipes, and everyday meals in our own kitchens as well as through travel, fine dining restaurants, and exotic or gourmet foods.

“Culinary tourism is about food as a subject and medium, destination and vehicle, for tourism. It is about individuals exploring foods new to them as well as using food to explore new cultures and ways of being. It is about groups using food to “sell” their histories and to construct marketable and publicly attractive identities, and it is about individuals satisfying curiosity. Finally, it is about the experiencing of food in a mode that is out of the ordinary, that steps outside the normal routine to notice difference and the power of food to represent and negotiate that difference.” ( Long, 2004)

Culinary Tourism, edited by Lucy M. Long, Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2004.