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My newest addiction is food tours. Each time I head to a new country, I search out a food tour to take on my first day in the city. It is a great way to get a sense of the place and an understanding of the cuisine, which I feel enhances the rest of my trip. I shared some of the great food tours I have found in a recent story in the Napa Valley Register which you can read here. The late Anthony Bourdain once said that “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
On his show, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” he filmed 96 episodes over 11 seasons in which he shared his passion for culture, food, travel and adventure. His enthusiasm was contagious, and we were all inspired explore the world through food.
Or, at least, I was.
After all, what better way to explore a different culture than through its food? Of course, there is architecture, art, religion and nature, but food has so many meanings and incorporates everything. Food is a cultural identifier. Food is shaped by location and by history. Food can represent status and pleasure or can be for survival. Food is also about community and is a unifier across cultures.
As I traveled to countries for my first time, I have found myself in search of food. Yes, I like to eat. And, I can think of no better way to learn about a city and a culture than through its food. But, how does one decide where to go?
If you have only one day in Santiago, what is the best way to see it? A food tour where you walk through the city, visiting markets, restaurants, street vendors and get an introduction to the culinary culture of Chile. After all, food is something that we all share. It is a way to look at the world. Food is a way to get to know another culture. Our guide was Colin Bennett, an American who lives in Santiago. Originally from the mid-west, Colin came to Chile to teach English and ended up staying. About eight years ago, Colin started FoodyChile. We met in the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city. A map lies in the ground in the center of the plaza showing the now dry Rio Ma Pocho that runs through the city of Santiago. Colin explained Chile's history to us, from the indigenous Ma Pocho who gathered foods like shellfish, pinenuts, beans and mushrooms to ingredients brought to Chile by the Spanish. We began walking and soon was in Portal Fernandez Concha. A hotel in the 1860's, today the promenade is filled with a row of hot dog vendors. The Chilean hot dog, with lots of toppings, is Chile's own national junk food.
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