Dining Out in any language© winnie caw 2004
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by

Myra Waldo 

published by Bantam Books Inc. 1956

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Reflections

ALTHOUGH it is true that we speak the same language as our British cousins (almost), they have a cuisine of their own, which will appear somewhat strange, on occasion, to Americans. Then, too, finding a good restaurant in England is a greater problem than it is on the continent. A poor restaurant in Britain can be poor indeed.
American tourists always complain about the meals in England, but actually they're referring to lunch and dinner; seldom are the complaints about breakfast or that unique British institution, teatime. There can be few doubts about the pleasure of an English breakfast with its emphasis upon fresh country eggs and crunchy bacon, porridge and thick cream, kippers and other substantial items. Teatime, too, is a delightful experience with lots of thin sandwiches, scones, buns, crumpets and all the other paraphernalia of an English tea. But dinner, or even lunch for that matter! (Loud groan.) The British are just not born cooks, in the sense that the French and Italians are. Since they aren't, the average English lunch or dinner is going to be pretty mediocre, we regret to say. The solution? If there is one, it consists in eating bigger breakfasts and teas, and having less lunch or dinner. Another alternative is to eat foreign food, something easily done in London, but just about impossible elsewhere in the countryside.
But good British food does exist, if it be sought out. Also, there is a fine art in knowing what to order (and even more important, what not to order). Firstly, there are few appetizers in the world which can hope to match Scotch smoked salmon - it's absolutely superb; incidentally, a smoked salmon sandwich makes a fine luncheon item. British oysters are a treat, especially if served with a glass of stout (that's strong beer). Potted shrimp are small shrimp served in butter, and are pretty good, too.
Fresh fish is marvelous, if you're in England during the correct seasons. The Scotch salmon is extremely delicate in flavor and texture. But our praise is reserved for Dover sole, one of the most delicious fish you'll ever encounter. It's marvelous in any fashion, but plain grilled Dover sole is an experience worth repeating. While talking of fish, don't forget fish and chips (although few restaurants serve them); this, of course, is nothing but fried pieces of fish with fried potatoes. It's about the equivalent (in England) of a hot dog or a hamburger for a between meal snack.
Now a few words about the English penchant for meat and fish pies. To begin with, there's Cornish pasties (small pies), about the best. Bubble and Squeak, on the other hand, is basically a cabbage pie; in general, meat and fish pies are made with leftovers and taste even worse. We heartily suggest that they be avoided, short of starvation. Of course, a meat pie served in a first-class restaurant should be the exception that proves the rule and might be delicious (well, edible at least).
Every American comes to England seeking the "good beefe of Olde Englande," and in general it is good. The British cut, however, is quite thin, by American standards. A steak, as Americans think of steak, is rare indeed, and inevitably disappointing. Now about lamb: the young variety is tasty, although the British will serve it with caper or mint sauce. But roast mutton? Run, do not walk, in the opposite direction; it's much too strong for American tastes.
British vegetables and salads are not too good. In fact, there's no denying, they're no good at all. In fact ... well, you get the idea. As to desserts, the English are excessively fond of insipid, overly sweet puddings. A good piece of Stilton or Wensleydale cheese is better, we think, if you're a cheese fancier; if you aren't, better become one.
Is this all very discouraging? It needn't be. Inquire locally, wherever you happen to be. The local residents generally know the good places, and don't rely on "gourmet" publications, because they're seldom as represented. Good food may be found in England, if time and effort are expended.

 


England and Scotland

 

