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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Food of Poland – Pierogi and So Much More

    Location: Poland

    We have spent the past two weeks eating our way through Poland.  If you had asked me about Polish food before arriving, I would have said “well they eat pierogi and drink vodka!”  I think many Americans know only this as well.  But as much as I love the pierogi, I have learned all about the food of Poland – pierogi and so much more.

    Poland’s tumultuous history is identifiable in their foods (history blog coming soon).  Over the millennia the region we know as Poland was controlled by Prussia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hapsburg Dynasty, Russia, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, Soviet Union and others.  Watch this short video to understand how fluid the borders of this area have been. It’s fascinating.

    Poland’s Changing Borders

    So, of course that means for more than two thousand years the region has been influenced by the surrounding kingdoms and countries.  But also, and perhaps more importantly, Poland has endured a great deal of economic hardship, which means developing simple foods with simple ingredients seasonally available or what ever is on hand.

    And you will see that in the comfort foods of Poland.

    Soups and Meats

    The Foods of Poland

    Zurek Sour Soup. My favorite

    In Poznan I had one of my favorite traditionally Polish foods, a soup called zurek.  I really need to learn to make this delicious, bright, flavorful soup.  Often called Sour Soup because of the fermented rye used, it’s very difficult to describe but definitely not difficult to eat.  Want to try it?  Check out this recipe.

    The Foods of Poland

    Duck with beets and dumplings

    Soups are very popular in Poland, particularly in the long dark winter, and in addition to zurek we had tomato soup, seafood soup, beet soup (borscht) and another sour soup with fermented rye and dill called zalewajka. I loved that one too.  Want to try it? Check out this recipe.

    In Poznan and in Wroclaw we also enjoyed wonderfully prepared duck, traditionally served with beets and yeast dumplings.  We also had deliciously hand-made sausages and pickles served with mustard.  Another favorite was a beetroot and strawberry salad served with warm goat cheese.  A remarkable combination of simple ingredients.

    Pierogi and Cooking Class

    The Foods of Poland

    Fresh cured meats with pickles and mustard

    We stayed the longest in the remarkable city of Krakow, where we had time to really dive into the culture and food scene.  Here is where we ate the most pierogi, taste testing traditional favorites as well as a few new creations.  The Pierogi Ruskie is the favorite amongst the Poles, and I have to say that is my favorite too.  Simple ingredients of potato, cheese, and onion burst in your mouth, full of home cooked goodness.  Another favorite we enjoyed was duck pierogi – a more modern take on

    The Foods of Poland

    Duck pierogi

    the traditional food.  We also had mushroom and cabbage, spinach and cheese, blueberry, and raspberry.

    So much pierogi so little time!

    In Krakow I had a wonderful pleasure of spending half a day with Olga of Urban Adventures in her tiny communist era apartment, where we created some delicious pierogi, learning the nuances of preparation.  The dough for pierogi is as simple as pasta dough, just flour, egg, water and a little salt.  Hand mixing and hand forming is important to keep it traditional. Pierogi is always boiled, but left over pierogi is often pan-fried the next day for another delicious way to enjoy it.  And since you can’t just make a few pierogi, there are always leftovers. There are many ways to enjoy Pierogi.  Click on this link for a recipes for several of the most traditional ones, including Ruskie. I have also attached a pdf here with the recipe Olga so kindly provide.Pierogi receipe

    The Foods of Poland

    Forming the pierogi

    While spending the day with Olga we also visited the local Polish market where we learned to order the items we needed – in Polish – while the local merchants smiled and indulged our broken mispronunciation.  At the market we also learned not only about fresh meat and produce, but about the many kinds of popular pickles, pastries, cheese and, surprisingly, lard.  We ate bacon lard spread like butter

    The Foods of Poland

    At the market fresh eggs and a polish cheese called Golka

    on delicious fresh bread.  Who knew that could be so good?

    Christmas Traditions

    Our visit to Krakow also included spending four hours one evening with Delicious Poland, walking around the city and tasting so many delicious polish specialties.  Seriously I thought I was going to explode.  If you come to Krakow definitely do a food walking tour – but DO NOT eat lunch before hand.  So much delicious food.  Here is what we ate:

    Pierogi of course, at one of the city’s most loved family owned pierogi restaurants called Przystanek.  We learned that sometimes fruit filled pierogi is served as a main dish, and the mushroom and cabbage pierogi is always served on Christmas

    The Foods of Poland

    Ruskie Pierogi made in cooking class. The most traditional.

    Eve.

