Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What I Ate in Europe

When I was home for Christmas my brother mocked me asking, "do you photograph all of you food?" The honest answer to this is, "no, but I kind of want to." So on my trip to Europe last week I made a point of photographing as many meals as possible. When in Europe I feel constantly obligated to prove that not all Americans are fat lazy oil guzzling creationists which means that in addition to surveying the people around me to verify that I am squarely in the average bucket size-wise (or, in England comfortably seated in "skinny") I have to volunteer to walk anywhere (which one night resulted in a 45 minute hike before dinner, sorry Tonya) and make sure everyone I talk to knows I did not vote for Bush. I don't imagine that photography my meals did much to dispel the fat American stereotype but food is about the only subject matter that I feel confident pointing a camera at (thank god for the "macro" setting) and I knew that when I got home I'd need something to blog about. So, I present "Eating on the Continent" a Photo Essay.

KLM Friday night flight from JFK to Amsterdam

I suspect that KLM kept the plane parked on the runway for two hours only to nurture my appetite to the point of "will eat whatever she's given and will then fall into a sleep coma." I guess I should thank them for the 3 hours of sleep that this meal garnered. The stand out was the couscous salad in the front, the couscous wasn't at all clumpy and the salad had just enough parsley to taste fresh. Everything else can only be described as "carby." The pasta required that I repurpose the butter that came with the roll (not worth photographing or eating) in order to provide some distinction between noodles.

Lunch in Copenhagen

The traditional lunch option pushed at all tourists in Copenhagen are open face sandwiches called smørrebrød. There seems to be an endless variety of sandwich toppings but I was tempted to the roast pork and red cabbage because of a German childhood nostalgia for red cabbage (aka rote cole). The sandwich came on the dark heavily seeded bread that seems omnipresent in Scandinavia, as a fan of bread with lots of stuff in it I like the flavor but it was so dense that I had a hard time calling it bread. The pork was amazing, moist and smoky with just the right about of fat. The red cabbage wasn't as tangy as the sweet and sour version that Grandma and Dad have perfected but it was a nice sharp contrast to the savory pork.

Dinner in Malmo 1
To the entirely uneducated tourist (aka me) Malmo seemed to be a bit of a Swedish restaurants mecca. Our first night in town we dined at a resturant in the little square, where practically all of the eateries seem to live. Before leaving on this trip a friend tipped me off to the Swedish summer tradition of crayfish so when I saw this "Swedish tapas" (pictured on left) appetizer on the menu I knew I had to try it. The crayfish were served cold and garnished with a bit of dill (the Swedes love dill almost as much as licorice and karaoke) but they didn't need any other adornments. The dried tomatoes were a great addition to the tapas plate, chewy and sweet they were a great balance for the heavy cheesy and curred pork (both of which hardly seemed Swedish). The pickled herring trio on the right was probably better than version we tried the day before in Copenhagen, the fish was less mushy and the cream cheese it was served with was a nice accompaniment on the little fish sandwiches that we made. I mentioned this in a previous post but pickled herring is surprisingly not fishy tasting, the pickling seems to render the herring defenseless and you end up with a vinegary background for whatever sauce the fish is smothered in in this case we got apple curry mayonnaise, sweet onion and plain.

Dinner in Malmo 2

Our second night in Malmo found us at the Tempo Bar where the nicest waiter on earth sat down with us and translated the entire menu. We ordered a polenta starter which came with a vingery salsa of capers and olives, it made for a pretty presentation but a week later I can't remember what the appetizer tasted like. I also ordered a nettle soup which didn't photograph near as well as it tasted. I didn't even know nettles were edible -- it turns out they taste a lot like artichokes, I can't find any evidence that artichokes and nettles are related but it seems likley given the similar look and taste. Ox might just be Swedish for "cow," it showed up on the menu at multiple restaurants, my Ox fillet main was a great medium rare steak, the meat was tender and went great with the local beer.

Last Meal in Scandinavia

In an effort to spend the Danish change in my pockets before flying off to the UK I purchased 3 packages of licorice candy, a sparkling water and an unidentifiable juice from the in airport 7-11. The licorice mentos were a particularly exciting find and while I would not have thought to combine the flavors of mint and licorice I was pleasantly surprised. The orange box contained a much more sinister candy with a taste reminiscent of couch drops. The Super Flyers candy delivered on the mild promise made on its label but the licorice ropes were filled with a strange grainy white substance that, while not completely unpleasant taste-wise seriously diminished the licorice experience in term of texture. When I purchased the bottle of juice I thought it was likely a current juice but it seemed much too sweet to be anything other than the juice from the sugar cane plant, it was much more palletable when mixed in a 50/50 ratio with the seltzer water.
Proper English Supper

On my last night in Leeds my friend Courtney and her boyfriend Darren took me out to a pub for a traditional English meal. In the spirit of the evening I ordered a steak pie with a beer based gravy. The Brits must be getting fancy because they threw a bit of green on my plate -- I don't know what type of plant this came from since I refused to eat it -- no one eats greens in England! The pie was good, but not great -- I know this might be blasphemy but I think it needed some carrots and peas and potato bits, like in a chicken pot pie, this was all beef and gravy and a bit boring -- though the crust was great, flaky, crisp, everything Martha Stewart strives for.
Virgin Airlines flight from Heathrow to JFK

Everything here was fine and notably better than the KLM meal that the trip started with. The cottage pie (mashed potatos on top of mixed veggies in a tomato sauce) was a bit bland but still good by the standards of airline food. The pasta salad was also in need of flavor but the mozzerella balls kind of made up for the otherwise uninteresting experience (it's amazing the things that dairy can save). The wine was bitter enough that I had to force it down (can't let booze go to waste!) and the bread was so dry that I don't think even butter could have saved it. In the end none of the slightly disappointing food colored my feelings about the meal because Virgin had the good sense to end on a high note: The Frü-ty Pud. This tiny little lemon flavored dessert was scrumptious! the bottom of the container was filled with a tart sauce and ontop was a creamy lemon mouse-like substance. I've just spent 20mins googling "Frü-ty Pud" and have found surprisingly few references to the dessert or porn -- I think the internet is getting lazy.

After a week of good food I'm forced to accept at least two weeks of consciously healthy eating in order to maintain my sleek physique. The two weeks started today since last night Kajal made Dorito casserole in honor of the season premiere of Big Love. I can't recommend this dish mostly because I could never quite get over the scary concept of chips as binder. I know at least one reader will be disappointed that my first foray into Frito-Lay sponsored main courses did not include Fritos but I can't imagine that any chip could really make an elegant cross over from snack to dinner.

In conclusion -- Eurpoe has some good food, you should eat there, I give it 4.5/5 fat Americans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why anyone would possibly use doritos (with that awful powdery cheese topping) instead of the original, all natural Velveeta to cremify thier casserole is totally beyond me.