While we’re busy here trying to define our Australian regional food,we’re still attracted to movies like our last post. ( EAT the STA Student Travel Australia video, which is a fun sampling of food from an around world trip). It makes you hopeful of finding an Authentic regional food experience. This was prompted by a well written article in the SMH Traveller from last week by Andrew Purvis titled the Truth of the platter. Andrew looks at how hard it is to find that illusive pleasure of eating well, especially in the Mediteranean, because we’re all traveling to find it, destroying the experience in the process.

“Even as we become more food-literate, weaned on a diet of TV cooking programs, exotic supermarket imports and cosmopolitan restaurants at home, mobility, globalisation and the march of Identikit fast-food outlets across Europe have diluted regional cuisine and made it harder to find. More to the point, travel – the very thing that enabled our pursuit of culturally distinct food in the first place – is largely responsible for the demise.”

He looks at Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece and along with suggestions for choosing venues, he also offers tips as to how to eat ‘food safe’ in places that are more attractive to us as food adventurers, so that we can avoid the blander but safe tourist places. There’s enough specifics for you to printout and take with you (or bookmark in your iPad).

I’d like to offer an Italian experience that is more street food (or ‘taking back to your apartment for dinner’) and that’s the Porchetta van. On specific days only in some villages that are small, and in different venues in larger towns you’ll find vans like the one below, cooked and run by Francesco in the town of Massa Martana. You buy slices of still warm seasoned roast pork, in a panini roll or crusty bread stick, no sauces, just meat and bread. There are other food items for sale sometimes, but usually just the one specialty, porchetta. (When I grow up I’m going to have my own porchetta van.)

In Andrew’s article he has ‘the most important tip’, one that I endorse as a way to distinguish the ‘authentic’ from the tourist trap.

Avoid any place with laminated menus in 12 languages sporting national flags.

I’d add, give the place a miss if the menu has drop shadow headings in multiple colours and smiley icons. Or in Comic Sans. (It used to be ones made in Corel Draw but now it’s probably with Word Art).