    Christmas Eve is a major holiday and the family gathers to make the pierogi together.  A traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal includes 12 courses, symbolizing riches, the 12 apostles and the 12 months of the year.  The feast begins with the breaking of a wafer and is followed by; red borscht, mushroom soup, carp, herring, mushroom and cabbage pierogi, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls, kutia (grain and candied fruit mixture), gingerbread, dried fruit compote, poppy seed cake.

    The Foods of Poland

    Poppyseed Cake

    Another wonderful Christmas Eve tradition in Poland is that every table is set with one extra seat.  Traditionally set for anyone who may be alone or needing a meal on Christmas Eve.

    Walking Food Tour Krakow

    Our food tour continued at Zalewajke in the Jewish Quarter, where we enjoyed the zalewajke soup and the borscht (mentioned above).  We continued to the Jewish Market square to try a more recent addition to the polish food scene, zapiekanka.  This open face sandwich is the favorite fast food in Krakow, developed in the communist era when burgers were not allowed because they were too “American”.

    The Foods of Poland

    Zapiekanka open face sandwich

    Trying local vodka at Hevre (a converted Jewish Prayer Hall) I realized I actually like vodka, if it’s the good stuff!  My favorite was the Bison Grass; so subtle and smooth.  Next we visited a very popular local brewery called Ursa Major with a woman brew master!  Here we enjoyed sausage and cheese with two beers – a no hop(!) summer ale (interesting) and a

    The Foods of Poland

    Enjoying the Bison Grass Vodka

    session IPA.  Unlike most places we’ve been, American-style IPAs are very popular here.

    So we are thinking we probably just have dessert left but no!  We continued on to Kuchina u Doroty where we ate more!  Two of my favorites of my time in Poland I had here – a delicious potato pancake covered in goulash called place ziemniaczane z gulaszem (try it) and a cabbage and sausage stew called bigos (try it) .  In addition we had golabki (cabbage rolls), beetroot salad, kompot (juice) and racuchy, a fried dough dessert that tasted a lot like french toast, covered with yogurt and fresh berries.

    The Foods of Poland

    Potato pancake with goulash

    About this time Arne plopped me in a wheelbarrow and wheeled me home.

    The Foods of Poland

    The women in my cooking class.

    Our time in Poland has been incredibly delicious and that has been incredibly surprising.  Poland is an underrated tourism destination, and now I know the Polish cuisine is also misunderstood and underrated.  I will take everything I learned about the food and culture of this incredible country and refer to it often.

    And someday, I will return.  To eat, to enjoy and to savor all this country has to offer.

    The Foods of Poland

    Arne enjoying some of the local microbrews

    Dziekuje Poland! Fantastyczny!

    Note – Traveling and eating in Poland is very inexpensive.  Some of our nicest meals with appetizers, main course, dessert, wine and beer only cost around $40.  As of this writing the exchange rate is 4 zloty to one USD.

    This blog contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you make a purchase.  All money earned goes back to the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

     

     

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    Preparing to Travel Full Time – It’s In The Details

    The Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

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    Note – at the request of one of my friends, I have updated this blog, originally posted in November 2016, with fresh new information.  Enjoy it again.

    “How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?”

    As our departure day to leave the USA again grows near, this is the recurring question.  People we meet often show, interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion. But most of all they are curious. How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Thailand

    So over the past couple of weeks I have been pulling together some details to share again. A lot of details.  In fact, I would answer the above question with a simple sentence.  “It’s in the details.”

    Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure we spent several years preparing.  A younger person, like my son, can prepare more quickly, in a matter of months.  But for Fab Fifty rock stars like me and my husband, it took more time.

    For us about three years.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Morocco

    When the idea first sprouted, I knew immediately we would do it.  Without a question I knew it was right for us.  All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone.

    In fact, making a major life change like this should take some serious soul searching – are you cut out for a life of travel? What is your tolerance level?  Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for living outside of the United States.  Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white?  Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, a life of full-time travel isn’t for sissies or intolerant people. You gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.

    Once you know your tolerance level that in-turn will help you determine your budget.  Because if you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Vietnam

    from ours.  Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70.  And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 300 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view.

    We have a daily budget of $200 all-inclusive (transportation, lodging, food and misc).  This is plenty for most places and not enough for a few places, but we are frugal and hope it all evens out.  Because the

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    reality is if we can’t stay within our designated budget then the Grand Adventure will be over, sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of timeline – we don’t have one.  This of course would not work for everyone, but for us it fits.  We will continue the vagabond life as long as we are having fun.  As soon as it becomes anything other than fun, we will wrap it up.  But so far, 99% fun.

    So listed below are some “details” on how to prepare to leave the country and travel full-time.  Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time in retirement, use it well.

    PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more.  We have a 10×12 storage unit now that is holding what remains of our stationary lifestyle and life’s memories. During this same period we worked to purge my Dad’s house, remodel his place and get it on the market as well as move him to a smaller place.  It was a big goal to get him out of his large house before we left. It was a huge job but it needed to be done.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Cambodia

    DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad.  We also updated our Washington State Drivers License.  We will carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient.  We have researched every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We are carrying extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one.

    SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet, which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging.  This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in.  The data we have is incredible.

    MAIL – we are using a PO Box that belongs to my Mother-in-law, but we are trying hard not to receive

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Croatia

    any mail.  We have notified our friends and family not to snail mail us, we have contacted magazines and catalogs to eliminate junk (not very successful however) and we have changed all of our banking, retirement and property related mail to online only. I canceled my 35 year subscription to Bon Apetit.

    TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad and my Brand new light weight Mac Book that will travel with us.  In addition we will bring our old flip phone.  For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data.  We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram.  The flip phone is programmed  with our old Verizon phone number from the states.  Although we don’t plan to use that number often, it keeps it active for emergency.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Seychelles

    We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in.  We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.

    APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps.  We also have a Google translate which is really cool.  You can point your phone at a sign or menu item in another language and it will show you what it says in English.  Love it.  We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids.  To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide and Trip Advisor.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure New Zealand

    CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking.  So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adaptors to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adaptors we need in each country. We have one packing cube we use for all of these items.

    CREDIT CARDS – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised?  Well that would really screw us up if that happens.  So we have FOUR credit cards.  One is our primary and three are backups.  Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer).  We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped.  VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place.  That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location.  We have contacted all of the card companies for both credit and debit and let them know we will be traveling abroad for an extended period.  We have put a reminder on our calendar to do this again periodically. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Portugal

    PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly.  It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up.  My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides.  I have been stocking up in other ways too, but it’s not going to be enough.  I will need to find access to these meds to fill the rest of the time, because we won’t be back in the US for a visit until next summer. Shipping prescriptions abroad is illegal. We have some people coming to visit us, so I may have them bring me my pills. But I am confident I can find the meds or an equivalent.  I will need to pay cash for those at the time.  I have also 12 months worth of contact lenses and we each have our glasses plus a back up pair.

    DOCTORS – during the three months we have been in the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. I had my updated yellow fever, and DPT shot and did a round of typhoid and got a two month supply of malaria meds.

    MEDIVAC INSURANCE – considering our age, we felt there was value in purchasing evacuation insurance.  This insurance covers expenses to transport us back to the USA in case of a medical emergency that can’t be handled locally.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    EXPEDIA AND AIRBNB – we love how these two
    online websites allow us to keep files of all your bookings.  This eliminates the need for printing and gives us easy access to our bookings.  We use them both frequently.

    DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After two years of non-stop travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet.  It feels natural.  We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planing the itinerary, often taking a country each.

    Although we aren’t completely booked yet, we have a plan for August 2018 through June 2019 that includes; Denmark (visiting Arne’s cousins), Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt &Jordan (the only countries currently where we are doing a tour), Portugal & Spain (where we will walk our second Camino de Santiago), Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru & Chile (these five countries on a cruise with Arne’s Mom), Brazil, Costa Rica (joined by our friends from Washington), El Salvador, Belize (joined by our two sons), Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Tunisia

    GIRL STUFF – I’ve learned some things about myself over the past two years. Despite how easy it is to have long hair and wear it in a pony tail everyday, I just hate the look on me.  So the budget will need to include more haircuts.  Mostly I do my own nails and wear hardly no makeup, but I still like to have my eyebrows waxed from time to time. I have just a handful of earrings and necklaces I wear and of course the charm bracelet. I’ve just purchased a jewelry case that’s I hope will help my jewelry not take such a travel beating.

    The Grand Adventure Australia

    PACKING – this topic is by far the one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest.  We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags.  Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. But this time my backpack will stay home and I just purchased a new rolling carry on. And packing cubes have changed my life.  Organized and categorized I love using packing cubes.

    It helps that we are traveling, for the most part, to warm climates or to areas during their warm season.  We may see cool and rainy in Portugal and Spain in the late fall. Honestly the clothing choice has been easier than the shoes.  And the bulkiest items are not clothes or shoes it’s toiletries and

    The Grand Adventure Namibia

    medicines. I just purchased a flat style toilette bag to replace the larger boxier cube style one we have been carrying. I’m hoping this will free up some space in the suitcase.

