Emily Starbuck Gerson is a journalist and copywriter who lives in beautiful Austin, Texas. She is obsessed with travel, so she runs a blog, Maiden Voyage (http://maiden-voyage-travel.com), in her free time as a fun excuse to spend more time thinking and talking about travel. Emily is also an avid photographer.
I adore travel, and while I do not consider myself a foodie, I certainly love a great meal! Both this past summer and the one before, I traveled throughout several countries in Europe. One of the main things I learned through eating abroad is that the food you order abroad is not always what you expect! Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) of my adventures in food around the world.
Two summers ago, I spent several days alone in Paris. I arrived from overnight train from Germany, and I was ravenous. I found a cute restaurant near the Eiffel Tower with a great spot for people watching. I quickly realized it was a tourist trap and had more American food than French food, but I was so hungry I didn’t care. I ordered a hamburger, so you can imagine my surprise when it was served as a cheese-covered patty without a bun! I later found out this is normal in France. They did serve it with a piece of baguette on the side, so I sliced it in half, put the meat in between it, and stuffed in some lettuce from the side salad. While it kept falling apart, it was delicious on this authentic French bread.
Several times when I was in Paris, I stopped at a boulangerie, which is a traditional French bread shop. The city is covered in these adorable little shops, which are filled to the brim with croissants, baguettes, brioches, pastries, and other baked delights. I loved trying the offerings at various shops around town. At one tiny and charming boulangerie in the 7th arrondissement, I bought this delicate Mille-feuille pastry and ate it on a nearby park bench. It was so flaky and layered with a rich and tasty cream. I was in dessert heaven.
I knew that Australia served meat and vegetable pies, but I didn’t realize until I arrived in Scotland that they are extremely popular items there, too. I couldn’t escape them. Pork pies, steak pies, mutton pies, and even haggis pies were at every storefront, grocery store, and even at convenience stores.
At the grocery street around the corner from where we were staying, I purchased a pack of minced steak and onion slivers, which were essentially flat pies. I baked them in our oven, and the crust became flaky. The insides were warm and juicy. The best thing about these pies is that they are very portable and hand-held.
One fun food fact from here: a common dish here, besides haggis, is “neeps and tatties.” This is simply turnips and potatoes.
I love Greek salads….in America. I quickly found out that they are not the same in Greece. This summer, I was in the mood for some fresh greens with some feta crumbles, so I ordered a Greek salad in Athens. When it arrived, it was a bowl full of vinegar-soaked onions, olives, and tomatoes, topped with a humungous slab of feta cheese on top. There were a few tiny shreds of lettuce somewhere in there, but so few it almost didn’t count.
The next day, I was at another Athens restaurant, and wanted to give the Greek salad another try (and was curious to see if this was the norm). Sure enough, it was. Another bowl of veggies with a big ol’ chunk of feta and no lettuce. I’m not a big fan of olives, or large slices of onions for that matter, so I asked the waiter for some lettuce. He was confused and told me to just drink some ouzo, a popular Greek liquor. I told him I really wanted some lettuce, so he brought me a small bowl of finely shredded lettuce. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it did the job!
I love Italian food, so I was thrilled to dine in Italy. I was traveling with my sister, and our first stop was Rome. I was disappointed when I ate at several restaurants that served greasy and low-quality dishes. We realized we were visiting areas with too many touristy restaurants, so we began looking for more authentic Italian food.
One evening we found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the way back from Piazza Barberini. I excitedly ordered the shrimp risotto, but was not pleased when it arrived. The risotto was bright orange, and sitting atop it was a massive shrimp still in the shell, with its antennae straight up in the air and its black beady eyes staring right back at me. I nearly lost my appetite. I pushed the shrimp carcass aside and just ate the pasta, which was surprisingly tasty despite the odd color.
Our next stop was the small college town of Perugia. After a few more mediocre meals, I gave risotto another shot at a beautiful trattoria overlooking the city’s main square. This time I ordered the truffle risotto. Jackpot! This was the Italian dish I had been dreaming of. It was cheesy, thick, rich, and oh so yummy.
Whether our meals were good or bad, we ended every evening with a cup of authentic gelato. My favorite flavor was stracciatella, which is a creamy, milky gelato with chocolate chips sprinkled throughout.
Thanks, Emily for sharing some of your delicious travels with us!