Enjoying the Local Cuisine, by Rich Paschall

Imagine getting on a plane and flying for eight hours, landing in another country, to go to McDonald’s.  The premise may sound a bit absurd, but it is the sort of thing many people do.  When we stayed in London recently, we found a street nearby that has a Burger King, Subway sandwiches and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In fact, there is no shortage of American fast food places near the tourist-laden Paddington area.  These familiar sites attract many tourists, largely American, as well as some others and some locals.  We walked past these familiar stops in favor of local businesses.

It does not matter how many seats they have

It does not matter how many seats they have

For some the familiarity is the thing that drives them into the establishments they know from home.  They will certainly get food they can eat at prices that are still reasonable.  To me, it does not matter.  I did not go all that way to eat at someplace I can visit walking distance from my house.  If I want a Whopper with Cheese, fries and a diet Coke, I know where to get it.

On the same street with the American fast food giants were local coffee shops and restaurants, a pub or two and even a London Chicken stop that looked like they may be providing fast food.  We skipped it too. Of course, if you are on a limited budget, you may wish to go places where the food is cheap.  However, local business may also have food at reasonable rates.

My friend from France has a motto by which we travel.  “Eat local, drink local.” That does not include local fast food.  We always skip those.  If we are unfamiliar with a location, we pick out something that looks good and we give it a try.  Sometimes you must have a sense of adventure.  It does not mean you have to spend a lot of money.

Beer, Food, Beds!

Beer, Food, Beds!

Within walking distance of our London hotel, we found many shops and small restaurants for breakfast and lunch.  At dinner time we checked out the local pubs, never going to the same one twice.   In a spot called the House of Paddington, where they served Fish and Chips all day, the edge of the awning advertised Beer, Food and Beds.  Since we passed it everyday, our curiosity was finally aroused enough to visit it on the last night.  As I did not yet have Fish and Chips on the trip, I went ahead and ordered.  And yes, they do have beds for weary travelers or maybe for someone who has stayed too long.  They run a hostel on the floors above.

Some think that food in England is rather bland, but the only thing I found to be that way was the fish (cod) and chips.  Everything else was tasty.  We washed down dinner with local ales, taking recommendations from the bartender at each stop.  “Nothing too bitter” was my request each time, while my travel companion was content to drink the dark and bitter stuff.  We had plenty of selections that we had never heard of before.

Drink local

Drink local – London

If you can not afford to eat at local spots, no matter how reasonable, then you may consider dropping into local markets for your breakfast and lunch and picking out items that are easy to make or you can eat on the run.  Some years ago when I visited Paris with a friend, we discovered that our tiny room also came with a tiny refrigerator.  We pushed aside those hotel items to make room for some yogurt, water and whatever we could make fit.  In that way, we ate out less often and did not pay for the mini bar items. In fact, I have used this trick a number of times.

I love the food and wine in France.  I am fortunate to have a close friend in the Alsace region and we have toured there a lot.  Of course, he took me to some of his favorite spots, and at other times we tried something that was new to us both.  It is good to know someone who knows all the good wine tasting locations as well.

French cuisine and fine wine

Eat local, drink local – France

Once we met in Frankfurt and travelled to Stuttgart by train.  We attended the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart during the traditional Oktoberfest season, but I have wisely decided not share any of those pictures.  Let me just say the food and drink were excellent.  We have a pastry shop picture instead.

Eat local - Germany

Eat local – Germany

When my friend from Alsace makes the long trip to Chicago, he does not want to see the Burger King or Ronald McDonald when there are so many good restaurants and sports bars.  I could name locations in this country as well as others, where we avoided the fast food for the local fare. When you are on the road, find out what is good to eat at your destination city, and skip the fast food you can get at home.

Eat local - Chicago

Eat local – Chicago

Categories: #Food, Culture, Travel

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30 replies

  1. When I first got to Israel, I didn’t have a clue what food was good. Eventually I discovered a million tiny restaurants, all with the name “Mother” in title. Inevitably, Mom was the head cook. She had a few daughters and maybe a niece or two working their way up — as well as a few sons doing the serving and busing and usually, some money management. ALL of them were good

    All the food was some version of Middle Eastern Jewish — meaning no pork, no dairy.

    The absolutely best food EVERY was served by your friends and neighbors on Shabbat. Our Moroccan neighbors with whom Owen played could COOK. I don’t know if every family are quite as brilliant as those neighbors on Hebron Road, but … OH my LORD.

    Owen got to eat out pretty much every Friday night. His friends mothers loved him. Lood at that tall skinny kid — doesn’t any FEED HIM? They could feed him to death and he’d roll home and tell us about the food. I’d drool.

    Middle eastern food is labor intensive to a degree that is hard to even explain. It take days to make all those little chopped up dishes that are wrapped in cous-cous or grape leaves or some light yet delightfully crunchy cover. We called those skinny roll-ups in thin fila dough “cigarettes” which they resembled in form, but too delicious to describe.

    Everything was chopped, seasoned, sometimes cooked, sometimes semi-raw or entirely raw, and wrapped. Then there were the sauces ranging from red (hot) to green (blow your head off hot). Owen learned to love ALL of it. I never quite made it to the green stuff, but I loved the red sauce.