    Without a doubt I am bringing twice the clothes as my husband, but I have learned so much this past two years for what works for me and what is comfortable and easy to maintain.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    I threw out almost all the clothes I used the past two years and have replaced them with fresh, new and comfortable.  Watch for a blog soon all about my new travel wardrobe. I think you’re gonna love it.

    In addition we have our electronics and documents and toiletries, first aid and meds.  We have our Scrabble game, our hiking poles, a selfie stick, an REI titanium French press, a can opener,a small knife, collapsible small cooler and colander.  I have a new “butt cushion” to hopefully alleviate sciatic pain on long flights.  I’ve thrown in some pens and pencils, scotch tape and packing tape, a bungee cord, cloths pens, plastic bags (multiple sizes) our headlamps and some extra batteries.  Of course I don’t leave home without my Washington State University flag, my Seattle Seahawks flag and THE MUG.

    So there you have it.  The details.  I’ve probably forgotten something.  We feel more prepared and less anxious than when we left two years ago.  We are looking forward to this next phase.

    Ready to launch year three of the Grand Adventure! T minus 33 days.

    I welcome your questions.

    Fabulous!

     

     

     

    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Being an Ambassador of Food

    And Remembering Anthony Bourdain

    Location: Gig Harbor WA USA

    I’ve decided I can be an Ambassador of food.  My new fabulous role.

    When we used to live in Gig Harbor (Washington USA) I started a cooking club of like-minded friends.  Usually I taught the class and it focused on teaching one of the cuisines I had learned while on a recent trip somewhere in the world.  We also met a few other times when other cooking club

    Ambassadors of Food

    The Gig Harbor Cooking Club

    members organized events such as wine tasting, and a class with a chef at a local restaurant.

    Our Cooking Club included 14 super fun people.  Our time together was always interesting and educational.  And always involved lots of food and

    Ambassador of food

    Enjoying cooking and eating

    wine.

    Since I left the USA the cooking club kind of fell apart.  But I returned determined to bring it back together, at least for one performance, while I was here in Gig Harbor.

    Yesterday eleven of our fourteen cooks gathered

    Ambassador of Food

    In the kitchen

    at the home of one of the members and I taught a class on Vietnamese and Thai cooking.  We had this on the calendar for several months.  But the suicide of my cooking, traveling, world ambassador mentor Anthony Bourdain weighed heavy on my mind – particularly since Vietnamese cuisine I knew was Anthony’s favorite.

    Ambassador of food

    Sharing

    I decided I wanted to talk to my cooking friends about how overwhelmingly sad I felt that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his life.  So that discussion is how we began our class.  Everyone felt the same lost and shocked feeling – all of us knowing it could have been prevented.  We talked a while about Tony and about suicide and about our country and its many troubles. And then to ease some of that heartache, we began to cook.

    It was fun, chaotic, delicious and exhausting.  I love to teach and this kind of event comes very naturally to  me, but it was tough cooking and teaching in someone else kitchen.  But we made it work, didn’t burn the house down, and had a great time. In Tony’s memory.

    Ambassador of food

    Combining the flavors

    I realize, through teaching new cuisines to open-minded cooks, that I am in my own small way, an ambassador like Anthony.  I’ve talked about this before – how I see my world travel as an ambassador role.  Showing people around the world what “real” Americans are like.  So it’s another way to open minds and hearts – I can bring cuisines back here to my friends, help them embrace new cultures and experiences and make the world a better place, one delicious mouthful at a time.

    It’s certainly not Parts Unknown.  But it makes me feel happy.

    I’m grateful to this group of cooks who enjoy the same things I enjoy and so I’ve given them a challenge – I promise to teach another class when I come back to the USA again next summer, but on one condition.  They must organize themselves and have at least one Cooking Club event while I am out of the country.

    Challenge on. Let’s make Tony proud.

    Fabulous.

    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Rainbow Nation

    Colorful South Africa and it’s Colorful Cuisine

    Location: South Africa

    They call it the Rainbow Nation.  A country with an extraordinary political and social background, with a kaleidoscope of ethnic Peoples, blended into one nation.  Shaken not stirred.

    But here it is – amazing South Africa.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, colonization and apartheid but surprisingly today

    Nelson Mandela

    together.  A mere 25 years after the end of apartheid (meaning apartness in Afrikaans) people of all backgrounds seem to get along here, quit happily.

    But despite equal rights it’s clear to see the economic difference still between white South Africans, “non- whites” and colored. These terms are from the apartheid era, when every person fit into one of these three categories and laws kept groups separate in all aspects of life.  Today you’ll still find people living separately in historically separate neighborhoods such as the

    Colorful Bo Kaap

    Muslim Bo Kaap and the Black Townships, but progress is slowly changing this.

