Ask just about any traveler and I guarantee you most will agree - the food you experience while exploring a new location is one of the best things that can happen when you step outside of your everyday life and leap into the unknown. Senegalese yassa chicken! Salvadorian pupusas! Spanish jamon! The world is filled with delicious, unique food that I'm just chomping at the bit to try. In a way, new food is the perfect allegory for what makes travel so amazing as it mirrors the fear, joy, and peace that comes from exploration and adventure. Any time I hit the road, I've already done a ton of research into my destination to pinpoint all the food I want to try and restaurants I want to visit.
On the flip side, anyone who knows me can tell you that for every fancy dumpling I crave I'm also a bit of a junk food aficionado.
This affinity for low-brow snacking means that over the years I've made a bit of a habit of trying out the unique interpretations of familiar junk food from back home while out on the road - specifically the vast variety of Fanta sodas, Lay's potato chips, and McDonald's regional menu items. All three of these brands offer unique, locally-focused items across the globe to help the world's cravings. How unique can these offerings be, you ask? Though numbers fluctuate, on average Fanta has around 90 flavors, Lay's features over 200 flavors, while McDonald's often has one or two unique menu items within a country.
While they're certainly not a steaming basket of xiao long bao or a richly flavored tartine, these little junk food treasures do add an element of fun to my travels. Thinking back on this recently, I figured why not chronicle some of the fun, unique items I've pick up while getting snacks on the go across the globe?
Hence, we see the launch of a new series on ORD to Anywhere - "The Junk Food World Tour". Short and sweet introductions to the unique Fanta, Lay's, and McDonald's flavors across the globe!
First item we're I want to discuss: Fanta Shokata - an elderflower and lemon mixture I came across on a trip through the Czech Republic.
My first impression - weird. Really weird. Floral isn't exactly a flavor profile that you find in sodas in the US other than the occasional hipster restaurant/coffee shop offering of a lavender pop. The addition of the lemon gave the soda just the right amount of familiar flavor to make me not immediately veto this concoction and throw it into the trash. Don't be fooled though, the overwhelming taste that comes through the mouth with each sip is elderflower, not lemon.
As I sat in my hotel room and slowly sipped at the bottle while watching CNN International, I have to admit that the flavor grew on me. The elderflower comes across as less floral and more savory spice the further you get into the drink, and the lemon mellows out some of the rougher edges of the dominant flower flavor. It's not exactly light like a citrus soda, but not as heavy as a cola. A nice middle ground to quench your thirst. Over the remainder of my stay in Prague, I ended up buying Fanta Shokata four more times. I even ordered it in a restaurant when I noticed it in a display case and surprised my waiter - most foreigners don't like this, he claimed.
My overall thought on Fanta Shokata: