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Distracted Dining: Culinary tourism tastes great

In this week's Distracted Dining, Nancy divulges the secret as to why great scenery makes everything taste better
Fish and CHip Waterfront AdobeStock_88830416

What tastes better? Fish and chips at the local shop, or fish and chips on the waterfront?

That’s right. Even though the fish supplier could be the same — the difference is the scenery. Great scenery makes everything taste better.

I recently enjoyed a feast of pan-fried scallops and fries sitting on the second level of an ocean front restaurant in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Best scallops ever! The air had that fishy, salty, ocean smell and my innards were singing as I devoured the delectable sea creatures.

Sipping a sampling of in-house crafted beers; munching on sea scallops and especially enjoying a beautiful view over the harbour made for the best tasting meal I’ve had in a long time. I’ve probably had better scallops, but I forgot all about them as I enjoyed the awesome combination of food, family and breath-taking scenery.

The tourism industry has embraced this concept. It’s call culinary tourism. The concept is the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, both near and far. As the warmth of summer approaches and plans for vacations are being birthed, the tourism sector is whetting its appetite for another banner year.

Fun fact — every tourist eats at least three times a day, making food one of the fundamental economic drivers of tourism. Think about it. When you’re traveling by any mode, we’re always thinking about the next time we’re going to eat. Driving — let’s Yelp the closest gas station with a fast food restaurant. Flying — will our flight be long enough to include a meal? Camping — how many coolers do we need to fill for a weekend? Cruising — don’t forget to pack your elastic pants! So much of vacation is about the food.

Many countries of the world, including Canada are making significant investment in the culinary tourism development. The results are impressive (read lucrative) with visitor spending and overnight stays rising as a direct result of food tourism promotion.

I’ve dreamed of attending cooking classes in Europe. How crazy is that? There are many options available to those who want to include cooking lessons; wine tasting tours; beer sampling — the list goes on and on as part of their vacation experience. Everything from a short lesson; to a few hours; full-day and multi-day courses. Not only can you visit a new country, you can immerse yourself in the cuisine of the country you’re visiting. There are a variety of unique experiences like this with many cooking classes including local market tours — just to enhance the cultural experience.

Culinary tours will take visitors to places they might otherwise not have seen. They can shop and eat like locals. The whole vacation is about food. Many tours end up with a sit-down meal at a restaurant with a view. After a day of history of the area; shopping; learning about the food and now finally sitting to enjoy the feast of scenery — everything tastes scrumptious!

As an aside, your mood and personality also affect the way food tastes, which should only make things taste better on vacation with a view. Nothing like a relaxed food fest with copious amounts of liquid refreshments while stopping on a scenic drive on the way to nowhere in particular.

Scientific studies have proven — the eyes have it. How people experience the flavours of food is greatly impacted by the visual. Flavour depends on parts of the brain that involve taste, odour, touch and vision. What the food looks like and what the surroundings look like directly affect our enjoyment of the food. The sum total of these signals, plus our emotions and past experiences, result in perception of flavours. Mixed all together, this determines whether we like or dislike specific foods.

The scenery DOES make the food taste better. Be distracted by the view and enjoy.

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at​​. Her column appears every other week.