    There are nine South African native tribes who lived as hunter gatherers and pastoral people for thousands of years before the Dutch East India Company arrived 1652. As the Dutch entrenched (and later the British) they used indigenous people as slaves and began bringing in slaves from Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malaysia, Indonesia and India as well as others.

    Today’s South Africa is made up of the ancestors of all of these races, a colorful mix of cultures truly

    Cooking on the Braai

    making it The Rainbow Nation.

    The gastronomic effects of such a blended nation cannot be overstated, and luckily for visitors the reward is superb.  Taking the foods of these groups and combining it with the wide variety of fresh produce, local seafood and game you get a melded and delicious South African cuisine.

    Pumpkin Pap curried cabbage

    I am no expert, but I sure like to eat, and during my time so far in South Africa I have joyfully discovered wonderful foods and flavors and also took a fun cooking class to delve even deeper.

    Let me share with you some of my favorite discoveries;

    Pap – for breakfast or anytime, pap is a staple food with a long history.  It is very much like fufou that we ate in Burkina Faso (made from plantain) and when made from maize (the most frequently used grain) it tastes much like grits or polenta. We have enjoyed pap several times and my favorite by far was the Pumpkin Pap we made together at our

    Smoked Snoek

    cooking class with Nadege Cuisine.  It was served with a curried cabbage and delicious smoked Snoek.

    Snoek – is a very popular (and very ugly) locally caught white fish that can grow very large.  It is of the mackerel family and is known as barracuda in other parts of the world.  One of the favorite ways to enjoy this fish is grilled on the Braai (see below) or smoked.  Smoked Snoek is available in grocery stores.  It tasted very much like smoked sturgeon to me.  The smokey and salty mixed with the sweet pumpkin pap was a real winner.

    Seasoning for the Braai

    Braai – the local word for BBQ is as much a social function as a food.  Most anything can be thrown on the Braai, but most meats and fish are slathered with a spicy rub mix of chili, salt and herbs.  Braais happen frequently where neighbors and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company around the Braai.  The host provides the salad and the guests bring their own meat and drink.  It’s very popular to cook Snoek on the Braai slathered in apricot jam.

    Bobotie – my favorite of all the foods I have tried so

    Bobotie

    far, this is the unofficial national dish of South Africa.  The dish likely has its roots in Indonesia and it is a savory mix of ground spiced meat with a custard topping and usually served or combined with rice.  We had this at a famous Bo Kaap restaurant called Biesmiellah and it was fantastic.  Always served with chutney.

    Chutney – Nearly every meal in South Africa is served with chutney, a sweet preserve usually of fruits but it also can include onions or savory produce.  Mango chutney is very popular and usually served with the Bobotie.

    Breyani

    Breyani – we also tried this dish at Biesmiellah and it was great.  The masala spice noted the heritage of this dish as Indian or Malaysian.  It can be made with different meats, we enjoyed it with chicken.  The dish is a fragrant mix of cumin, corrrinder, cinnamon, cardamom,lentils, rice and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and is served with a yogurt sauce on the side.

    Crayfish – I ordered this item at a nice restaurant we

    Crayfish

    went to in Cape Town called Aubergine and it was fantastic.  It’s nothing at all like what I think of as the small crayfish we sometimes eat at home.  It actually is a small lobster.  Lucky for me this appetizer dish was perfectly cooked and served with a luscious squid ink pasta.  Perfection.

    Ostrich – a very popular red meat all over the

    Nadege pan frys the ostrich

    southern parts of Africa you will find ostrich on menus and in grocery stores everywhere.  It is a very dark red meat, best prepared and served simply, and we enjoyed it flash pan-fried and medium rare at our cooking class with Nadege. Ostrich is farmed in South Africa and all parts of the animal are used including the skin for leather, the feathers for down, the beak and bones for jewelry and the egg shells for jewelry and decorative items.  It’s not as easy though to find a fresh ostrich egg.  Each egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs.  I still hope to buy and cook one soon.

    Mealie Bread – I love this delicious bread, similar to cornbread we make at home but lighter.  My favorite preparation I’ve had so far was at Aubergine where they added a hint of caraway.  Delicious.

    Cape Malay Curry – Sweeter than other curries I’ve had, Cape Malay curry once again uses the favorite apricot of South Africa as well as cinnamon and ginger and makes a delicious not to be missed meal.

    Game – much of the game meat is farmed and

    Malva Pudding

    available and shows up on restaurant menus including Warthog, Impala and Springbok, which is small deer-like animal we saw a lot of in Namibia.  We enjoyed the Springbok at Aubergine where it was perfectly cooked medium rare and served with a nice black mushroom sauce with a hint of walnut.

