Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting"

Across the Cafe Table #11

Welcome to Across the Cafe Table, where every 2nd Wednesday of the month we have a discussion topic. This month’s topic is one of our favorite things! Food! Let’s discuss the weird, odd, good, or bad. Learn more here about our monthly cafe chats. 

Margo:

The buck or donkey stops here, dining in Lombardy

Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting" travel tips for women Italy girlfriend getaways food and wine Have you seen the Food List Challenge app on Facebook? The 100 must try food items include everything from  bird’s nest soup to crickets to Moon Pies! Supposedly your average person has tried around 20 items. I clocked in at 69, which seems to be about average for most of my Facebook friends who have accepted the challenge.

One of my favorite food items that made the list is raw oysters. I have often worn the fact that I swallowed my first when I was about four years old as a badge of honor among the foodie set. I have come to two conclusions about trying an “adventurous” food item at an early age: 1) it makes that specific food more palatable 2) trying something that at first repulses you at an early age makes you more likely to try new foods in general.

But where exactly would it stop for me?  Thankfully, I’ve never been faced with trying crickets, but I have tried my fair share of things that many  would turn their noses up at. Well I finally  found out this  past September while on the Travel Belles’ trip to Piedmont, Italy.

It wouldn’t stop with eating raw meat in Piedmont, but would stop with eating a certain cooked meat in neighboring Lombardy. It would stop with the animal that led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. It would stop with Eeyore. It would stop with Ravioli of Donkey Ragu during a lovely visit to a rice plantation. Americanized palettes will probably be glad to know, donkey is not on the Facebook food challenge list. But it was on the menu at Corte Visconti.  I was visiting the rice plantation and its restaurant with Kathy Ayer. The name of her blog is Food Lover’s Odyssey – you can read her account our adventurous foodie visit here. Needless to say, she didn’t hesitate. Joining us was equally will-try-pretty-much-anything foodie, Krista Bjorn, the Rambling Tart.

Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting" travel tips for women Italy girlfriend getaways food and wine

Divine looking, yes. But donkey. (photo courtesy of Krista Bjorn)

The pressure was on and I reluctantly took a bite. Frankly the taste I took was so small, I am ashamed to call it a bite. Hell, it was hardly even a taste. It was Eeyore! Texture, taste and smell aside, he didn’t even have a chance to win me over.

For the record everything else was divine, and nothing for the more adventurous foodie than I to sneeze at: Goose Salami and Fennel, Lard with Honey and Rosemary, and three kinds of risotto, of course, one that was made of frog (lots of frogs in the marshands, apparently.)

Briana:

I am not an adventurous eater. When I was a child, my parents used to joke that I ate like a prisoner: bread and butter with a glass of water, please. Well, that wasn’t so far off from reality. There was even a time when I didn’t like chocolate. Yes, chocolate.

Over the years, I grew out my extreme pickiness, but throughout college – where the only kind of culinary discoveries offered by the dining hall are the bad kind – I subsisted mainly on bagel sandwiches and simple salads. That is until I spent a semester studying and living with a host family in Spain.

Now, Spanish food isn’t exactly exotic and sometimes it can be downright bland. But that semester successfully transformed my eating habits; I knew I had to chow down whatever was put in front of me and do so with a smile to avoid offending my very caring host family.

During those four months, I had my first beef burger (I know, I’m crushing your American stereotypes here), fell in love with my host mother’s perfectly prepared judías verdes (green beans) and began to appreciate the savory leg of cured ham that sat on the kitchen counter.

When I returned to the States, I brought along a more refined palette and my newfound willingness to try almost any food once, which resulted in a great deal of shock on the part of my parents. And since then, I’ve continued to happily awe those who once knew me as the pasta-with-butter girl by trying things like bull tail in Spain and horse tripe in Rome. After all, being a traveler means tucking into the local delicacies once in a while, no matter how frighteningly exotic they may seem at first.

Now how about you? What are some foods you’ve tried while traveling? Link up below (and link back to this post) or answer in the comments!


2.
An Italophile
6.
Unusual eats in Asia
This linky list is now closed.

 

Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting" travel tips for women Italy girlfriend getaways food and wine

Briana Palma

I\\\'m a writer and editor who\\\'s back to calling Boston home after spending several years living abroad in Ireland, Spain and Italy.
Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting" travel tips for women Italy girlfriend getaways food and wine

@brianapalma

@Patriots Lifestyle Editor | Traveler, food lover, once-upon-a-time expat.
.@LunarSports @McCourtyTwins Great to see the campaign coming to Boston! - 4 hours ago
Foods We've Tried While Traveling: The Good, Bad and "Interesting" travel tips for women Italy girlfriend getaways food and wine

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow Margo, that was brave! I totally understand why you barely tasted it but sometimes you fel so rude rejecting things (as I know, being a pescetarian). Briana, I can relate to your experiences – Spain really oushed me out of my comfort zone too.

  2. says

    Margo, I love your description of eating Eeyore, and Briana I am certainly very similar to you in not being so adventurous. Spain just sounds wonderful – I hope to go one day.

