The truth is that no one really wants to see your travel videos. And if you still show slides, know this: Once the lights go out, your guests struggle to stay awake. And that daily blog you post? If that's rewarding for you, terrific, but it's unlikely anyone's quite as interested in your travels as you are.
On the other hand, throw a party after a trip and serve dishes you discovered while traveling, and you will have an appreciative audience. You can regale them with stories about tavernas, trattorias, street carts, bistros, tapas bars, beach shacks, cafes and home-cooked meals. They will, as they sample your cooking, listen attentively, or at least make an effort to adopt facial expressions that might indicate attentiveness.
It was with this in mind that I invited Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet, and Dana Cowin, editor in chief of Food & Wine, to join our Consumer Travel Editors Roundtable this year. Clearly, there is a deep bond between food and travel.
"There is nothing more devastating than a bad meal," Reichl said at one point in our discussion, and I agree. A bad meal leaves the aftertaste of opportunity wasted. You know that somewhere else in town, people are eating with pleasure in direct proportion to your disappointment.
I asked roundtable participants to tell me about their favorite eating experience while traveling. Here's Reichl's answer:
"My son and I were in Sperlonga, halfway between Rome and Naples. We just wandered into a little place. First, they brought up a basket of fish that had just been caught, and we picked the one we wanted. And then they started bringing out fish hors d'oeuvres, and then handmade pasta with a simple tomato sauce. And then this perfectly grilled fish. Part of it was the surprise and pleasure of one thing after another."
Cowin raved about Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn.:
"They have beautiful accommodations, an enormous garden and a fantastic chef. He cooks from that garden, so every night it changes. And they have a magical barn in which you eat. So it's partly knowing where the lettuce came from. It's partly the skill of the chef. It's partly being in the middle of Tennessee. Someone's best meal is not necessarily going to be at the most famous restaurant. A really great meal is more complex, or even more simple, than that. It's many things, connected. It's who you're with. It's the entire environment."
Reichl noted that Earle MacAusland, the founder of Gourmet, felt it would be impossible to do an epicurean magazine without travel being at least half of it. "He felt that we learn about other cultures through food, and that leads us to explore those places," she said. "He felt travel and food were completely intertwined."
Budget Travel's editor, Nina Willdorf, said her favorite meal was at an Okinawan restaurant on the outskirts of Tokyo "where salarymen were getting completely wasted on disgusting liquor."
OK, maybe her post-trip party guests do not want her to replicate that experience.
Then again, it might be preferable to another seemingly endless travel video.
Contact Arnie Weissmann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/awtravelweekly.