Best Gastronomic Journeys Around Europe: What To Eat and Where to Eat it
One of the joys of traveling is sampling different cuisines in every place you visit. Every bite is like taking a gustatory picture of someone else’s culture. Once you’ve taken a culinary tour, eating will bring a new meaning to you. A bite of dimsum will remind you of Hongkong’s bustling city, while the smell of fried artichoke (carciofi alla giudia) will easily take you back to Rome. Food brings back those happy memories spent discovering bazaars and gazing at Michaelangelo’s works of art.
More than a memory trigger, food also connects you to the history of the place. Even though people have changed their clothes or language, they still cook and eat the way their ancestors did. Ecuador’s Baroque churches speak of their ties to Spain, but eating their potato stew (locro de papa) will readily remind you that long before the conquistadores came, the hardy Andean farmer cultivated the humble spud.
Thus, if you want to bring back lasting memories of the places you’ve been to, you should know what food to eat and where to eat. Here’s a list of the signature dishes of 5 of the often visited countries in Europe. These are the dishes often overlooked by tourists in their haste to see the tourists spots. The list will endeavor to tell you also the best place to sample the dish. Try it once, and you will never forget your adventures!
When you think of France, you think of their cafes that abound in Paris, where you can spend hours just people watching while sipping a cup of coffee. But France is more than coffee and croissant. They are also known for their beef stew or bouef bourguignon. In the old days, meat was slowly cooked in wine, onions, mushroom, and bacon, and served to farmers at the end of a long day. The traditional way of cooking remains, and you can sample this farmer’s fare best in the picturesque town of Beaune, in the wine region of Burgundy.
What else but pizza? Just as hamburger is to USA, pizza is the flagship food of this boot-shaped country. Although you can get good pizza anywhere in Italy, the best place to eat it is in Naples, more popularly known for the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Get their classic Margherita, which features the colors of their flag, in any of the family-run pizzerias there, as you gaze at one of the fiercest volcanoes of the world and contemplate on how it sank the island of Pompeii. It’s best eaten piping hot.
After a day of visiting churches and Moorish castles, drop by any bar at the historical port town of Alicante. No one can say how the practice of tapas sampling began, but it’s a great way to meet new people as you stand around plates of delectable tapas, exchanging stories of your day. It’s especially delicious paired with Alicante’s own unique brew called Fondillon.
From the ashes of the second world war, Germany has evolved to become one of the hip places to be in Europe. Food-wise though, it has its roots all the way to Roman times when wild boar was the main entree in any feasts. You can still glimpse Germany’s history in their Eisbein, tender pork knuckles that will take you all the way back when Prussia was the country’s capital. Today, you can sample this at Berlin’s many corner pubs.
From the time of the Ottoman Empire, baklava was the pastry of choice by sultans. Made from pistachio nuts, honey and olive oil, tenderly wrapped in a filo pastry, this sweetness is best paired with a cup of steaming Turkish coffee. Get them while it’s hot at the historical town of Gaziantep. It’s the right kind of sweetness after a crunchy bite.
Every country has a gustatory signature. Every tourist should take the time to learn the culinary history of the places they visit. Food is an eloquent witness to culture and history. It narrates how their ancestors lived from day to day, and how the current generation honors their tradition. It is a time machine that anyone can ride. So the next time you take a bite of food, remember that you are also taking a bite of history.