|published by Bantam Books Inc. 1956|
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Breakfast and Restaurant Terms
1. orange juice = succo d'arancia
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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