MANY tourists have returned from Greece with the fondest possible recollections of that country - except for the food. In point of fact, it must be admitted that there is some justification for this unhappy view whenever the Greeks attempt to imitate grand hotel "international" food. But when the Greeks cook for themselves, the results are inevitably interesting, frequently extraordinary good. If imitation French food bores you, pay a visit to a local cafe, a taverna. Here, both the food and atmosphere will be homey.
Let's go through an imaginary taverna menu: Firstly, the national strong drink is ouzo, an anise-flavored liquor. It is served with a larger glass of ordinary water, into which you pour the ouzo; it then becomes cloudy and fit to drink (in the opinion of the local residents). With this comes the traditional mezes, hors d'oeuvre. Sometimes, the mezes come in three stages - (1) radishes and olives, (2) shrimp and fried small fish, and (3) grilled sausage, pieces of cheese and kokoretsi. This last item, kokoretsi, we regret to say, is a preparation made from sheep's intestines. N. G., we hasten to add.
The olives (elies) are excellent, although different from ours. There is a form of caviar called taramosalata, pale pink in color, which is marvelous. Garides are large shrimp; aghinares are appetizing combinations of artichokes and onions served cold; ambellofilla dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with chopped meat, which can be very good; also briami, a cold meat and vegetable salad.
Greek soups are not too numerous, but some are quite good. The classic one is soupa avgolemono, a chicken soup prepared with lemons and eggs. Mayiritsa is made from veal, with lettuce, fennel, eggs and lemon juice. If you like bouillabaisse, the traditional French fish soup, you'll enjoy kakavia, which is quite similar but has no saffron. 
The Greeks inevitably fry or broil fish, and the fish is definitely fresh. Be sure to look for barbounia, red mullet, preferably grilled; this Mediterranean fish has an excellent flavor. Astakos are clawless lobster but are none too plentiful. However, we respectfully urge you not to have tsiri, the local dried fish. As previously mentioned, the local cooks are fond of assortments of fried fish: when made with little fish, it is called marida, when larger fish are used, it's gopa.
The Greeks, we firmly believe, know only one meat - lamb. No matter where you are, in fact, no matter what you order, it will be lamb in one form or another (or so it will seem). Lamb comes in a score of ways - grilled, in stews, ground, sautéed and so on, far into the night. Mussaka, for example, is ground lamb with eggplant; souvlakia is lamb on a spit; yuvarlakia are meatballs (of lamb of course) in tomato sauce. Then there's kolokithakia, which is a squash stuffed with (yes, you've guessed it) and rice.
In passing, don't miss trying spanakopeta, spinach and cheese in pastry, and believe us, absolutely delicious. Vegetables prepared in the Greek fashion mean with lots of olive oil, so keep that in mind, particularly if you don't like too much oil. In the cheeses, feta is a crumbly white affair which is marvelous when mixed with a salad. Touloumisso cheese is spicy and quite good.
Among the desserts, there's always baklava, the delicious overly-sweet confection made of thin layers of pastry, plus nuts and honey, and the devil with calories! Halava is a candy made with ground sesame seeds, nuts and honey. The Greeks think the perfect dessert is a whole orange, with which theory we completely dissent. They are also fond of the stewed oranges or orange compote. Coffee comes in small cups, and is strong, dark as midnight and very powerful. It comes with no sugar, too much sugar, and maybe if you're lucky, it will be metrio or medium. Better specify.
The Greek wines are drinkable, and you'd better drink them, because some local waters are suspect. ... One word of warning, caution, and also watch out: the Greeks like to add resin to their wines. It makes the wines taste terrible, so better specify aresinato, that is, without resin. 

 


Greece

 

 

 

EATING is an important activity in Germany and the people give it a full measure of concentration. Don't come to Germany expecting to eat the gourmet creations of France. You can expect, however, to find hearty, satisfying, solid food. Dishes are substantial; portions are often more than ample. The light, fluffy dish such as you might encounter in France is rare. Order one course at a time, for you may not be able to eat more than one or two at a sitting. When you ask for your check, they'll ask how much bread you've eaten and add it to the bill.
Breakfast is usually a piece of bread and butter and some coffee. Later in the morning there is a second breakfast, zweitfrühstück, which is often a sandwich or a sausage, or perhaps more. The largest meal of the day is dinner; it is more desirable than a two-hour nap. But you have to be up and about in order to work up an appetite for tea (and cake, not to mention several other dainties). But don't worry if you're still hungry after this, because there's supper at about 7:30 P.M. This may consist of open-faced sandwiches (always eaten with a knife and fork), cold cuts, sausages, salads, cheese, beer and wine. Coffee is very expensive and equally variable.
Our own American favorites - frankfurters, hamburgers and sauerkraut were all originally German. But the most basic food of the country is undoubtedly the potato. The Germans use it imaginatively in a wide variety of delectable dishes such as potato pancakes, dumplings (served with just about everything), noodles and many others. Other great favorites are "sweet and sour" dishes made by combining sweet and sour ingredients in the same dish. As for that other German staple, the sausage, you'll find it in dozens of different varieties; methods of cooking are equally varied. 

