A famous 19th century foodie once said, “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” One of the greatest joys of travelling is immersing oneself into the culture of the places you visit, and what better way than through the regional food? While many urban centres are chock-a-block full of restaurants serving diverse global cuisine, it is never the same as savouring a local meal in its home country. Tom yum gai on Thailand adventure tours, paella in Spain, mandazi on Tanzania adventure tours, lomo saltado in Peru…the list is endless.
With all of the focus on international dishes, one aspect of global dining that is often overlooked is how and when the food is served. In much of North America, we have been brought up to believe that a day should consist of 3 square meals and possibly a few snacks. In particular, we start our day with breakfast, followed by a light lunch at noon, finishing with a large dinner/supper in the evening. But just like the dishes themselves, this eating template differs around the world. While many travellers stick to the North American standard of meals, eating what the locals eat, how the locals eat, and when the locals eat can give an insight into the culture that may just follow you home.
The following is a list of 4 countries that illustrate a variety of different dining schedules found around the world.
1 » Two meals a day in Tanzania
When asked about the most well-known global cuisines, Tanzanian food is not likely to make the list. Regardless, internationally influenced, Tanzanian cuisine is both diverse and unique. Unlike the other countries on this list, a day in Tanzania typically consists of only two meals, possibly supplemented with snacks. The day begins with breakfast, commonly comprised of chai (tea) and mandazi (fried bread) or chapati (flatbread). The main meal of the day is traditionally served at midday, while chai and snacks of mandazi are often served at social gatherings in the afternoon.
2 » Lunch is dinner in Peru
In the past couple of years Peruvian cuisine has really started to be noticed on the world stage. The differences in environment and climate throughout the country, along with the diversity of the population, means that there is a great variety of local Peruvian dishes to enjoy. However, throughout the country, the same basic meal schedule is followed. Breakfast is generally served between 7:00 and 9:00 am, often consisting of pancito (bread) with butter or jam, coffee or tea, and fresh fruit juice. Peruvians then enjoy a large lunch between noon and 3:00 pm, during which time many businesses are closed. Although some Peruvians eat a quick snack after work, many simply wait until their light supper in the evening, which is often a slightly altered repeat of breakfast.
3 » Snacking all day in Thailand
Thai food is undoubtedly one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Thai food is so delicious that it is common for Thai people to snack throughout the day, in addition to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While no one meal dominates the rest in Thailand, dinner may offer a greater variety when it is viewed as a family meal. However, regardless of the meal, whenever there is a group of people dining together there are usually several different dishes meant to be shared. That way you don’t have to choose just one thing…you can try it all.
4 » Midnight meals in Spain
Spain is probably one of the most challenging places to adopt the local schedule. A typical day will begin with a small breakfast of coffee and some toast or pastries. As in many countries outside of North America, lunch is the largest meal of the day. In Spain this meal is usually consumed between 1:30 and 3:30 pm, after which a siesta is traditionally enjoyed before heading back to work. Once work is finished, many people go “bar-hopping” to socialize and enjoy assorted tapas along with their drinks. Sometime between 9:00 pm and midnight a light dinner is served. Sounds like a nice day…but wait, it’s not over yet. During weekends and holidays many Spanish people continue to socialize in cafes and taverns until the wee hours of the morning. Just thinking about it makes you want to take a siesta.