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Erin
San Francisco

Mexico, Albania, Morocco, Puglia, Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatan, San Miguel de Allende, Thailand

Where in the world is food still pure and unadulterated?

We are taking our family of four and going around the world for some extended travel, probably three or four years.  One of the primary criteria will be to go where food is still produced on a small scale without the use of chemicals and mostly by hand.  The sort of places I'm imagining have livestock grazing in the mountains, grow numerous varieties of the same vegetables, and have food traditions that are well preserved (like sourdough bread, food preserving, cheesemaking, using the whole animal, etc.) 

So far the places we are considering are:

Mexico (San Miguel de Allenge, Oaxaca, Puebla, Yucatan)

Albania

Thailand or Vietnam

Morocco

Turkey

Southern Italy

I would love any advice on countries and specific regions where this type of food is particularly alive and well.

In addition, I'm curious if there are any regions in China or India that might be what I've described.

Thank you!


18 Answers

top answer by
Daniel from Gangnam-gu

The question is complex. Even in Italy, which is known for its small-scale, locally-grown products, there is a lot of industrial-scale, pesticide-heavy food production, also. Same thing in Thailand, which is otherwise known for its food... Thailand has plenty of industrial-scale food production.

Good news is, you can find quality food pretty much everywhere. It's a matter of looking. In more developed countries like Western Europe or the US, there are a lot of people who care deeply about food, so there's a market for it. In poorer countries, pesticides and chemical fertilizers pretty much don't make sense in small-scale farming, so there's a better chance of finding quality food there. It means not being able to trust a label, though... In places like Mexico and Thailand, small-scale, natural food production is a poor person's choice, and it is not celebrated. (Food in Thai supermarkets costs more than at the farmers' market.)

In my experience, the following countries all had fantastic locally-grown, organic-like food offerings if you went looking:

Some of the most amazing, freshest food I had was in Syria in 2010, but unfortunately I cannot recommend a visit right now. :(


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Italy (country)
  2. Thailand (country)
  3. Mexico (country)
  4. Macedonia (country)
  5. Bulgaria (country)
  6. Serbia (country)
  7. France (country)
  8. Hungary (country)
  9. Canada (country)
  10. United States (country)
  11. Japan (country)
  12. South Korea (country)
  13. Turkey (country)
  14. Lebanon (country)
  15. Palestinian Territories (country)
  16. Syria (city)
3 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Kavalishenca from Durres

Hi Erin,

In Albania you will find fresh meat from mountain villages like in Llogara National Park, Gjirokaster, or in country villages. Fresh sea food is also very common in cities on the coastline like Durres, Vlorë Sarande Some restaurants in villages like Maminas, Kavaje, Shijak keep their own poultry and crops, so they can guarantee 100% fresh food.

Fruits and vegetables are usually biological. You are welcome in Albania.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Llogara National Park (attraction)
  2. Gjirokaster (city)
  3. Durres (city)
  4. Vlorë (city)
  5. Sarande (city)
  6. Maminas (city)
  7. Kavaje (city)
  8. Shijak (city)
2 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Matt from Santa Monica

Thailand has the best food I've found in the world. So much so I've been eating thai food 2-3x per week since I returned, three years ago. Thai people put a lot of care into preparing healthy, clean food that's full of flavors and locally grown. They also take great pride in making you happy. This is a winning formula for a good meal if you ask me.. It's also cheap, you can have an incredible meal for under $10.  

I'd recommend Northern Thailand, the cities of Chiang Mai and Pai for the most distinct and authentic, locally grown food. In Chaing Mai they offer lots of cooking classes which are fantastic. But you will find great food throughout the country! 

Thailand is just at the right stage right now to bring children and still enjoy a  moderately untouched country. The local thai people are extremely warm and caring, and they depend on tourism for money, so they take good care of their guests. For this reason it feels very safe. At the same time, big resorts haven't yet taking over the country, so it feels authentic. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Thailand (country)
  2. Chiang Mai (city)
  3. Pai (city)
  4. Pai Thailand Post Office (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Don from Kathmandu

My family of four - two adults and two preteen kids - lived in Nepal for four years (https://www.flickr.com/photos/39020010@N06/sets/72157634698257504/)

I was working on a research grant, still am, that allowed us to live in remote villages that use pre-organic techniques. By pre-organic I mean zero chemical treatment, saved seeds, animal and human waste fertilizers, on small plot production. 

You will find similar in many pan-Himalayan areas, as well as other Asian countries, certainly including those mentioned below. You will need to venture off the path a bit further than you may want, and be willing to stay put once you get there. 

Adding an ' I agree ' to Matt's remarks - below - about Thailand. Like most of the ex-pat community here in Nepal, Thailand is the easy destination of choice when holiday rolls around, or monsoon season gets too sporty. 

Let me add some of the southern Thai destinations to Matt's fine northern area list. Specifically, I'd suggest Krabi. I worked in the Krabi region post the 2004 tsunami and now head back that way whenever I can. Though the overall region has made a nice recovery from the tsunami trauma, Krabi, in particular, has had a slower go. As a result, you can still find some great deals especially if you're willing to forgo the beachfront resorts. We stay in little family run bungalow group, about 3K from the beach, for next to nothing, pop the savings down on some scooters and make our way from beach to market to home. Plus, the region has an interesting confluence of religions (what I study) with a big catholic church that hosts potlucks, one of the oldest (buddhist) monasteries in the region, and several mosques. The latter are open and friendly; I've taken our kids into each and have always been welcomed. Overnight train down from Bangkok is an adventure not to be missed, as is the 1200+ step pilgrimage at the Tiger Monastery .... somewhat dated pics of the latter here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/39020010@N06/sets/72157623163423154/


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Nepal (country)
  2. Thailand (country)
  3. Krabi (city)
  4. Bangkok (city)
2 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Maria from Dublin

Ireland. Organic farming is very big here and it is possible to check the source (back to the farm) of most beef, chicken, pork & lamb. Fish is also very good and is sold in many places straight off the boat that day. I like to buy organic vegetables from a small local shop and all of the meat I buy comes from a local butcher, who could probably tell you the name of the cow! All GM crops were banned for cultivation here in 2009. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ireland (country)
2 thanks


answered by
Tony from Connecticut

Almost all commercial farming uses chemicals, antibiotics, and other drugs.