    Malva Pudding – using the word pudding in the British way for cake, Malva pudding is one of several popular dessert and sweet dishes uniquely South African.  This dark spongy cake made from butter, vanilla and apricot jam (there it is again) tastes much like a bread pudding and is usually

    Potatoe pudding with peach compote

    served with a warm custard or ice cream.

    Potato Pudding – similarly this lovely cake, also much like custard or bread pudding, is made from potatoes, coconut oil, cardamom, almond extract and condensed milk and is served with a stewed fruit sauce of dried peaches and cinnamon.  A perfect end to the meal we had at Nadege Cuisine.

    Through out the Cape Town region you will also find many offerings that reflect the British, French and Dutch population as well as other African nations.  We enjoyed a fabulous Ethiopian meal one afternoon for lunch at Madam Taitou’s and a

    Eggs Benedict

    beautiful Eggs Benedict the next day for breakfast at the historic and gorgeous British colonial hotel Mount Nelson.  However, you won’t find a restaurant calling itself a “South African” restaurant.  The cuisine is just really coming into its own as a stand alone fare, and rightfully so.  Hopefully soon, South African will be as common as Mexican or Italian.

    It certainly is just as delicious.

     

     

    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Eat Morocco

    Chapter Eleven – The Flavors of Morocco

    Cumin, paprika, garlic and saffron.  You can smell it in the air.  Onions, harissa, citrus and dates.  Wherever you are, Morocco’s flavors and smells will make your mouth water and your tummy growl.  This colorful country is a feast of flavors and colors and tastes unlike anywhere I have been.  You just can’t get enough.

    Lemon and olive Chicken Tajine

    We’ve been in Morocco for three weeks now, and we still have more than a week to go.  We have learned some of tips for the cuisine of this North African nation that has

    Grilled lamb chops

    been a crossroads for thousands of years.  From cultures near and far the Moroccan cuisine developed into the flavor-filled mix of vegetables, meat and spices we know today.  The Berber’s long history in this region, combined

    Spices

    with the Romans, the Vandals, the Phoenicians, and later the Jews, the  Spanish, the Brits and French, certainly makes for a unique combination of cultures and flavors.

    Farm to market produce

    Today Morocco stands independent under King Mohammed VI, and the delicious food is a proud tradition as seen in the medinas and restaurants, street food and homes through out the cities and rural regions of Morocco.  Seafood on the coast; beef, sheep, goat, chicken and even camel makes an appearance in the interior; and the ever-present olive can be found at breakfast,

    Grilled fish

    lunch and dinner.

    We had a very special experience during our ten days in Asilah on the Atlantic Coast.  Our airbnb in Asilah came with a full-time cook, a sweet and talented Moroccan woman named Latifah.  She fed us the

    Latifah making couscous

    most remarkable meals during our time there and we were spoiled beyond reason.  We learned a lot about the cuisine, watched her cook and asked her so many questions.  She took us to the market with her and helped us understand the foods she was

    Latifah serving pastilla

    making for us.  What a remarkable opportunity this presented and we were so grateful.  We wanted to stuff her in the suitcase and keep her forever!  So through Latifah we learned the cuisine.

    There are some surprises too – like the flavorful fava bean and garlic

    B’sara soup

    soup called B’sara served for breakfast.  Not a dish found on restaurant menus but if you ask it can be made for you.  We did just that, wanting to try it and the proprietor gladly made it for us even though it was lunch time and well past the normal morning hour it is usually eaten.  It tasted much like a split pea soup but spicier and very satisfying.

    Another surprise is the pastilla – a completely

    Women making the filo on round griddle

    unexpected sweet and savory “pie” resembling spanakopita but filled with nuts and dates, chicken or pigeon, sweet and savory spices and baked then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.  It can’t decide if it’s dinner or a dessert, but it is delicious and unusual all at once.  The dish is created with a super thin filo type pastry made by hand by artisans in the

    Latifah unveiling the tajine

    markets using a very surprising shaped cooking shaft that the thin dough is placed on for just a few seconds to let it cook.  Pastilla is usually reserved for special occasion meals, but can be found in most restaurants serving tourists.  We were very lucky to have a special one made for us by Latifah.

    More well-known are the bubbling tajine dishes cooked and served in their unique crockery.  Tajine can be made from many things including lamb,

    Lamb and dried fruit tajine

    beef, chicken and vegetables and the best part is usually the wonderful rich broth at the bottom of the pot.  My favorite ones were the chicken olive and lemon and the lamb, dried fruit and nut.  These two are also favorites among locals and its easy to see why. I had them multiple times and each time it was delicious.

