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Gourmet, connoisseur, epicure, gastronome, foodie, and such words (as I understand them) imply a focus on the quality of food and a discriminating taste. Gourmand has come to mean that as well, with an emphasis on eating a lot of food (similar to glutton?).

But I think there are a lot of people that are interested in food as a way to get to know other cultures and/or other people, and I can't think of a word that encapsulates that very well. People who travel to different parts of the world to seek out street food, or to try to get invited to people's houses to try things they could never get in a restaurant, etc. What is the closest word to describe this?

"I heard Jessica is a foodie."

"She's more of a xxxxxx than a foodie — you'll never find her at Jean-Georges. Much more likely she'll be in an underground mall in Flushing, trying some dish I've never heard of"

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It's not a word defined in a respected dictionary, but I believe it does have currency:

Gastronaut.

For example there is a book with this title, about exploring food, that gives off the vibe that you're after:

Gastronaut is perfect for people who are fascinated by food, who love the wilder side of cooking, who yearn for adventure or who, frankly, just like showing off.

Gastronaut does appear in Urban Dictionary

A person who is willing to go to great lengths to find exotic, and often, bizarre, foods to eat.

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    Oh thanks, that is handy. The term gives off astronaut vibes, which feels a bit icky (comparing eating other people's food to space exploration), but it is much closer to what I was looking for than any of the existing terms. Maybe if I use it for a while it will feel less icky — after all -naut just means voyager or traveller. Apr 11 at 18:10

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