There is a lot of commercial farming everywhere even in places you might consider remote.

Consider Mozzarella Di Bufala (Mozzarella Di Bufala). How do you know what the water buffalo and its milk has been through? You don't.

In my opinion, eating fresh or from the farm (as they say) is probably good enough for a real awesome experience. When I lived in SE Asia, I would sail my hobie cat out in the bay and stop near a fisherman's outrigger canoe and buy fish and lobster. Then I sail back as fast as I can back to the beach where my friends have started a fire and cooked some rice and veggies. We simply grill the seafood on top of the fire and sprinkle with sea salt and local lime and lemon. Absolute heaven.

I would say the same thing when I visit Italian and French wineries or buy cheese from a cart-vendor in the market.

I hope you understand what I am saying. Don't go overboard with this natural food search. All you have to do is go overseas where they still enjoy eating and make it a national pastime. Good luck.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mozzarella Di Bufala (restaurant)
2 thanks


answered by
Justin from Phoenix

"One of the primary criteria will be to go where food is still produced on a small scale without the use of chemicals and mostly by hand. "

Bad news. Everywhere I've been, the foods I've eaten have required the chemicals H2O, NaCl and C12H22O11.


2 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

Huangshan, China #1 tea culture live and learn.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Huangshan (attraction)
1 thanks


answered by
Simon from Portland, Oregon

Hi Erin!

Mexico, specifically Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, are highly regarded for their deep food culture. If you like hand-made blue corn tortillas, rich mole sauce, and artisan mescal and tequila, Oaxaca is the place! It's the bastion of the majority of Mexico's indigenous population, hence the culture.

Unfortunatly, the rest of Central America is a culinary write-off. Peru, however, where I write this from, has a vibrant food culture that descends from the Incan empire!

I'm sure Italy, Turkey, and Morocco also have great food culture, but I haven't been. It's also true that its nearly impossible to find 
"pure food" these days. Yet there are places that have a deep culinary culture, which are worth exploring. 

If you really want the purest food possible in a foreign country, I recommend checking out WWOOF (www.wwoof.com) opportunities and working on an organic farm for the "real experience."
Hope that helped!


 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mexico City (city)
  2. Oaxaca (city)
  3. Chiapas (state)
  4. Peru (country)
  5. Italy (country)
  6. Turkey (country)
  7. Morocco (country)
1 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Brenda from Long Beach

Can't the Adria brothers point you towards a location that meets your criteria in Spain? Wonderful, beautiful Spain? Everybody knows about San Sebastian but there has to be some small wonderful city where they still do it the way you're looking to see it done.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Spain (country)
  2. San Sebastian (city)
1 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Rocio from Costa Rica

Hello Erin! I also love organic food. However, when my family and I went to  Mexico City this past December, we decided to enjoy the ride, eat local from small restaurants and street carts and let me tell you we enjoyed it! Let me recommend a small place that offers amazing local food, La Torta Brava and try frijoladas, torta cochinita, sopes, mole, taco alambre and huarachotes. We loved "bunuelos" at Dulcería de Celaya S.A. de C.V. located on the famous Avenida 5 de Mayo. There is another place that I highly recommend to visit and it is Coyoacán, very colorful place, full of interesting places such as Frida Kahlo Museumand full of outstanding restaurants. We had an amazing lunch at ANTIGUO PALACIO DE COYOACÁN

I hope this helps!



Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mexico City (city)
  2. La Torta Brava (restaurant)
  3. Dulcería de Celaya S.A. de C.V. (attraction)
  4. Avenida 5 de Mayo (attraction)
  5. Coyoacán (attraction)
  6. Frida Kahlo Museum (attraction)
  7. ANTIGUO PALACIO DE COYOACÁN (restaurant)


answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

My yard. Violets, Dandelion roots, Purslain, Sumac, Yarrow, Golden Rod.




answered by
Janelle from Charleston

Just set off and enjoy your travels!  And keep in mind that most people on Earth only get to eat what they can afford, and that vegetarian, vegan, unprocessed, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. etc. foods are often unaffordable luxuries.  The best way to travel is to become a "temporary local" (to quote Rick Steves), which includes eating what the locals eat during the course of their everyday lives.  Don't let your first world problems and personal hang-ups get in the way of your experience.

Ethiopia would be a good choice.  Of course you and your family will need a ton of vaccinations (which hopefully you're not against), but once you get there you'll find that it's a complex, exotic and intricate cuisine where most of the food is fresh, local and unadulterated, little to nothing is wasted, and since many locals are vegetarian for religious reasons it's easy to find vegetarian food everywhere you go if that's what floats your boat.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ethiopia (country)


answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

Camping in Switzerland




answered by
Kate from Edmond, Oklahoma

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Africa (continent)
  2. Uganda (country)


answered by
Ron from Denver

Food and water in MX are vastly improved over the past 25 years. We drank from the tap and ate from street carts without fear.




answered by
Hoang from Phú Xuyên, Ha Noi, Vietnam

Vietnam is an agricultural country and it's still a developing country so that the production by handicraft still exists in rural area. You can easily find fresh food in the rural area and even witness the farmers produce these products.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Vietnam (country)


answered first by
Deborah

Food in India is amazing and usually very local, fresh.






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