    Couscous

    Another well-known dish is Couscous.  But the couscous we know back in America is very different from what we have enjoyed here in Morocco.  In fact, making couscous is a major undertaking and is reserved for Fridays, the holy day in Morocco.  We spent much of one day watching Latifah make us a remarkable (and gigantic) couscous feast that included chicken, carrots, zucchini, potato and turnips and of course the couscous itself.  A special steamer is used to steam the couscous over boiling water – a most unusual and time-consuming preparation.

    Harira soup

    Dried figs and dates

    When all is said and done this lovely and colorful pile of deliciousness is topped with a flavorful broth that has been simmering and reducing for hours.  It just really is a special meal and poor sweet Latifah had a real workout in the kitchen on this day.

    Grilled meats on a stick, similar to such things in other countries, can be found at restaurants and street vendors.  Known as Brochette’s,  popular varieties are lamb, chicken and beef, as well as ground lamb, but my favorite was a lime-marinated fish brochette I had in a restaurant.

    Brochettes

    While in Asilah by the sea we had a great opportunity to sample the local seafood.  Latifah made us the most amazing selection of grilled and fried fish including sardines and dorado served with a delicious green chili sauce and lemon. Simple and sublime.  We also had anchovies in lemon, octopus salad, rich and delicious fish soup and tiny deep-fried sardines.

    The country is teeming with the freshest and most colorful produce that makes its way into every meal. All of these goodies are locally grown and pesticide free, usually harvested with hours or days of your purchase.  Unlike the United States, rarely are things in the market being shipped in from other countries. My favorite was the persimmon, pomegranate and tangerines – hands down the best of those I have ever had.  A walk through the market is a kaleidoscope of tomatoes, radish, squash, plums, grapes, pears, oranges and lychee, as well as a never-ending variety of nuts and beans and grains.

    But there is one thing I have not yet elaborated on  – the key to all of the distinctive Moroccan foods we have savored over the past three weeks.  The spices.  Moroccan cuisine has developed through a magical mix of spices, in a region abundant with the finest.  In the markets  you find the colorful choices piled beautifully on display while Moroccan grandmothers sniff and purchase

    Fresh mezze salads

    the savory wonders.  Most common in dishes are salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric (often referred to curcumin), saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and white pepper.  A special spice blend known as Ras El Hanout is a blend of dozens of spices and is unique to individual shops and regions.  Ras El Hanout means “best of the shop” and will include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, turmeric and often other “secret” spices.

    I’m taking away from Morocco a real gift in this cuisine, an excitement to try new flavors and techniques I’ve learned here.  I wonder why there aren’t more Moroccan restaurants back home and encourage you to get out and find the flavors of Morocco wherever you can.  Because there are so many amazing things about this country – but if you can’t visit – at least eat Morocco.  You won’t be disappointed.

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Barcelona Cooking Class – Eat Local

    Chapter Ten Final Days

    When in Barcelona – eat! And if you can – cook!  Because the Catalan cuisine is simple, seasonal, fresh and fabulous and a day cooking in a Spanish kitchen makes for a great memory.

    I researched many options for cooking classes in

    Frutes de boca

    Barcelona. There were a lot. But I chose the Barcelona Kitchen, the cooking school housed in the Mercado de la Boqueria, for its class choices and menu.

    Since I’ve been in Spain for two months and

    Seafood so fresh it’s still moving.

    traveled through multiple regions, I’ve tasted a variety of regional dishes as well as regional takes on national favorites. In Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is the largest city, food is celebrated every day and regional pride in the local Catalan cuisine is evident everywhere you go.

    Catalan cuisine is not about heavily spiced or sauced dishes.  Rather it is about the best, freshest and

    Fresh picked today

    most local ingredients. Right now in October that means frutas de boca (fruits of the forest) which includes a variety of mushrooms, snails, nuts and seeds. October is also bountiful in tomatoes, squash, fruit, greens, root vegetables, peppers, potatoes, onions, figs, and much more.  Combine these ingredients with seasonal fish, shellfish, meat, fowl, and the unforgettably delicious Iberian jamon (ham) and you have yourself the makings of a special feast.

    Stock simmering.

    Add a little Spanish wine and as the Catalonians say Bon Profit! Muy Bien!

    My class, led by Lena, began with a tour and shopping trip for our ingredients through the Mercado de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s famous and fabulous market. Here we learned about many of the products and producers from eggs to olive oil and saffron to cuttlefish.

