The following is an archived post
For me, traveling is the key to diversity. There is no better way to understand other cultures than to walk amongst people in their own cities, towns and villages in their native countries–and of course, to eat their food. Food is an international language, a common denominator between people. To eat local, traditional food is an experience that attacks all of your senses — and for me is a privilege to be able to experience.This summer I had an opportunity to visit four countries in Europe; France, Spain, Italy and England, mostly via a cruise. The first destination was Paris. We stayed right near the Champs-Elysees and had the opportunity to eat in a small bistro just off the boulevard that we ate in several years ago on visit. This restaurant surely lives up to the motto of “farm to fork.” I had a small cut of sirloin and it was very tender, almost velvet in texture, with a sweetness to it that must be tied to the grass that is fed to the cows. It was accompanied by “frites,” or as we know them, (French) fries. Delicious! I know why they originated here.
We left Paris shortly thereafter to board our cruise ship to visit other destinations. I’ve been on a number of cruises and have seen the process of traveling this way evolve. Cruises have been known for formal dining– but this is slowly fading to a memory as today’s traveler is more interested in an abundance of choice. Ships are adding more and more food outlets and cutting back on the formal dining experience. Interestingly, on Carnival cruises, I had noticed that most of the chefs were of Indian descent but never found any Indian cuisine on board. What a pleasant surprise I had when I discovered that this ship had a food station dedicated to the foods of India. They actually had a tandoori oven in the station so we could watch them cook the food and prepare the naan bread. This station was a great addition to the ship and the Indian chefs working the station seemed to take a lot of pride in representing and serving the foods of their home.
Next, we move to Italy. The most memorable thing about the food in Italy is that the food is generally all local and regional. Fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry are grown and raised very close to where they are prepared, so the flavors are distinct and bold. Ample amounts of pasta are present on all menus in the southern part of the country, while in northern areas, gnocchi, polenta and risotto are the primary ingredients for most dishes. All meals were excellent and most recipes were very simple. What’s funny is that all the things I found striking about my time in Italy had nothing to do with pasta or risotto. I remember my grilled cheese and ham sandwich in Harry’s Bar Pierini, just off of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, which opened in 1931 and is an extremely well-established restaurant. So this was not any old ham and cheese — it was the Harry’s Bar Pierini pan seared ham and cheese. The ham is parma and the sandwich is pan seared in olive oil and served immediately. Unbelievable!
Stay tuned for Ray’s experiences in Barcelona and London!