 

Germany

 

 


 

 

 

MEALS in the Soviet follow the usual pattern of three meals a day, with dinner coming sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes in the evening. Breakfast is almost American, with eggs and ham, plus the worst coffee you ever tasted. The other two meals are almost identical, for the quick sandwich lunch is just about unknown in Russia.
Appetizers are superb. The Russians dearly love their zakuska (appetizers), and so will you. The standard appetizer is herring, served in a dozen different fashions. Of course, the big treat is ikra (caviar) and tourists generally have caviar every day. Other good first courses include salt salmon (just like our smoked salmon) and smoked sturgeon.
Russian soups are world famous. The leading one, needless to say, is borscht, the classic beet soup. But there are varieties of borschts, including some made with cabbage, meat, olives, etc. They're all delicious. Don't miss schchi, sauerkraut soup, a fascinating soup indeed.
Russian steak, to be blunt, is terrible. Roast beef is non-existent. Lamb, however, is very good. Be sure to order shashlik (cubes of lamb roasted on a skewer), or kavkaski shashlik (larger chunks). Veal is dull, chicken slightly better. If you see cotletki pojarski on the menu, don't pass it by; it's minced chicken or veal cutlets. Chicken à la Kiev is a delicious dish consisting of chicken breasts wrapped around butter, and fried crisp. Koulebiaka is a meat or fish pie, and is definitely a high spot in the Russian cuisine. 
The Russians love cucumbers, mushrooms, smoked fish, sour milk and dark breads; all of these items are generally available and should not be overlooked. Kashoi, buckwheat groats, are surely the favorite cereal, often appearing with meats instead of potatoes.
Desserts are definitely routine. The safest bet is marujinah, ice cream. Fresh melons and fruit are scarce. If you can find blinis on the menu, by all means order these delicious pancakes. Cheese is very mediocre, puddings bad, and cake and pie extremely scarce. Canned fruit compote tastes like it always does.

 


Russia
IF an Austrian is happy, he has something to eat. If he's unhappy, he has something to eat. In between times, he drinks coffee at his favorite coffee house, with possibly a pastry or two to tide him over. The obvious point being made is that Austria is a place in which to eat - frequently. If you enjoy between-meal snacks, you'll be very happy in all of Austria, but particularly so in Vienna, probably the eatingest capital city in the world.
Breakfast is just about nothing, merely a roll and coffee. Most Austrians aren't hungry that early in the morning, having finished a substantial midnight supper just before retiring. About 11 there comes the equivalent of a coffee break, when everyone begins to have a little snack or two, perhaps a few sandwiches. This is the time to visit a pastry shop, a konditorei, where the citizenry fortifies itself with small cakes, pâté de foie gras titbits, miniature sandwiches, assorted cakes and several cups of coffee; then back to work! Lunch comes at 1 P.M. and is elaborate and multi-coursed; dinner is around 8 in the evening and is about the size and shape as lunch. But we almost forgot to mention jause, teatime, in the late afternoon when everyone stokes up with numerous pastries (true, they're small) plus more little sandwiches. 
What about some Austrian specialties? Well, if you like fish, be sure to try a fogash, a fish rather vaguely resembling a lake trout. The Danube River is also the source for several river fish, such as carp and pike. In the soup section, be sure to try gulyasuppe, spicy and tempting, and something like a liquid Hungarian goulash. The Austrians are very fond of beef soups with dumplings; the best of these, we firmly believe, is leberknödelsuppe, which features dumplings made (this time) of finely ground liver. Speaking of dumplings, the Austrians have an absolute mania for all sorts of soup dumplings, noodles and the like. If you order meat, it will almost automatically come with some sort of dumpling, or noodle, or in any event with nockerln, a variation on the dumpling-noodle theme. 
No one need be reminded that the wienerschnitzel is a breaded veal preparation; without the breading, it's called naturschnitzel, or the way nature intended. When a fried egg is tastefully arranged on top of the schnitzel, it is featured as à la Holstein. If the wienerschnitzel isn't Austria's favorite meat dish, then boiled beef (rindfleish) surely must take that honor. It will usually be served with an assortment of side dishes - fresh horseradish, applesauce, pickles, etc. Fried chicken, backhendl, is a typical dish but it tastes like fried chicken does in Maryland. What we have Anglicized into goulash, the local people call gulyas, its correct name; in any event, it is good and should not be overlooked.
No one (in his right mind) fails to have at least one sachertorte, the double-rich chocolate cake layered with raspberry jam. The Linzer torte is a delicious confection made with almond paste. Don't miss an order of those tiny, sweet pancakes called palatschinken. Kaiserschmarrn, also very good, is an omelet cut into pieces and served with cottage cheese, jam and sugar.

