It’s been many years now since I was in Greece. But if I hear a mention of Greece and you ask me what is the first association that I make, it is always the food. Sitting out on a warm evening in a short-sleeved shirt, having freshly fried squid, taramasalata and tzatziki with pitta bread, and then perhaps a meaty dish of stifado or meatballs. It might not be my favourite food on the stage of world cuisine, but in terms of association with happy memories it’s right up there.
It’s strange how food plays such an important part in the memories we form on our travels. We can forgive a horrible journey, an uncomfortable night or a noisy neighbour (almost) if our day is rounded off with a heart-warming and satisfying meal. Wherever we travel, there are two universal truths if you speak to almost anyone:
1. The best dish in the world is native to their home country.
2. Their mother makes the best ever version of that dish.
Whether it’s Italian pasta, Mexican mole or Irish stew, these home-cooked specials stir a real pride in the natives that gets stronger the further away people venture from their homeland.
So how can we, as mere visitors to a country, make the most of our opportunity to experience its cuisine at first hand? Here are a few tips to bear in mind on your next holiday:
1.Choose a dish that’s not only native to the country you’re visiting, but also the region. In Italy for example, each part of the country will have its own speciality (and will usually be named the city or region)
2. To enjoy the freshest ingredients, find out about the seasonal specialities. While you’ll be able to get most dishes year round, there is a big difference between fruit or vegetables that have been freshly picked and those that have been frozen for six months.
3. Ask around – the real local dishes are rarely found in the fancy restaurants but are often served in modest establishments and even home kitchens.
4. Be adventurous! However strange something may appear to you, that bit of culinary pioneering might be the highlight of your holiday. Don’t be afraid; when will you get another chance to eat some of the more outlandish dishes you see on the road!
Good food really can be the abiding memory of a holiday, and just like a familiar song the thought of a certain taste can immediately take you back to a happy time and a place for years to come. So tuck in and enjoy the best that your holiday destination has to offer. Bon appetit!
by Andy Jarosz