  3. says

    I love the contrast between you two – one adventurous foodie floored by the thought of a disney character and one ‘prisoner’ eater happily tucking into the stomach lining of a horse. I loved reading these :)

  4. says

    Margo – I laughed out loud reading your description of eating Eeyore. While Eeyore was always my favorite, I had no problem eating donkey ravioli in Milan! In fact, when it comes to adventurous foods — escargots, oysters, even haggis — I’ve never had a problem. What gets me is things — even if they’re as innocuous as an oddly shaped mushroom — that “look weird.” Which is why, no matter how much I love pho, I will not will not will not eat tripe. I tried it once; it tasted ok, but I couldn’t get over the texture.

  5. says

    Briana – As for your story, I can completely relate to eating things that a loving host family puts in front of you, which is how my year-long strict vegetarianism died; my sweet southern French host mother made fish just for me, because I was a vegetarian. The worst was a glass of cherry eau de vie that my host father gave me. His grandmother had made it; I was certain I was drinking a glass of fire.

  6. says

    Ha – Emily – oddly shaped mushrooms? I love it and I’m with you… back to the concept of childhood – I remember Mom warning me not to eat mushrooms out of the yard… I don’t think I planned on it, but she scared the bejeezus out of me on the subject of shroom eating. If they looked “slimey” or were just the right icky shade of taupe that might stop me too :) I like knowing my mushrooms came from the grocery.

  7. says

    Horse tripe, Briana? oh my… I’m beginning to see I have a hard time w/concept of eating large farm animals…. the small and furry? No problem.

  8. says

    I’ve never eaten anything as cuddly as Eeyore, but I have had a few unusual dishes. Many years ago I was a guest at a fairly authentic Chinese-style banquet here in Seattle, where I got to try stewed beef tendon. Chewy. Like Margo I love raw oysters. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a beach in the San Juan Islands where I could just pick up oysters, cut them open with a knife and slurp them down on the spot. Heaven!

    One of Puget Sound’s most famous “weird foods” is the geoduck – a giant clam that can be nearly a yard long, looks exactly like an oversized piece of male anatomy, and sells for $200 a pound in Asia. Locals here chop them up into chowder, and I can attest it’s delocious. Geoducks also make marvelous sushi and are the mascot of Evergreen State College.

    Continuing in the mollusc mode, I’ve eaten Venice’s famous seppie – pasta flavored with black squid ink. It’s very good, quite briny

    Finally, I once ate something for revenge. On a visit to San Gimignano with my parents a pigeon pooped copiuosly onn my head. Revolted, I rushed to try to rinse the disgusting mess out of my hair in a nearby fountain. That evening, what should be on the restaurant’s menu but piccione alla olive – pigeon stuffed with black olives. I ordered it and devoured it with gusto, imaging my feathered “friend” with every bite.

  9. says

    Living with a host family can be challenging in that way — it totally pushes you out of your comfort zone. And while I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve never been much of a meat eater, so I certainly know what you mean about the fish. It’s always interesting discovering what “vegetarian” means in different countries and cultures.

  10. Cathy Custalow says

    Sheep brain soup, blood pudding, thousand year old eggs, sea cucumber, pig’s stomach, eel, duck intestines, canned baby sparrows, sea urchin roe, turtle soup, and a lot more things I can’t remember at the moment!!

  11. says

    “It’s Eeyore” totally cracks me up, Margo. :-) I have such a hard time connecting cooked things with their source that such things don’t creep me out when they probably should. :-) Love it!! I’m getting braver too, Brianna. :-)

  12. says

    I loved reading this article and everyone’s responses! I must say I’ve had a very ‘foodie’ upbringing. My dad was a chef so I was constantly introduced to many different flavours and foods. So, once I started travelling it was easy for me to embrace different ways of eating and tasting.

    Some of the meats I’ve eaten have been camel, emu, crocodile, kangaroo and goat. Some of my most favourite travelling/eating memories have been eating beautiful organic food in the south island of New Zealand, gorging on endless amounts of hospitality and drinking lemon and mint throughout Syria, snacking on caramel banana chips in Thailand, feasting on the fast-food delight that is koshery in Egypt, eating endless banquets in China and over-doing it on pink lemonade in the U.S.

    However, I’ve just recently turned vegetarian so my next overseas trip is sure going to be a different experience!

  13. says

    Unlike you, Margo, I *have* eaten crickets. And locusts. Neither was particularly exciting, unfortunately – garlicky from marinading, but there wasn’t much to them. It was rather like eating prawn shells without the delicious meat inside. The most offputting thing about them was the legs, which have a bit of a propensity to get stuck in the teeth, but once I’d realised that I just stuffed them in whole rather than trying to chew too much …

    On the same occasion I also ate chocolate-covered scorpion (intensely crunchy, and savoury under the chocolate), and baby bee, which was delicious. Tiny and honey-flavoured from being soaked in (I think) mead, it popped between the teeth like a ripe berry, which sounds far more offputting than it actually was!