FOMIM: Fear of Missing Important Meals (While Traveling)

June 10, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

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It’s a very privileged problem to have, let’s acknowledge that out of the gate. Most people in this world who are worrying about food are worrying about how to get enough on to the table, not how to eat the very best the world has to offer while flitting about. Again, let me be the first to file this post under “Privileged People Problems” or “Problems That Are Not Very Serious In The Grand Scheme of Things.”

That said, I leave for Europe in one week and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” floating across my screen. “Oh you’re going to Paris, you should go to Pierre Hermé,” says one person. “Skip Pierre Hermé,” says another person. “You should go to Jacques Genin.” It’s almost like I’m studying for the S.A.T.s and pretty soon I’m going to be in a gray little room with my #2 pencil, guessing C when I don’t know the answer, instead of strolling carefree around Europe, letting the day unfold in ways that might take be surprise. This is what it’s like being a Type A food person planning a trip.

I know it’s a purely psychological phenomenon and that the best way to deal with it is to just casually study everyone’s suggestions without letting them overwhelm me. That’s when the FOMIM kicks in: the Fear of Missing Important Meals. Anything can trigger it. For example, reading a Bon Appetit article about new Paris restaurants, I see this sentence from Christine Muhlke: “Book a table [at Frenchie] the minute you even think about going to Paris.”

Oh, Christine Muhlke, I tried! On the website, all the tables are booked up. I tried to use personal connections; no dice. Now I feel like the guy who bubbled in all his answers one row off; no matter how hard I erase, I’m going to score a 0 and wind up at a community college. (Not that there’s anything wrong with community college.) All this because I didn’t go to one of the hottest restaurants in Paris.

See, that’s FOMIM working at me. Even when someone relieves the pressure–my friend Brian, who just got back from Paris, says he ate at Frenchie To Go for lunch and that it’s a great second option–some new anxiety sets in. For example, I’m seeing two plays in London (King Lear and The Pajama Game) and thinking about where to eat beforehand. I Google “Pre-Theater Dinner London” and this Mark Bittman article pops up. Sayeth Bittman: “A reminder: Book ahead. Way ahead, if you can. Most of these are wildly popular, and pre-theater is prime-time.”

Geesh, just when I think I’ve planned a nice evening for myself humming along to “Hernando’s Hideaway,” it turns out I’ve failed miserably. Now all these new questions rise up: do I really want to make a pre-theater reservation? What if I change my mind about where I want to go? What if I pick the wrong spot? What if I’d rather eat after the show?

And that’s all micro stuff. On the macro level, I have to think about my whole trip in general: which cities do I splurge in? I’m only going to be with Craig in Scotland and Germany, shouldn’t I save my nicest meals for when we’re together? But aren’t the restaurants better in France and England? Will Craig even enjoy a fancy, shmancy Michelin restaurant if it means he has to wear a jacket? Speaking of wearing a jacket, do I need to pack a suit? Or can I get away with my beige jacket and jeans? Will I be turned away from that fancy place I booked in Strasbourg for not being dressy enough? Will I miss an important meal?

Deep breaths. Here’s the truth: the only way to get over FOMIM is to give yourself permission to miss those not-to-be-missed eating experiences. Instead, you have to make your own experiences. Maybe, wandering around Paris, I’ll stumble into a little cafe, order a croissant, and it will be the best croissant of my life. And maybe it will be at a place nobody’s heard of yet.

But if I eat that croissant at that magical cafe…won’t I miss the croissants at Pâtisserie Boulangerie Blé Sucré? They’re supposed to be the best.

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Categories: Food Bits

  • Brandon

    I solved this by picking out like 2-3 dinner places I want to eat at and go from there. Dinner you have a greater chance of not sightseeing at the time or it is more convenient to go out of your way for a great meal. I ate at Frenchie to Go and it was ok. You get American food in Paris, but it isn’t anywhere close to a sandwich that you can get at a deli in NYC (in size and taste) but it does cost about the same if not more.

    The only meal I would do again would be Septime. Everything else was good, but not return worthy.

    My tip is find all the restaurants that you want to eat at and then put them on your Google Map. Who knows where you are going to be at any given time during the day when you are hungry since you are sightseeing and wandering. That way when you are out, you can see what is around you to eat. I never get FOMIM, but I do get mad when I waste a meal.

  • janice

    your final paragraph sums up what I was going to suggest. the best food memories I have of France and England, or anywhere for that matter, were small places I happened upon by accident. A rainy day, ducking into a cafe with the best soup and bread. A walk at sunset along the Seine and wandering into a bistro because the chalkboard menu outside looked interesting. You’re in France! It’s probably going to be a really good meal. Then you can be the first one to suggest this place to the next person asking for suggestions.

