Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Why the Diet Will Never Work

Turkish pastries from Al Jazeera konditorei (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Right now, I’m sitting on a train from Berlin to Stuttgart, thinking back on my visits, the conversations I had, the things I saw, and the millions of pounds I gained. Not that I would give one single pound back. In fact, I’m stocked up for this train trip with a hefty mound of honey-laden pastries from Al-Jazeera, a Turkish Konditorei that my mom just happened to find once on a bike trip through Berlin.

When we first picked up our goodies, we walked into the two-armspan-wide store and asked for one of everything. The man on the other side of the counter couldn’t quite comprehend the request and asked us every third pastry or so if we really meant one of each. Oh yes, we did. And it didn’t take us long to walk back to our bikes locked other side of the street, open our three boxes of pastries and sample each piece. We had an assortment of Turkish baklava, stuffed with pistachios or peanuts, halva or melting sugar and layered between crisp sheets of phyllo dough dripping with honey.

There were three types of cake, one filled with apples and custard, another with crumb pressed into rose-water flavored cream, and a third which the pastry cook brought out after we had paid and which looked so good, we asked for a piece of that too and paid again.

After an extra-vigorous bike ride (a guilty calorie conscience?), we stumbled into a packed Vietnamese restaurant/café for lunch. Hamy, as the restaurant is called, only serves two dishes a day. Judiciously, my mother ordered the chicken curry on rice and I ordered the Pho with pan-fried pork over rice noodles. Hands down the best Vietnamese food I have ever eaten in my life, and for five Euros, the most reasonably priced. » Continue reading this post…

Eating in German: Schwabian Potato Salad

Opa on the Eichland (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up speaking in German, and I grew up eating anything but. Schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst? Never. If it was puddled in butter, wrapped in gravy, or leaking grease, my mother did not make it. I remember her once exclaiming about German food, “It’s all so heavy! They even cook the peas in cream!” So I grew up eating couscous and bulgur, slow-cooked stews, stir-fry, and salmon. But not a single Spätzle graced our table.

This was all ok with me. My father is from Germany, so my rare cravings for Würstchen and Läberkäs were satisfied on our trips to the country every two years or so. And while my brothers seemed never to get enough schnitzel (seriously, never enough), I was maxed out on potatoes by day three.

Still, some of my strongest (and fondest) childhood memories center around German food. My grandfather owns a piece of property on the Schwäbische Alb, a low mountain range in the South of Germany comparable to the weathered Appalachians. Every available Pfister would gather, and we’d have a bonfire and roast as many types of wurst as Aldi and Lidl had on sale.

There would be loaves of fresh, crusty bread, potato salad done in the German style with vinegar, oil, salt, Kräutersalz, and onion, Fleishsalat (strips of bologna mixed with mayonnaise, gouda, eggs, and pickle), cucumber salad, and beer – lots of beer. For the kids, there was süsser Sprudel and gelber Sprudel, both sweetened types of seltzer water.

Eichland Eating (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The grown ups would sit around the fire and gossip, while we cousins ran around the woods building houses out of bark, moss, and small stones for elves or catching crickets in the sunny neighboring field. Bocce ball was popular with everyone, and for some inexplicable reason, the kids fought over the right to mow the lawn with a rickety, unmotorized push-mower with scissoring blades. » Continue reading this post…

Single-Serving Life

Single-serving bread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been too long. Sorry. I’ve been working nonstop and traveling on top of that. My life feels a little like the other Tyler Durden’s: “Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap.” I’ve spent so much time on trains and planes and gobbling something up on lunch breaks that I’m not entirely sure what good food is anymore.

Of course, that is a lie. I’m sitting in a sunny apartment in Cologne, Germany right now, eating a nectarine so juicy that I can’t take a bite without having to quickly lick my fingers before juice runs down my arm. And last night, for supper, my mother and I had fresh ciabatta from a bakery down the street with lax, cream cheese, stuffed peppers in oil, and cherry tomatoes. Life is ok.

Sadly, though, these past three weeks, I’ve been eating mostly quick meals – Ramen noodles doused with Sriracha hot sauce, cold leftover lasagna, boxed pizza, takeout. And as a result, I haven’t really had anything good to write about. However, now that I have a chance to sit down and think about it, I kind of like eating en route, whether it’s in the car, on a train, or even sitting still in my kitchen while my brain keeps moving. At least, I like it if I don’t have to do it all the time. I especially find eating in planes novel. It’s kind of like a picnic, eating 20,000 feet in the air with no elbow room, watching Star Trek on a six-inch screen, and wrapping a single slab of white cheese from plastic wrap and putting it on a single cracker done up in its own wrapping. The food may certainly be nothing to write home about, but the ambiance (!)

As I mentioned, I am currently in Cologne, and will be in Germany for the next three weeks, so expect some delicious German food updates. » Continue reading this post…

I Came to Picnic: Eggplant & Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

4th of July picnic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When the sun is shining and the weather balmy, I enjoy nothing more than packing a picnic basket and a blanket and heading into the great outdoors to eat. I love eating outside, and since the sun has been generous this summer, we’ve had dinner outside almost every day. There’s something special, however, about a picnic. A picnic requires planning, preparation, and packing. First, you must decide where to go and what to make. You have to decide whether you’ll be close enough to transport warm food or if your brie will melt before you get where you’re going. You have to figure out how many utensils and napkins you’ll need, since you can’t just run back to the house to grab them, or which container will work best to sneak red wine into the 4th of July Celebration in Washington DC.