 


Austria

FLAMENCO dancing, fandangos, passionate fiery music - all are a good indication of the type of food served in Spain. It's exotic and delicious. Some sections of the country use a great deal of garlic and olive oil; other parts have mild, well-flavored dishes. In Madrid, particularly, although the food is definitely Spanish, it has Continental overtones. There is one principal objection to Spanish food from the American point of view; it is often too oily. The better hotels and restaurants seldom overuse olive oil, but the smaller places tend to do so.
Breakfast hour is whenever you awaken. It is in the usual Continental style - half milk and half coffee plus a sweet roll similar to the French brioche. Lunch is your introduction to late meal hours. It starts as early as 1:30 in smaller communities but it may be 3 or 3:30 in Madrid or the larger cities. You'd better have some "tea" at about 5:30 - 6:30 if you expect to last until dinner. Dinner is not served until 10 P.M. or possibly 11 P.M. Even as late as midnight, if it's a large party. Cocktail parties in Madrid are called for about 9, but hardly anyone shows up until an hour later. How do you go to sleep after eating a big dinner just before midnight? One way is to eat your big meal in the middle of the day, and dine somewhat lightly at night. Or you can follow the local custom of taking a siesta in the late afternoon or early evening. Then you'll be able to do what the Spanish people apparently do - stay up till all hours of the night.

 


Spain

 

 

 

 