    There were some other foods, too. Israel adopted a bunch of Vietnam boat people who had nowhere else to go, so they took over opening oriental restaurants. Some were pretty good, some not so great, but at least it was different.

    Italian was popular: Kosher which meant meatless because the cheese was more important than the meat — or non Kosher. But it wasn’t as good as Italian restaurants in New York. Then again, few Italian restaurants are as good as they were unless you go to Italy where my mother assured me you would find the BEST FOOD IN THE UNIVERSE. She used to diet in advance of traveling to Italy because she always came back 10 pounds heavier.

    In Israel, though, the great food was “tribally” local. Moroccan, Tunisian, Syrian, Persian, Algerian and sometimes Kenyan or generally Arabian — everything was GREAT. Also expensive. Eating out was surprisingly expensive,so getting an invitation from a neighbor was like getting invited to the best restaurant in town,

    I miss the food. I can make just about the best hummus you’ve ever eaten, but the rest of it the food requires mother and three well-trained daughters — and about a week to prepare it. You don’t see that around here. Maybe in other cities, but not in New England.

    We settle for good Japanese food. Sushi and tempura and anything that comes in rolls. But so far, not very good Chinese. There were some wonderful Chinese restaurants in Boston, but not out here.
    I’m told there are good Indian places in Worcester and in Providence, but we don’t like a lot of traveling for dinner. I don’t mind going, but when we’re full of food, we don’t want a long trip home.

    Retirement, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have a large variety of restaurants here. Deep dish pizza seems to be a big thing for Chicago people. It’s as if we invented this version of pizza. It is nothing like Italy, or New York for that matter.
      I am guessing the Jewish delicatessens and restaurants are not like Israel at all, although some are very good. My father liked a family restaurant in Lincolnwood called What’s cooking? I didn’t know everything on the menu and was not too adventurous about food when I was young.


  2. Reblogged this on Sunday Night Blog and commented:

    If you are travelling this year, enjoy the local cuisine. Hit the link below, View original post, to continue over to SERENDIPITY and continue reading.


  3. I try to eat local as well, it’s much more fun. On at least two occasions I’m pretty sure I ate in the worse restaurant in San Francisco! But I had a fantastic Po Boy in Houston. Steak is hit or miss in Houston.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Many years ago my husband was on a convention in Strasbourg. One evening we were wandering down some back street where there was this lovely little restaurant. The owner invited us in and we had the most wonderful meal of cannelloni I’ve ever eaten. The price was reasonable but the food was out of this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was in Edinburgh in 2006 and just couldn’t resist the temptation to try a MacDonald’s Hamburger out of pure curiosity. It wasn’t the same and I promise, I’ll never do that again. In spite of the reputation that Brits can’t cook, I found some rather delicious items all over London and Scotland. BTW, if you want great East Indian food the UK is the Place.., go figure?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And even more important, buy regional food at home for example on real local markets. We have such in Germany everywhere.

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    • There are German markets in Chicago as well as many other ethnic stores. I guess it is the same in most large cities. Also, we can find many German products at Aldi, which is a German owned supermarket with several locations here.

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      • Sorry, you misunderstood me a little bit, I meant real traditional markets on places in towns / villages where regional products can be distributed and sold more directly by producers, peasants, hunters, etc. to the buying consuments (not so many between sellers like in supermarkets). Well the quality of Aldi products have really significantly improved in the recent 10 years, however these big supermarket chains more and more behave like dictators of agriculture what is not at all desirable and good for us all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree and there are many local and traditional markets here of quality. I love the French Markets and there are many German markets here as well. Yes, Aldi has improved greatly and now has many organic and locally grown items as well as imports. Ten years ago it was not a place to shop.

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  7. The weirdest thing about eating in these places is that the food they serve is usually nothing like what you get in the US anyhow. So you might as well enjoy the local cuisine, because they really don’t have a clue how to cook American-style outside of America. A hamburger in London can be traumatic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had a hamburger in a pub actually. It wasn’t bad. The rest of the meal was good too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They used to make hamburgers from something that tasted rather like corned beef. Definitely salted. When I asked WHY they used that strange version of minced beef, they said it was “American style.” It wasn’t so much bad as weird. Ireland also had some very odd ideas of what we eat here. In any case, why travel halfway round the world to eat in MacDonald’s? Especially if the food is just like back home. If that’s what you want, stay home.

        Liked by 1 person

        • On a trip to London in the 1990s we could not resist the urge to eat in a restaurant called Chicago. The food did not resemble anything I ever had here, and it was not very good either.


      • Rich, I can never understand our fellow Americans who travel abroad to old world cities and wondrous history — only to eat at Mickey Dee’s, never sample local cuisine or drink and stick to standard tours.
        What’s the purpose?? A few souvenirs??
        Happy New Year, Rich!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Happy New Year! These later in life trips include a few pictures, perhaps a refrigerator magnet saying where I have been and great memories. They do not include stops at American chain restaurants, especially those a few moments from home.

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