    Making the Crema Catlana

    Back in the kitchen we set to work for three solid hours cooking and preparing five of Catalan’s favorite dishes; Tortilla – egg and potatoe omelette like pie (the national dish of Spain that sustained me daily on the Camino), Seafood Paella (the only

    Finished Paella

    way Catalans eat Paella is seafood), Pa amb Tomàquet – Catalan Tomato Bread, Gazpacho – cold tomato soup, and Crema Catalana – a delicious dessert similar to creme brûlée but better!

    I was surprised at the amount of time the tortilla takes to make but I loved it. I also really enjoyed making the Paella from scratch including the stock which simmered and reduced on the stove for more than an hour. It was rich and delicious.

    The beautiful Gazpacho

    The Gazpacho was incredible, easy and fast. Unlike our chunky style at home this cold tomato soup was creamy and smooth using the food processor and adding lots of olive oil to emulsify it. Perfecto!

    Our class enjoying the feast

    As usual, I loved learning from a local and cooking this incredible cuisine.  Spain has been many things to me over the past two months, including delicious!

    Our time in this sweet country is ending and we move on now to Chapter Eleven – Tunisia, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa. But Spain will always hold something very special for us and we will definitely be back.

    Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos.  Fabulous!

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    A loaf of bread A Jug of Wine & Thou

    Hikers Cannot Live on Bread Alone

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” —Omar Khayyam

    The sentiment in Khayyam’s words are not lost  on me. Particularly as I try to walk my Camino with an open mind for a simple life. Medieval pilgrims certainly would have been grateful for bread alone and may have subsisted solely on it – with a watery soup and wine thrown in from time to time.

    Tortilla Espanola

    But man I want a salad.

    As in most European countries bread is life.  In Spain the Panaderia on every corner is busy from the break of day.  This is true in the cities and in the small villages we walk through.  Some small towns we find the “Bread man” (my term) driving through the streets honking his horn.  Kinda like the ice cream man when I was a kid.

    Croissant with ham and cheese

    Boccadilla

    Along the Camino finding food is a bit of a challenge unless you are in a large city.  And finding food that includes nice fresh produce is even harder.  And dinner before 8pm? Forget about it.

    Likely for convenience and cost, the places that pop up for sustenance on the Camino sell baguette sandwiches called bocadilla, or the national dish of Spain, Tortilla Espinosa (an egg and potato torta/omelette), and coffee.  Sometimes apples and bananas.  This is what is considered both breakfast and lunch food.  It’s cheap and easy to carry.

    I’ve learned to pick up fresh fruit when I see it and stash it in our pack.  Clearly we are a long way from starving but a girl needs something to help her walk 14 miles each day.

    Eggplant Hummus

    A couple of days ago on a particularly uninhabited stretch of our walk I had  ham and cheese on a dry baguette for breakfast, tuna on hard focaccia for lunch and ham and cheese on baguette for dinner.

    That was the day I said no more bread.  No mas!

    And there was the one night we shared a can of tuna and a whole zuchinni while laying in bed.

    At the end of each day we can usually find what is

    One salad mixta from a very good Peregrino dinner

    called the Peregrino Dinner.  In every town we have found this except for one.  This meal is usually $10-12 Euro and includes two or three courses with choices.  The first course may be a choice of salad mixta, soup or pasta.  I always get the salad which 99% of the time is lettuce, tomato, canned tuna and maybe carrot and egg.

    But the second course is ALWAYS French fries with some meat.  You can choose chicken, pork, beef or

    This was an excellent salad in Burgos

    maybe veal or lamb.  No veg.

    Sigh.  I just want some nice zucchini or spinach or green beans or kale por favor!

    One evening we did encounter a Peregrino Dinner with a vegetarian option.  I happily ordered the vegetarian paella instead of meat and fries.  It was warm and yummy saffron rice with peas, beans, cauliflower and carrots.

    In our 16 days on the Camino our best meals have

    Catalan soup with pork and pasta

    come in the bigger towns.  No surprise.  I’m still dreaming about the Caesar Salad and Eggplant hummus we had in Pamplona or the beautiful Salad Mixta with fresh tuna, asparagus and beets I had with Catalon soup in Burgos.  And the best peregrino meal we enjoyed was a pork knuckle and the first course was fresh baby artichoke hearts with lemon in Puenta la Reina.  Happiness on a plate.

    Thumbs up for this Paella

    And so I’ve grown even more appreciative of fresh food with fresh ingredients and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  And when I can’t get it, well I am then grateful on those days for a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.

    Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; – Ecclesiastes 9:7

    191 miles done.  298 to go!

    Buen Camino!