In yesterday's New York Times, Taylor Holliday says the best way to know a place is to learn how to cook the local foods:
Ever since a trip to Vietnam two years ago, during which I toured the exotic food markets of Nha Trang with the hotel chef at the Ana Mandara resort and learned how to make my own rice paper for spring rolls at cooking schools in Hoi An, I have been convinced that there is no better way to get to the heart of any city than through its cuisine. And that means not just eating it, but shopping for it, cooking it and beginning to understand it. Step off the expected tourist track for as little as one morning or afternoon in a cooking class and you can witness and be a part of living history, as kitchens are often the last great bastions of cultural tradition in the modern world.
If you're interested in culinary tourism, both ShawGuides, The International Kitchen list culinary schools and vacations across the world, but travel agents and hotels—many of which host their own classes, that range from a few hours to a few days worth of activities—should be able to help you find and book classes as well. Vagabond Gourmet goes the extra step and arranges culinary tours of various cities and regions, hosted by a guide, with lodgings, cooking classes and meals included ; their next three scheduled expeditions this year are to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tuscany and Provence!