  • janice

    Another thought: first, I like Brandon’s suggestion to locate places you want to try on your google map. Even if they aren’t taking reservations, you never know when you get there. Maybe sit at the bar?

  • alex

    I’d bring a nice pair of slacks in lieu of jeans for any upscale restaurant – or just wait til your over there and buy something for cheap. I had some of my best memories by walking around each city – I did 13 cities throughout Europe in 6 weeks fresh out of college – and coming across tiny little restaurants that I had some of my most memorable meals for a variety of reasons. Paris isn’t going anywhere, you can always go back. Enjoy!

  • Rob

    I love
    to travel, I love to eat good food, and I usually enjoy reading your thoughts,
    but geez! relax, already! I’ve had the good fortune to eat in many “of the
    moment” restaurants over the years and in my travels, but, as another
    commenter has already said, the best meals in Europe (or most anywhere, really)
    aren’t where the critics and famous chefs tell you to eat, they’re in the
    places that create amazing memories – one of my favorites is the tiny cafe in
    halfway down the hill from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, where I enjoyed an
    amazing gazpacho, followed by sublime chicken in garlic, after strolling
    through the palace of the last Moorish ruler in Spain, and standing in the
    throne room where Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to finance the voyage of
    Columbus. Now that’s a can’t miss it meal! (also, you can usually get a
    pre-theater table for one without a reservation in London)

  • Rob

    I love
    to travel, I love to eat good food, and I usually enjoy reading your thoughts,
    but geez! relax, already! I’ve had the good fortune to eat in many “of the
    moment” restaurants over the years and in my travels, but, as another
    commenter has already said, the best meals in Europe (or most anywhere, really)
    aren’t where the critics and famous chefs tell you to eat, they’re in the
    places that create amazing memories – one of my favorites is the tiny cafe in
    halfway down the hill from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, where I enjoyed an
    amazing gazpacho, followed by sublime chicken in garlic, after strolling
    through the palace of the last Moorish ruler in Spain, and standing in the
    throne room where Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to finance the voyage of
    Columbus. Now that’s a can’t miss it meal! (also, you can usually get a
    pre-theater table for one without a reservation in London)

  • Rob

    I love
    to travel, I love to eat good food, and I usually enjoy reading your thoughts,
    but geez! relax, already! I’ve had the good fortune to eat in many “of the
    moment” restaurants over the years and in my travels, but, as another
    commenter has already said, the best meals in Europe (or most anywhere, really)
    aren’t where the critics and famous chefs tell you to eat, they’re in the
    places that create amazing memories – one of my favorites is the tiny cafe in
    halfway down the hill from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, where I enjoyed an
    amazing gazpacho, followed by sublime chicken in garlic, after strolling
    through the palace of the last Moorish ruler in Spain, and standing in the
    throne room where Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to finance the voyage of
    Columbus. Now that’s a can’t miss it meal! (also, you can usually get a
    pre-theater table for one without a reservation in London)

  • Stacey Snacks

    Just go to Verjus in Paris, you will get in, and the food in the wine bar is so good! (as is the tasting menu upstairs). Very friendly and no pretentious nonsense. I can never get a res at Frenchie either. Oh well. :( Enjoy!!!

  • Ttrockwood

    When traveling i only plan one meal a day and go by whim the rest of the day. I had a huge list and map with me and would see what was nearby when i got hungry. My favorite meal in all of barcelona was this afternoon i was terribly lost, traveling alone. I found a tiny taberna-4 tables and a bar- of lunching local workers and discovered an amazing local cider and had a wonderful menu del dia ( and another glass of cider) while my chatty neighbors and i became friends. The meal and experience were so wonderful that it was a highlight of my trip.

  • June2

    With so many wonderful choices it would be impossible to select “the best”. From comments it sounds like Frenchie is more for French people, not Americans in Paris. Personally, I would rather risk Inaki Aizpitarte having an off night then eat Brooklyn style food in Paris. Because if he’s on, then…look out.

    Then again…here’s a helpful quote from chowhound:

    John Talbott
    Jan 24, 2014 01:05 PM
    “I really want to have a knock your socks off, spectacular, crying while I eat, dining experiences… ”
    Oh my goodness gracious, you’ve come to the wrong place, I feel for you tartare.
    I love:
    “Frenchie
    L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
    Le Comptoir”
    but they are yesterday, and if you want “knock your socks off, spectacular, crying” etc., you’ve gotta stretch a bit. “knock your socks off, spectacular, crying” food experiences” are not commonplace, people go back to what they trust – Maceo (chefJune), L’Ami Jean (Pti and Parigi), Les Papilles/etc. (Mangeur) and I respect that, but for “knock your socks off, spectacular, crying” stuff try Le BAT, David Toutain and Franck Enee, underappreciated on CH except by our lodestar Parnassien. For starred places, you’ve got to do a search.

