How far do you go for food knowledge?

After writing my previous entry about The Sushi FAQ site, I received a very nice email from Warren, the site owner (which I especially appreciated since I wasn't totally positive in my review). One question he raised which got me thinking is where he should go from here to get more information and knowledge about sushi. I think this question can be extended to all areas of life, but keeping it in the food realm: how far should you, and do you, go to gain knowledge and experience, especially about food and cuisines you didn't grow up with?

Let's say you fall in love with Thai food as it's served at your local restaurant. You might search out for other Thai restaurants. You might buy some cookbooks. That far I think almost anyone remotely interested in food will do. The next step might be to take a class in Thai cooking. So far, so good. A trip to Thailand? Maybe, if budget allows.

What beyond that though? Would you move to Thailand for an extended period (more than a few months) to immerse yourself in the food, language and culture? Would you take the time to learn Thai? Would you apprentice with a Thai cook? How far would you go?

I've gotten to to the trying various restaurants and buying cookbooks stage on numerous cuisines, and the travel level on a few more. I've gone to the learning-language and living there level too. I didn't do this just for the food, but my decision to take French for three years in college certainly had a lot to do with the fact that I fell absolutely in love with the food I ate at small, inexpensive restaurants around Paris the first time I went there by myself.

Years later I ended up living here in Switzerland, which wasn't a food based decision, but there's no denying that living here gives me great access to great cuisines around Europe. And there's the great cheese and chocolate of course...two of my favorite foods in the world.

I have a feeling that I am much more obsessive than the average person in this way, but surely I'm not alone...

The place and cuisine I'm most interested in immersing myself in at the moment is Hawaii. Spam musubi, here I come! (One day, soon I hope.)

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I got so carried away by learning more about nutrition and healthy eating that I packed my long-term career in and went back to University to do a Masters. This is probably an example of taking things a bit too far, but I have to say that I haven't looked back since! It's very liberating to be able to spend your day concentrating on something you really love and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.

visiting the country is a must for one who wants to understand its cuisine

I definitely think a trip to the place of origin for a cuisine is a must for fully understanding it. I grew up eating Mexican food, but it wasn't until a trip there that I saw how rich and varied the cuisine is.

It's an interesting question. I came to Japan to see the country, but have gradually become more and more interested in the cuisine. Learning about Japanese cooking in Australia from cookbooks and websites could have taught me a lot of good, authentic recipes but I do think you miss out on the ... scope? of the way another country eats. Cookbooks will be skewed towards western tastes and ingredient availability, and tend to lay everything down in a 'this is the way the Japanese do it' fashion when in truth there are a million regional and personal variations.

I would happily move to Italy, Spain or Thailand and learn to cook, but I have a feeling I like to travel more than the average person. It would be a shame if lack of access to the 'real thing' discouraged people from experimenting with foreign food though. Just read widely, talk to lots of people who know what they're doing, learn a bit about the culture behind the food and don't assume you know everything there is to know after reading one or two cookbooks.

I thought they only spoke that in the Philippines...?

Would you apprentice with a Thai cook?
Oooo, if I could only afford to blow off the daily grind for the time to do things like that. [/wistful]

Watching 'Dog the Bounty Hunter' surprised me - there's a lot of Samoans living in/around Honolulu. You could do two cuisines at once!

The language spoken in Thailand is Thai. Tagalog is a language of the Philippines.

I have no idea why I put Tagalog (as the Thai language)...I think I had a brain fart moment....Corrected now! Thanks for spotting it (you can stop sending emails too :))