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You might be a foodie if you calculate the length of a trip based on the number of meals you want to have in great restaurants…

If you devour cookbooks with as much concentration as a best-selling thriller…

If your favorite store in the mall stocks kitchen gadgets and pretty dishes…

If you peruse a menu looking for dishes you’ve never tried…

If you ban large chain restaurants from your travel itinerary…

And if a beautiful presentation of a dish elicits a spontaneous sigh of contentment and instantly begs to be photographed.

I was a foodie long before the term became popular. After cooking for a family and a host of friends for more than 40 years, I knew how to appreciate the emergence of well-trained chefs using fresh, local ingredients in creative ways, and I savored occasions when I could sample their efforts.

The cuisine of the Deep South might be most familiar to my taste buds, but I know there are meats, fruits, and vegetables grown in other regions of the U.S. and the world still waiting to appear on my plate.

I packed my bags as often as I could before I retired from teaching. But now my travel passion can be satisfied with happy frequency.

Before every trip, I research regional dishes and dig out the places where the locals eat those specialties. I want to eat what they eat while hearing the nuances of their accents, observing their interactions, and smelling the herbs and spices indigenous to that part of the world.

When I attended Great Escape’s travel writing workshop in Denver in 2016, I knew I’d finally found a way to combine my love for food and travel with my teacher’s heart and desire to share my discoveries.

It’s no accident that my very first published travel article appeared in and described an unforgettable dinner in a trattoria on top of a hill overlooking Positano, Italy.

It was followed shortly by a piece in about the highly-touted hush puppies in a barbecue restaurant thirty minutes from my house.

Before long, I was accepted by yet another publication to submit articles highlighting restaurants, dishes, and chefs from all around the South.

Those first few small articles led to an invitation to the Food Bloggers Summit last fall where I became certified as a judge for the World Food Championships, tasting and rating my way through the first round of the Dessert Category. My goodness, what an assignment!

It’s difficult to put an accurate dollar amount on my earnings to this point – considering comps and media discounts for hotels, meals, and attractions plus the money I’ve been paid for the articles. But I would estimate it to be approaching $10,000.

Additionally, I’m on track to pass the 100-stories-published mark before my second anniversary as a travel writer.

If I were to rank the top meals I’ve had since becoming a travel writing foodie, my number one choice emerges immediately…

Chef James Flack of ECHO Restaurant in St. Simons, Georgia, created a five-course meal that brought out every adjective in my arsenal, and I still needed a dictionary of culinary terms. From foie gras to salad with fiddlehead ferns, blueberries, and raspberries… to fresh-caught fish and Wagyu beef… all the way to crème brûlée.

Someone, somewhere, is sure to top that evening. I can’t wait to be there, fork in hand, when it happens.

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