FRANCE is a country of gourmets. Every taxi-driver, peasant and businessman discusses food lovingly and seriously. Truck-drivers do not stop on the highway for a cheeseburger and coffee. The routiers, as they are called, enjoy a two-hour lunch of many courses and a bottle or two of wine. Wherever you go in France, there are endless discussions about restaurants - which are going up in quality, and which are going down. The love life of a well-known chef is followed with the keenest interest, for if he should be disappointed in love his skill would, in the public estimation, be impaired. Everyone has a special "little" restaurant hidden away where the tourists don't go, where, for an infinitesimal sum, one eats like a king. You are told that certain great restaurants are not as good as they once were, but then they probably never were. If an important spot is mentioned, inevitably someone will remark that it might have been good five years ago, but that it has slipped.
All of which merely illustrates the tremendous amount of interest in fine food; especially in Paris. Paris has an unbelievable number of restaurants - literally thousands of them. Unfortunately, many of the great names in the restaurant field have declined seriously in the past few years. In their place, new and comparatively little-known establishments have come to the fore. It isn't necessary to spend a large amount of money to enjoy a fine meal in Paris, but it is certainly easier if you're not concerned about the size of the final check. It's like that old saying about money not making you happy - it's true but you'll be very comfortable while you're unhappy.
Breakfast is served fairly early in the morning, and almost always consists of café au lait, coffee with hot milk, usually served with a brioche or a croissant, typical French breakfast pastries. If you are staying at a hotel, have it sent to your room; most hotels are not prepared to serve breakfast in the dining room. Since breakfast is so light, lunch, at about 12:30 or 1:00 P.M. is an important meal of several courses, bearing no relation to a typical American sandwich lunch. Dinner is served from about seven, but even later in the smarter restaurants.
In the vast majority of Parisian restaurants, it is practically impossible to order the equivalent of an American light lunch. Most people order a regular meal, course by course, and visitors are well advised to follow their example. Just relax, remember that you are in Paris on a vacation, and do what the local people do. You'll soon find it enjoyable and even look forward to it. If you should want a sandwich and an American-style cup of coffee, there are several such places, all well advertised, in the central part of Paris.
Menus are sometimes printed, but are often handwritten. The printed ones present no problem, but the handwritten ones require a certain amount of skill to decipher. Many menus contain items written in red (or some other distinctive color) which is intended to call attention to spécialités de la maison, house specialties. In most restaurants at home, designations such as "chef's special," etc., usually indicates only that the restaurant has too much roast beef on hand and is anxious to dispose of it. This is definitely not the case in France. Many restaurants have built up their reputations slowly and painstakingly over a period of years, principally because of a few well-known specialties. In this most competitive of all restaurant cities, the specialties are often dishes of considerable merit. Chefs spend many years in perfecting a few preparations, and put in an amount of effort and study which would astonish their counterparts at home. If the house specialty appeals to you, be sure and order it, because you will very probably find it worth while.
Another distinction should be drawn between the menu and the carte. The menu refers to a meal at a fixed price, the carte usually limits itself to items ordered à la carte, that is, individual dishes for which you pay by the item. Most French restaurants serve à la carte. A wonderful custom in France (which should immediately be adopted at home) is that of placing the menu and the carte in front of or outside the restaurant so that you can see (before you enter) what the specialties are, and what you will be expected to pay for them.
Look the menu or carte over carefully before making your selection. Do not feel obligated to order what the waiter suggests. Consider your selections carefully and order only those dishes which appeal to you. Many French restaurant owners complain that Americans order much too hastily, and thus do not get the dishes that please them. Don't forget that every Frenchman considers himself a one-man committee to evaluate restaurants so waiters are accustomed to people who take their time in making a selection.
Let us assume that you have ordered your meal, and that there now remains the question of wine. If you don't drink wine, don't feel compelled to order any. Most restaurants, however, will be very unhappy if you don't. But it must also be admitted that the average Frenchman would just as soon not eat as have a meal without wine. Since French people do not drink water with their meals, it is almost a complete waste of time to try and get some. If you are successful, it will inevitably be served at room temperature. In a very few places, particularly those on the tourist circuit, there has been a slight relaxation of the no-water-with-meals rule, but the custom is not widespread. You can order mineral water, however.
Some of the lower-priced restaurants serve an ordinary wine, vin ordinaire, usually in a pitcher or carafe. The better places serve only bottled wines at higher prices. Some important wines are as costly as an expensive dinner; the cheapest are so low in price as to be almost negligible. Many visitors who do not drink wine regularly with their meals (a description of the vast majority of Americans) have heard a great deal of discussion about the correct wine to be served with a particular food. If you are not a gourmet or a regular wine drinker, most of the very expensive wines will be wasted on you, for it takes time and effort to develop what the French call a cultivated palate. For the time being, until you feel that you have graduated into more learned circles, all that has to be remembered is that white wines are best with fish, and red wines with meat.
Now that you've ordered, it is just as well to put yourself in the frame of mind of the Parisian; in other words, relax and think about the delicious food which you are about to enjoy. Most offices, museums, and places of interest to tourists close for about two hours in the middle of the day, so there is certainly nothing to hurry you away from the full enjoyment of your lunch. Even businessmen eat a leisurely two-hour lunch. Don't forget that most French restaurants prepare food to order and that takes a little time; however, many things are often ready and are served promptly. In any event, do not go into a restaurant with the expectation of eating in a half-hour; it may be possible, but you surely will not enjoy your lunch.
Most Frenchmen believe in what is called the separation of courses. That is, each dish is eaten separately. Thus, it is next to impossible to get a salad served with your meat. Don't waste the effort required to get coffee served with your dessert. You will be fighting a losing battle, for on the one side will be little you and on the other side will be 45,000,000 Frenchmen who think you are crazy for mixing the flavor of your dessert with the taste and aroma of your coffee. As for getting coffee with your main course, the chances are so remote as to be nonexistent. It has been reported that a desperate American once outwitted the French. This shrewd American ordered a delicious pastry and wanted his coffee at the same time. Knowing that his waiter would be unwilling to bring the coffee until the dessert was finished, he carefully slipped the pastry into a napkin and placed it upon his lap. The waiter, thinking that the tourist had finished his dessert, brought the coffee. Do not take heart at this, for it as just one victory as against a thousand defeats. It is much better to become reconciled to the French way of doing things. The cards are stacked against you ...



