Remember Anthony Bourdain's Grandma Rule When Eating Abroad

Anthony Bourdain gave us a lifetime's worth of knowledge and culinary curiosity — and he had a penchant for being open to gastronomic experiences wherever he might be. While he could easily judge the quality of delicacies at fine-dining establishments, he also wasn't above eating fast food mac & cheese (in fact, he confessed he loved the stuff from Popeyes). But when he was traveling abroad, the "Parts Unknown" host was keen on following what he affectionately called the "Grandma rule."

Bourdain documented this principle in his book, "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook" — and as you might expect from the seasoned chef, it's excellent advice for anyone trying new foods out of their comfort zone. "I often talk about the 'Grandma rule' for travelers," he wrote. "You may not like Grandma's Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry — and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblets you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it is 'Grandma's Turkey.' And you are in Grandma's house. So shut the eff up and eat it. And afterwards say, 'Thank you Grandma, why yes, yes of course I'd love seconds."

Food faux pas

Being willing to eat whatever is served to you seems like a nice, polite rule to follow; it's certainly a good way to avoid offending your hosts when you're faced with unfamiliar cuisine. However, there is at least one case where part of Anthony Bourdain's "Grandma rule" might be considered gauche: The Matador Network shares that if you fully clean your plate in China — let alone ask for seconds — your host may take it as an implication that they didn't serve you enough.

Outside of cultures where leaving a bit of food on your plate is expected, however, the Grandma rule is one you definitely should keep in mind. For example, Huffpost notes that cleaning your plate in India is essential to indicating you had a good, satisfying meal, while in Japan, it has more to do with a "waste not, want not" philosophy. Being willing to finish your meal — even if it's not 100% to your liking — will keep you from appearing rude (in one way, at least).

While for the most part, we think that Bourdain's "Grandma guidance" when traveling abroad is a good rule of thumb, there is another way to ensure you don't commit a food faux pas. Try to brush up on the culture and customs of the countries you plan on visiting ahead of your travels. This way, you'll feel more at ease as you sample the cuisine and can truly enjoy the experience.