Putting together a picnic basket is one of my favorite pastimes. Much of this is probably due to my love of cheese and cheese’s conduciveness to being transported in a basket. But there are a number of other delicious dishes that lend themselves to picnicking – some that aren’t specifically intended for such a meal.

A few weeks ago, Dickinson College (right around the corner from my house) hosted its annual Bluegrass on the Grass festival. My dad packed up our lawn chairs while I modified a dinner of salmon cakes with fennel slaw for transportation. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very good at frying things (a great loss), so my salmon patties were less patties than hunks of salmon spiced with lemon, chives, and cayenne and threaded through with grated zucchini. All for the best, however, since this made them easy to stuff into buns then packed tightly in aluminum foil to retain heat. I packed the fennel slaw with grainy mustard, mayonnaise, and more lemon in a Tupperware and then threw some Ritz crackers, brie, and leftover chocolate-marshmallow no-bake bars in the basket for good measure. » Continue reading this post…

New Zealand Memories

Egg, tomato and toast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Recently, for lunch, I made myself a meal that I hadn’t had since the winter of 2007, when I went WWOOFing through New Zealand. WWOOF, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is an ingenious program which allows volunteers to work on farms in exchange for food and lodging. I had just finished my semester studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia and since New Zealand was so close, decided to drag two of my newfound friends, Emma and Dan, with me to see the country. Since we were broke, we hit on WWOOFing as a brilliant travel method.Our first farm was a fledgling vineyard outside of Nelson. Alex and Gareth had started the vineyard only a few years before and were raising a young crop of grapes along with fruits and vegetables. Their house, a simple, elegant building entirely made from wood, overlooked the sloping vineyard that ran into soft green hills, dark forests, and in the distance, snow-capped peaks.

Our work in the vineyard was relatively simple, but crucial, especially as the vineyard itself was only five years old, and many of the vines were in their formative growing years. Each row of vines consisted of equidistant wooden poles strung with three horizontal wires on each side. Approximately five stalks were planted between the poles and attached with string to the lowest of the wires. This wire was fixed and provided support for the growing vines. Hypothetically, as the vines grew, they would stay within the two additional wires, growing up of their own accord.Realistically, vines are wayward things that like growing any direction except up, and preferably grow down. Our job was to pick vines up from the ground and make sure each stalk was contained within the wires. One of us would unhook the wire from its post, stretch it out, pull it towards the ground and sweep it up to catch all the straggling vines. » Continue reading this post…

Excavating Green Gold (a post by Josh)

Here, as promised yesterday, is a listing of my top ten. Top ten loves in the oil category. Mainly: olive oil and truffle oil. There’s much to say and even more memories, but here is a smattering of oil loves.

Olive Oil
I have get down to the basics before I go and start telling you about the slight variances that I have fallen in love with. So, here it is to me: olive oil. This stuff (as one sign in Florence, Italy once read) is Green Gold. Wait, green? Yup, most of the good olive oils in Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and New Zealand all have a slight green tint to the oil. This generally means you should get ready for a slight bite. It’s not just food lubrication as most Americans see olive oil, but it’s a flavor unto itself. Wait, let me back up. Olive oil is one of my most favorit-est things because it is universal in the cooking world.

(Notice, I did not say baking. Almost never use olive oil in your baking dishes; it will give that desired sweet a strange savory flavor. Especially if the dish calls for a pinch of salt, which most baked goods do).

It is called green gold because one: it is green, and two: because it flavors most dishes in the Mediterranean repertoire. It’s silky, heavy, robust and compliments garlic, salt, pepper and just about any other savory spice you throw at it. Too much, and your food is greasy, too little and the garlic is burning in a dry pan. Olive oil is something I thought I knew before traveling outside of the US, and something I fell in love with when I got outside of the US borders. Here are a few of my favorite oils I’ve met, taken out for dinner and back to my place for later. » Continue reading this post…

Mountains in New Orleans (a post by Josh)

While re-reading some of the archived entries, I remembered that Lyz had written about beignets a while back. Her first post, in fact. If I may quote, “Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it.” I would subscribe to this statement; I mean with all the thoughts of physical health aside, doughnuts are delicious. Especially hot. You know every time you pass a Krispy Kreme Doughnut factory and that “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is on, you think about stopping. You may not stop, but you think about it real quick-like. Who doesn’t?

Who doesn’t want to gorge on soft, warm, sugary bread that collapses upon fist bite. And if you coat it in a glaze or powdered sugar? You can’t stop yourself. If you are reading this and saying to yourself “No, of course not, I don’t like sweets all that much,” you’re lying to yourself. I know it, I just know it.

But this is much more than Krispy Kremes. This is ever more than the beignets that Lyz and her friends made in that dorm-room kitchen (sorry blog partner). What I’m talking about are the real beignets. The ones that Lyz talked about in her post too: “Beignets, however, evolved outside of France, most notably in New Orleans, where the pastry was brought to the area in the 18th Century, most likely by the Ursuline Nuns.”

That’s right, my travels have finally brought me to New Orleans (“Nawlins,” “New Or-Lee-ns,” or “New Orlins,” whichever you prefer). I’ve tried the gumbo (file style, of course) and the po’boys and the crawfish and the spices and the bread pudding. I mean there are a thousand different varieties of all of these, but I’ve had at least one of those dishes (maybe a po’boy every lunch? » Continue reading this post…

Define Seasoning (a post by Josh)

Southern spread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates, and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?”

My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and re-situate on the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.

Why do I talk about this? Well, I’ve been dining like that a lot recently, but in restaurants. There is this beautiful thing in the South, where people like holding on to traditions like boarding houses or eating in big groups or enjoying conversation over a meal. » Continue reading this post…