March was, for me, an insane travel marathon. Four countries, eleven trains, five flights (two of them trans-atlantic), two long car rides, and numerous hotels- all in a period between March 19 and April 5. During that time, I realized something that I had never really given voice to before now- travel for me is all about the food.
This realization came to me when we got back from the second trip to Zurich. Yes, I went twice. In less than five days. I didn’t mention that previously because the second trip was for work. One of our colleagues from the Florida office came to Zurich, and she traveled back to Regensburg with us afterward so that she could see a little bit more of Europe while she was on this side of the Atlantic. That Friday, while a small group of us were walking around the Altstadt, my personal tour-guiding spiel sounded a bit like this: “This is one of the two Irish pubs in town. Over here, right past $IMPORTANT LANDMARK, is a great Italian restaurant. Here’s another giant church, and near it, one of my favorite places to have breakfast.”
I didn’t realize it until that moment, but my mental map of Regensburg is almost entirely comprised of food.
That wasn’t even the first food-related observation I had that weekend, either. During the second trip to Zurich, we went out to a lunch with our customers at a super-fancy restaurant in what used to be a ship-building yard. How fancy was the restaurant? When we walked in, someone took our coats and put them on a hanger. The hand towels in the bathroom were rolled fabric hand towels, not paper. The menus were actually made of iron. (Insert heavy metal joke here.)
During that meal, I ordered this:
The steak in the center of this plate is wrapped in Serrano ham. The stuff surrounding it is delicious baby onions and strawberries in a strawberry-pepper sauce.
The steak in the middle? It’s Pferdefilet. A horse meat steak. And it was delicious.
This isn’t the first time I’ve (knowingly) eaten horse meat. The first time was at an Italian restaurant in Berlin last September, as a pizza topping. But then, I’ve never been squeamish about unusual food, unless I can see it’s original form. When I was in Hong Kong, I ate kangaroo meat, jellyfish, Thousand Year Egg, and fugu. I didn’t get squicked out until the restaurant staff brought out a duck with the head and neck still attached.
The only thing I didn’t eat from the plate pictured above was the ham and the flower. I don’t really like ham all that much, and I wasn’t interested in the flower even though it was edible.
It’s important to remember that while all of these foods might seem unusual to an American, they’re not all that strange to a local. People have eaten horse-meat all over Europe for centuries. There are even special butchers just for horse meat in some countries. The other things I listed above from my Hong Kong trip? None of them is unusual to the restaurants that serve them. (The kangaroo meat was in an Australian restaurant, by the way- you don’t see too many kangaroos in China.)
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?