France

 

SEAFOOD addicts will be very happy in Denmark, where the seafood is superb. Shrimp, lobster and oysters have a unique flavor difficult to describe. The miniature shrimp are so delicate in flavor that each bite will be a taste thrill. Don't limit yourself to shellfish; try the herring and other fine fish on all Danish menus. If you're having a meat dinner order some smoked fish as an appetizer.
Danish food can be recommended highly. Breakfast is fairly light, in the Continental fashion, consisting of the usual bread or roll and coffee. Unlike many other countries, it's quite possible to have cereal or eggs for breakfast if you want to. In the larger cities, most people lunch on the famous open sandwiches, the smørrebrød, which are available in bewildering variety. Smørrebrød may be divided into flat and high sandwiches. The flats are usually quite simple, being made with cheese or meat. The highs are elaborate and beautifully decorated, the most famous of them being the shrimp pyramid. You'll drink snaps, pale but potent, or possibly  beer with your open sandwiches. In the country, however, many people prefer to eat middag, dinner (a full meal), at about noon. The evening meal is served about 6:30. A fine after-dinner drink is cherry brandy, smooth and pleasant.
Have you ever had a soup made with beer? It's a great popular favorite all over the country, but for reasons known only to themselves, the Danes have it for breakfast. Cowardly tourists would undoubtedly like it better a little later in the day. Øllebrød is made with dark rye bread and malt beer; it is quite enjoyable although that first taste may startle you.

 


Denmark

 

 

SINCE Portugal is located on the Iberian peninsula next to Spain, most people assume the two countries have similar cuisines. Actually, Portuguese food has more in common with that of Italy than with its neighbor's. You'll find a southern Italian influence in its widespread use of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and onions.
Breakfast, consisting of the customary hot coffee and milk plus a roll and jelly, is served in your room. Lunch is fairly substantial and begins at about 1 or 2 P.M. At about 4:30, the outdoor cafés fill up with people who eat innumerable tiny, delicious pastries accompanied by Portugal's excellent coffee - possibly the best in Europe, since Portugal is a first cousin of Brazil. Toward 6 or 7 in the evening, the pastry enthusiasts are replaced by the apéritif-drinkers who drink light alcoholic concoctions and eat miniature olives and salted nuts. The dinner hour, from 8 (or so) until midnight, is a meal of many courses, slowly and enjoyably savored. Desserts are extremely rich by our standards, for the Portuguese people are inordinately fond of sweets. In fact there is a local saying to the effect that Portugal is a small morsel, but is is a morsel of sugar.
If you've never heard of fado singing, don't miss the opportunity. Fado is a mournful style, nostalgic as only the Portuguese know how to be. A presumably unhappy girl sings about how her boyfriend (a) went away, (b) doesn't love her any more, (c) is mad at her, (d) found someone else, or worst of all (e) is married and now has seven children. A good fado singer can go all the way to "z" with ease. The best fado may be heard in all the small places on the hill overlooking Lisbon in the oldest quarter of the city; typical spots are Machado, Luso, Mesquita, Patricio. You can cry with the singer and let your tears fall into your glass of port wine. Port is so rich that even diluted it's still very good.

 


Portugal

 

 

FOUR hundred years ago the Venetians had the greatest cuisine of any nation. In 1533 when Catherine de Médicis married the Duke of Orléans (who later became King Henry II of France), she brought Italian chefs with her to teach the French how to cook. France went on to surpass the Italians in culinary skill but the Italians still have many delicious specialties.
Italian eating places are divided into the following classifications: a ristorante is the best type of restaurant and serves good meals; a trattoria is simpler, less fancy and more reasonably prices; a rosticceria specializes in a few simple preparations and is low in cost; an osteria is practically nothing but a little hole in the wall, but very handy when you want just a quick snack.
Although it forms a wonderful part of it, there's more to Italian food than spaghetti. In northern Italy, spaghetti is replaced by rice as a staple food; polenta, made with cornmeal, is also a great favorite. Pasta is the term for all dough products: pasta asciutta (dry dough) describes these boiled, drained and served with sauce; pasta in brodo refers to those in soup. Maccheroni, macaroni, is the generic description for all types. Visitors are advised to try all of the different kinds listed on the menu (but not all at the same meal!). Just because spaghetti is the one dish we know so well in our own country, don't limit yourself to it. For example, try  fettucine, a thin egg noodle; cappelletti (little hats), stuffed with various mixtures; cannelloni, rolled noodle dough stuffed with delicious fillings; gnocchi, potato or cornmeal dumplings, a great Thursday  specialty in Rome. Most Americans eat overcooked pasta. The Italians prefer it al dente, literally "to the tooth", which means that it is cooked to the moment of perfection and then served immediately; at that point it will offer the very slightest resistance to the bite of your dente. Be adventurous, try all the new pastas that come your way. Just a few final words about spaghetti or similar dishes: don't order it with meatballs (you won't get it), and don't wind spaghetti around a fork held against a soup spoon (just not done).
First-time visitors in Italy expect to find garlic, tomatoes and olive oil in everything. That may be true of the southern part of the country, but it is definitely not the rule in Rome and farther north. In the extreme north, most Italians do not particularly like olive oil and garlic, preferring to cook in butter.
Breakfast is a simple matter of caffè latte, coffee with hot milk, and a piece of bread or pastry. If you're hungry later in the morning, stop at a spuntino and order the traditional morning cappucino, a coffee and milk mixture forced through an expresso machine. Lunch (at about one o'clock) is a substantial meal of many courses. In Rome, dinner doesn't begin until 8 P.M. or even later; outside of Rome, you may dine somewhat earlier. You'll probably find yourself eating more than you are accustomed to, so try to limit yourself to one dish of pasta, and one sweet dessert a day. Why not have a fresh fruit and cheese instead? Try Gorgonzola with a pear, a classic combination; Bel Paese, soft and mild; fresh Pecorino, slightly salty but with a good strong taste; Ricotta, so delicate that you eat it with sugar or cinnamon.

