New foods taste better on vacation. Here's why.

New foods taste better on vacation. Here's why.
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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