Sometimes I get asked, how do you find food you are accustomed to when you travel?
WHAT?! Not knowing what are the staples to the local country is one of the best parts of traveling!
My grandpa is laughing somewhere in heaven right now. Once I got addicted to sushi, he was amazed that the same girl who would only eat grilled cheese and cereal as a child would like such a thing. Especially because some of my favorite pieces of sashimi are some especially strange, but that’s a story for another time.
Truly, the basics are the same all over.
Several years ago the boyfriend and I were traveling from the San Jose airport in Costa Rica en route to La Fortuna, where the famed Arenal Volcano sits. We were famished. The drive is about 60 miles so somewhere halfway, on these back roads, we pulled over into a Sam’s Club kind of place. It was a big food shopping warehouse. We got some water and some small snacks. (You didn’t need to buy everything in bulk, just most of it!)
The woman in front of us had several dozen eggs, huge sacks of rice and a couple of loaves of bread on the conveyor belt. These three items are pretty basic no matter where in the world you may be.
Also in Costa Rica, there was a dish called ‘casado.’ It is a large plate with rice, beans, plantains, tortillas, salad and your choice of chicken, beef or fish. We were told it means marriage in Spanish but it’s called that because that’s a dish that men eat when they get married. I guess because it’s a real meal. It’s not all that different from what you might eat in America either.
And again, in Costa Rica, one of the parts of breakfast we were once served was cheese. I had never met a cheese I did not like enough to eat the whole thing. Until that one piece. A thick piece. It almost looked like you were served a large square of a sponge soaked in butter. I had thought, cheese? I told the waiter, of course, I will try it, and I did. And when I did, I realized I had met my first kind of cheese I could not even stomach. I took a second bit just to confirm I hated it. I absolutely did.
I don’t know what kind of cheese it was, I don’t remember what it tasted like, I just remember I covered it with another plate because there was no way I could take another bite. I was so embarrassed because before I tried it I had told the waiter I loved all kinds of cheese. Note to self: never tell anyone you love cheese until you try what they are serving.
But let’s go back to basics that you count on at home. What about all the pizza and pasta in places other than Italy? So many options in Argentina and Croatia because they are influenced by Italian cuisine, just like the US.
Of course in some places, you can get your ‘American burger’ or your ‘New York pizza’ – but what’s the point of adventurous eating then?? Obviously sometimes you are homesick, or craving a certain something, but don’t think for one second that the ‘New York pizza’ somewhere outside of Edinburgh is going to taste like New York pizza.
Although once while in Amsterdam, my dad (who is not at all an adventurous eater) managed to find a Chinese restaurant. That had the biggest eggroll we had ever seen. Ever. I don’t recall if it was any good, but most eggrolls that I’ve seen fit into a little paper bag, and are an accompanying piece to the meal. I will never forget that it was so big, it came out on a properly sized entrée plate.
More on adventurous eating in another post. My dad may not be an adventurous eater but my mom certainly is!
And when you are out and about trying to figure out your meal, having translation trouble is really fun too!