 


Italy

Breakfast and Restaurant Terms

English..................Italian

1. orange juice = succo d'arancia
2. toast = pane abbrustolito
3. coffee = caffè
4. napkin = tovagliolo
5. fork = forchetta
6. spoon = cucchiaio
7. knife = coltello
8. glass = bicchiere
9. plate = piato
10. cup = tazza
11. waiter = cameriere
12. bill of fare = lista delle vivande; menu
13. bread and butter = pane e burro
14. tea = tè
15. water = acqua
16. ice water = acqua ghiacciata
17. mineral water = acqua minerale
18. breakfast = prima colazione
19. lunch = colazione
20. dinner = pranzo
21. please = per favore
22. thank you very much = molte grazie

 

 

MANY gourmets think that Belgian food is as good as that of France; some even go a step further and say it is better. In any event, the food is definitely good, frequently superb. Of course, almost everything on a typical menu will be basically French, but a little effort and searching for Belgian specialties will be well worth while.
The local cuisine places a strong emphasis upon seafood, especially shellfish. Just as Americans think in terms of a hamburger or hot dogs as a familiar snack, so do the Belgians regard mussels. Most Americans shy away from mussels, but if you enjoy fried clams, then don't fail to try moules et frites, which are steamed mussels and fried potatoes; incidentally, the combination is delicious. If you drive along the coast, you'll encounter many roadside places selling this Belgian favorite, as well as the run-of-the-mill fish. Extremely popular, too, are shrimp. Unlike Americans, who dearly love the biggest (of everything), the locals much prefer the smaller shrimp, which they believe to be far superior to the giant types. But in any event, rest assured that any fish or shellfish selected will be fresh and delicious.
Most Belgian soups are quite rich; too rich, in fact. On a cold day, a thick, hot, soup may be appealing. But on a warm day in July, the same potage has little appeal to most Americans. The one outstanding Belgian soup is the waterzooï, a sort of half-soup, half-stew, a meal in itself. Both the chicken and the fish waterzooï are recommended.
If you like sausages, Belgium is the place for you. Although the variety is not so infinite as may be found in Germany, there are literally scores of different types, shapes, colors and ingredients. The national dish of the country is surely carbonnades flamande, a type of beef stew made with beer. It is hereby recommended, even to cautious eaters. Also worthy of mention is the hochepot, a stew made with vegetables, which may be good or may not, depends on who makes it. The belgian cooks do a great job with the goose, and if you like goose, nothing further need be said.
As everyone knows, those miniature cabbages called Brussels sprouts came from here; if you care for them, be sure to order a portion. Of course, if you don't, there's nothing further we could possibly say. The other local vegetable is endive, excellent for salad, but often served as a first-rate hot vegetable. Belgian cheeses are so-so, or slightly better but certainly not as good as the imported French varieties.
When it comes to desserts, the Belgians bow to no man. It is as if they had never heard of calories, or even of cholesterol. Whipped cream is piled with reckless abandon upon double-rich cakes interlined with butter creams, and the whole affair is frequently doused with sweet liqueurs, candied fruits and chopped nuts. Well, you can always diet when you get home. 
Belgium has no local wines, and the French products are standard. For those who enjoy beer, there are several interesting types worth sampling, and these are uniformly good in big cities or hamlets. 

  


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