New foods taste better on vacation. Here's why.
Feeling more adventurous on vacation? Crickets, grasshoppers, snails or other fare you've never tasted can seem more appealing than they would if you were out to dinner on a typical Friday night.
In fact, even picky eaters may be more likely to throw caution to the wind and chow down on, say, horse meat when they're away from home: As the Science of Us reported, traveling can change our perceptions about food.
It all boils down to the familiar psychological force of peer pressure. Science of Us cited a 2013 paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which found people are unconsciously influenced by what — and how much — their fellow diners eat.
Chowing down on a new and unfamiliar food — for example, escargot (snails) or Vegemite — might seem less "weird" when it's part of the local cuisine.
At a recent event hosted by Barnard College, biology professor John Glendinning — who studies taste — talked about eating out of his own comfort zone during a trip to Japan, Science of Us reported.
"I think the grasshoppers tasted delicious at the time because their flavor matched that of all the other foods I regularly experienced in that region of Japan," Glendinning said.
Many people behave more adventurously during a trip away — taste comforts included. The psychology of food reveals our taste buds are awfully fickle; context changes how much we enjoy (or hate) what we're noshing on. How a food is plated, what utensils you use, a restaurant's lighting and music, and a person's mood can all influence how a meal tastes, according to NPR.
Need extra motivation to try an unfamiliar food? You could always throw back some booze. A small study showed alcohol increases appetite because it halts production of a hormone that suppresses hunger.
But even though pizza tastes nothing short of divine after a few beers or cocktails, researchers found that alcohol doesn't actually change how we taste food. A sake might help you gather the courage and the appetite for trying grasshoppers, but it probably won't make them taste better. Eh, cheers!
In search of a way to boost your food and travel bucket list? A list of "bizarre foods" from chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern might be a good place to start. From pork brain tacos and pig-skin spaghetti to goat butter burgers and more, these unique and unusual dishes are a far cry from Taco Bell or McDonalds.