Before I went travelling across Latin America, one of my most significant worries was the food.
Of course, nothing ever happens the way you think it will. As a result, and much to my surprise, I found a lot of the food there too bland (yes, even for me) rather than indigestible.
And luckily I wasn’t put off from trying the street food.
Oh, the street food was delicious. And cheap. And easy. From unidentifiable cheese/ dough snacks in Brazil to grilled meat, fresh sweet peaches and mango and lime in a bag to bizarre dessert combinations, it was definitely worth it.
If you are reading this and thinking ‘Hmm! Food cooked by strangers in questionable circumstances – no thank you’, then we’re probably have wholly different attitudes to safety. But here’s my attempt to persuade you.
(A note for the worried well: I accidentally drank the tap water across at least six developing countries before I realised that when brushing my teeth each day, I was also swallowing some. I was fine.)
Eating street food abroad is not only safe, and good for the local economy; it provides a wonderful glimpse into a different culture. If you want to understand what it is like to live in a place, and not just look at it, eat the street food.
Remember that this is all coming from someone who is not even into food.
But there’s something about sitting at the back of a very crowded bus, shouting over in Spanish to a woman selling food and drink.
“Chicken or fish?” she asks. Straining to see her through the mass of passengers, you decide on chicken and a paper plate of chicken, tortillas and rice (the most incompatible bus food ever?) weaves it way back to you in exchange for a few Quetzales.
“A drink?” she asks. The choice is water or Sprite, but when it makes it’s way to your seat it’s actually a kind of Ribena. Either way, the seller has left the bus and other passengers are surging on.
You balance the full plate on your lap and start assembling tortillas with your fingers. It’s one of the best meals you’ve ever tasted.