  • Maria

    Deep breath. You won’t enjoy any croissant if you’re worried about whether it’s the best you’re going to get, and you’ll get plenty of really good ones here in Paris. Case in point: I just brought a young cousin to some of the classic foodie places we happened to pass by (Pierre Hermé, Patrick Roger, Grom), and even though some would say they’re not “the best”, she was delighted: “This is my favorite thing right now!”. Compare her experience with a previous guest, who would always sniff, “Oh, I’ve had better X.” Guess who had more fun?

  • Isabel

    Best way to sort this out, is to promise yourself you will find an excuse (spare $2000 check) to go back, that way there is a next time!

  • Amy

    We are going to Paris next week and I feel your pain! I have an eating list in the front of our itinerary – I found places from Parisbymouth, Clotide, Patricia Wells, and David that I wanted to eat at and put them down by arrondissment so I knew what I was interested in close by and don’t accidentally end up at a tourist place. There are tons of great sounding restaurants in the 11e. I managed to get Frenchie at 7pm (thank you food gods) – try the earlier time it may work. I also got Paul Bert, which many have recommended, at 7:30pm. I tried and tried for Septime but alas no times at all even for lunch. Clamato is the same team and no res needed. A friend recommended Le Temps au Temps on Paul Bert. Also on my list are Le Square Guardette, Le Dauphin, Nanashi, Bones, Le Pantruche, Pirouette and Verjus. Good luck and let us all know what you decide!

  • Lisa @ garlicandzest.com

    I’m planning a trip for this Christmas and seriously the only planning and prep I’m doing is food-based. I’ll let the other travelers pick out the landmark spots to visit, I’m interested in saucissons, fruits de mer, pate de campagne, the incredible diversity of cheeses, wines and pastries. Whoo hoo!

  • Saartje

    Simon Russell Beale is the best! I have FOMIP – fear of missing important plays (and yet never able to see them all…).

  • Jeff

    It was a long time ago, but I still remember a wonderful dinner at The Ivy in London’s Covent Garden area. I see it still gets good reviews, and that it has post- as well as pre-theater dinner service.

  • Karen@Mignardise

    So true!!! Yes, it’s a First World Problem, but no one likes to feel like they’re missing out on something when who knows the next time you’ll be in Paris or Edinburgh or wherever. One of our favorite meals in Edinburgh was at a little place called Magnum that we fell into because we had tried to go to Karen’s Unicorn and it was full and it was absolutely pouring buckets of rain. Magnum was right across the street (New Town) and we had a wonderful evening.
    Enjoy! Can’t wait to hear all about the trip.

  • http://www.foodnerd4life.com/ FoodNerd4Life

    I totally get this. I panic if I have a rubbish meal that it’s one less opportunity to get to try something amazing. So I have some places that are must try when away but then sometimes that takes away from those hidden gems to stumble into. AAAAhhh the dilemma of a greedy person!

    FoodNerd x

    http://www.foodnerd4life.com

  • Maggie

    Totally not related to food (I know, le gasp!) King Lear is fantastic at the National Theatre. Enjoy!

  • Anonymous

    Yes the food, the food. But it’s Lear I’m really jealous of. Sigh.

  • betsy

    Cafe L’ami Jean , 27 Rue Malar in the 7th. My husband, who is not given to emotionally responding to food, literally cried while eating this meal. It was that good.

  • Christine

    It sounds like you already have too many recommendations! :) However, if you’re still looking for somewhere to eat before King Lear, there’s a great gastropub called the Anchor and Hope within walking distance of the National Theatre (I think the chef may have had his start working at St. John.) The BFI bar is another good place to get a pre-theatre drink or meal on the southbank. I haven’t eaten much around the west end, but if you want a pre-theatre coffee or cheese sample, both Monmouth and Neal’s Yard Dairy are a short walk away. Lastly, I’ll just say that in my opinion you’d be crazy to miss eating at Moro while you’re in London–it’s phenomenal.

    I’m sure you’ll have a great time and eat well no matter what, though, and I look forward to reading about your trip in case you discover any great London restaurants that I don’t know about!

  • Ryan

    I’m so glad I’m not the only person that has this problem.

  • Nikki

    I’ll make things simpler for Edinburgh: Gardener’s Cottage! Nikki

  • Kristin

    Try Le Grande 8 next to Sacre Coeur. Small and local and delicious whatever he is serving! Tres Bon!

  • Michele

    Adam, I am very similar, and when I was in Paris last fall, did something completely out of the norm for me and planned NOTHING. We literally did not have a single bad meal! It’s Paris! It’s all good!