Do you ever find that the smell of local foods is one of your strongest travel memories?
When I think of South Africa I smell grilled BBQ, with Naples I smell pizza crust and in France freshly-baked croissants from the boulangerie down the street. Bangkok? Durian, I'm afraid...
I find that food is one of the best ways to experience a culture, and food tourism, which is also called global food tourism, culinary travel or tourism and even foodie tourism, is a growing travel trend - and even passion.
When I'm preparing a food-related trip (most of my trips are food-related to some extent) these are some of the things I do beforehand to make sure I have the most delectable experience possible:
I love cooking (despite the occasional accident) but a major part of any travel adventure is eating wonderful foods I haven't cooked myself.
The advent of celebrity chefs and online food sites, the proliferation of cooking shows and the Food Network and the popularity of the likes of Anthony Bourdain all help promote the discovery of new foods, making culinary travel more popular than ever.
The 2016 Food Travel Monitor (a global study by the World Food Travel Association - here's their Facebook page) says an unbelievable 95% of American travelers are interested "in some kind of unique food experience". I can only believe that the figure is at least that high for travelers from other countries.
The search is on for new experiences, especially for something that tastes like a true slice of local culture. And what can be closer to a culture than the way it eats?
So... is Chinese food in Shanghai the same as you know it at home? Is your 'authentic' Thai corner eatery really authentic? Food tourism or travel will answer those questions.
Every destination has its own specialities, many of them great.
Given the impossibility of listing them all, I've highlighted a few of my own favorite types of culinary tourism, just to make you hungry (and myself in the process).
One of the most common foodie finds will be a restaurant - big or small, modest or luxurious, street stall or in luxurious surroundings.
Whether you're experiencing Noma for the first time (I haven't) or chasing the best burger in the city (the In and Out in Los Angeles), eating in a restaurant is a central part of food tourism.
Central, yes, but not the only culinary tourism event.
A great experience is to dine with locals. Plenty of organizations are popping up in cities around the world to match up travelers with locals. Not only do you get to taste home-cooked food but you'll also experience a slice of local culture. And meet people.
Street food can be extraordinary. Food tourism in Thailand and Mexico means superlative street food - I just find it more varied, tastier and fresher.
You can visit a market, many of which provide far more than produce. The Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, for example, is designed around an eating experience, tapas and all.
And while we're on the subject of Spain, you can also eat in a bar - that's usually where you have tapas, just like in the UK you can eat in a pub.
One activity I enjoy when I travel is visiting the local supermarket. Foods are often different and I'll get ideas - and inspiration. Just step into a supermarket in Japan and you'll immediately understand what I mean.
A local supermarket or small grocery store is also the best place to grab some local cheese, cold cuts and spreads for that all-important picnic along the Seine in Paris...
With the growing popularity of culinary tourism, be cautious about the quality of what you get. As with everything else, popularity may breed contempt.
Try to fit in one tour guided by a local. There are many wonderful tours and classes led by expats or long-term residents (I thoroughly enjoyed this food tour of the Lower East Side in New York), but travel is also about coming into contact with the local culture so don't let that dimension pass you by.
Look for variety in a food tour, course or experience. This Istanbul food tour had me sample more than two dozen dishes over two continents. Viator has plenty of food tours in just about any city if you're hungry!
Don't just be an onlooker. I've attended classes where one student stood at the front preparing everything while the others watched. You need to get your own hands wet and taste your own meal if you're ever going to understand exactly what went into preparing it.
Try different courses. Some places are known for starters - tapas and mezze for example - while others are known for stews or desserts. Focus each meal on a different part of the meal each time.
Avoid asking for ingredient changes unless you're truly allergic or despise something - especially in places where you know the chef pours her heart into her art. Each ingredient has its place and it's the package that makes the experience a marvellously balanced one.
Reserve or at least call ahead - especially if you have your heart set on eating in a specific place. I've at times been disappointed to find a place full, closed or otherwise unavailable. Your hotel desk can make the call if you don't speak the language!
Remember that food tourism includes drinks. Wine, of course, but I'm thinking chocolate con churros in Spain or Turkish coffee, as specialized as the food.
Check for cleanliness because standards differ. If things are a little messier than you're used to, that doesn't mean you're facing a health emergency. Still, keep an eye on hygiene.
Don't be afraid of street food. If it's cooked freshly, cleanly, at high heat right in front of you, it will be as safe as anything else you eat, possibly even safer than hotel food that may have skipped a link in the food chain.
Beware the much-translated menu. This isn't always the case but I've found that a menu translated into a dozen languages screams 'tourist trap' - and I know they're not all bad but I'd rather eat where mostly locals go.
Buy a local cookbook before you leave (for yourself or as a gift), along with a few special spices or condiments. Wrap these well in foil and plastic or your closes may smell of coriander for weeks (and you'll get the airport sniffy dogs all excited).
For a more institutional look at world food tourism, you can download the World Tourism Organization's Global Report on Food Tourism.