food

Weird food in other countries…

12 Comments 18 April 2012

dteak and ale pie

I know, it looks... 'odd' but Steak and Ale pie is one of my all time British favourites!

The thing about weird food in other countries is that if you eat it often enough it stops being weird, it becomes regular and some of it even becomes new favourites.

When I first went to a British BBQ I looked at the sausages that appeared so different from the hot dogs or sausage patties I was used to and I had to hold fairly tightly onto my resolution to try everything at least once. I just wasn’t convinced they would be easy to eat. But at about the third bite I thought it could probably work. Not as a substitute but as something different to have. Now, twenty some years later, one of my favourite pub meals is sausages, mash and Yorkshire puddings. And if the pub gets the sausages from a specific butcher then I know the sausages will be especially good. See, I’ve even become a sausage connoisseur.

But although I have new favourites in Britain, I still love food from home. Sometimes I crave it because I just like the flavour and I crave it as anyone craves a flavour no matter where it comes from. And sometimes I crave it simply because of the emotional connotations–it’s from home and it’s fun to walk down memory lane.

I once posted on my previous blog, A Mid-Atlantic English that a Taco Bell had opened near me. I was excited (but being realistic, I know that chain restaurants taste different around the world). I wasn’t looking forward to sampling the haute cuisine Taco Bell had to offer; I was looking forward to the trip down memory lane. Most commenters understood and shared their similar experiences. But one reader took great exception to my being an expat and my celebrating the arrival of yet another American chain restaurant. I knew what she was trying to say, but I think she missed what I was trying to say. I wasn’t offering up any political statement, I was just thinking about all those years I worked at a taco joint through high school and I wanted to share that same feeling of excitement some expats get at the arrival of a memory trigger. It really was that basic. (As it was, the food was terrible, but I got to gaze at the sign and share my teenage taco-making stories with my friend while I sat in the food court eating the terrible food.)

Sometimes I think expats can get too militant about how they think fellow expats should experience the world, but other times I too feel a bit frustrated with close mindedness of some people.

I’m nearing the completion date of a small book of tips for expats (ideas for making the most of our life overseas) and one chapter is on food. New expat or seasoned traveller, you may find some of my tips for enjoying food overseas useful, and I’ve turned my chapter into an article, One of the best souvenirs from living overseas, for my regular column this month over at Expat Focus–and if you have any to add, that would be great!

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12 Comments so far

  1. Iota says:

    I find there’s a fear-or-the-unknown barrier to cross. If you don’t do it in your first few weeks, then you probably won’t ever. There really is a whole bank of knowledge you need, just to order a meal in a fast food restaurant. The servers won’t be expecting someone who doesn’t know what a “meal combo” is.

    or example, I’ve never been to a Taco Tico or Taco Bell, because I’m afraid I wouldn’t understand the choices, and I’d be too embarrassed to ask! I didn’t have that embarrassment in my early days (the British accent gets you a long way!) For the same reason, I’ve never eaten at Sonic (do you REALLY order from inside your car? do they REALLY bring the food out to you?), or Spangles.

  2. Tammy says:

    This past weekend I bought a heavily marked up jar of Branston Pickle – one of my favorite foods from my stay in England. Like you and Taco Bell, I love telling the story of the first time I tried it – on a Ploughman’s sandwich at a hotel in Scotland. Unlike Taco Bell, however, I <3 the taste of it.

    I know what you mean about food having emotional connotations. I used it as a homesick cure. I'd get care packages of my favorite unavailable food stuffs. My British friends often turned their nose up at it, but to me it was just what I needed.

    It's not that you want to Americanize England. Just every now and then a reminder from your past is welcome.

  3. Expat Mum says:

    I tried a few different things in Ghana (where I had no choice), and it was mostly good. Some of the time I just didn’t ask what was in it.
    Last week in Costa Rica I ate everything – and eel (even in a ceviche) still tastes like a stinky worm! Yuck!

    • Dunk says:

      Eel has to be cooked properly, and by that I don’t mean jellied. Jellied eels are godawful.

      Ever tried smoked eel? It’s yummy

      There’s a list of odd things I’ve eaten over on my food blog if you’re intereseted.

      messingaboutinthekitchen.wordpress.com

      Yep, there’s some weird stuff to be had in China, that’s for sure

  4. Lucy says:

    I remember my brother ordering burger in either Italy or Switzerland, and it being served on a plate covered with gravy!

    On childhood holidays in Switzerland we always visited the Movenpick restaurants, so as an adult to see a Movenpick on Leicester Square really made me smile!

    Food does bring back memories. One of my favourites as a child was salad potatoes with salad cream!

  5. That’s one of my favorite British dishes as well Michelle. I have always thought Taco Bell was nasty. It’s so overly processed, to me the soft fajitas have the consistency of play-doh. LOL

  6. Steak and Kidney pie is my favourite and – I have to say – you cannot get good sausages here in california!

  7. Dunk says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time im the States, both wrking and just trolling about liking the place.
    I’ve tried to explain to my Brit friends (I’m a Brit too) the delights of grits and gravy. It’s hard to explain that gravy made the way it is over there, with strong black coffee used to degalze the skillet, is a perfect accompaniment to something that looks like semolina pudding from UK school dinners.
    Chicken fried steak? What a fabulous invention. You can feel your arteries hardening as you eat it.
    Jello salad? This may or may not be a Utah speciality, but I don’t care. Looks horrible on paper, but it’s really rather good. And filling
    I rather like cornbread too. I don’t think it will catch on here

  8. Dutch girl says:

    Get to know Dutch food and culture in a unique way? Dinner at a Dutch Kitchen table in a Dutch Home. Learn more about Dutch culture, find out more about Holland, finally meet real Dutch. For many expats this dinner is a memorable experience and unique way to find out more about Holland. A way to make new friends in Holland.

    I am one of the cooks for HomeFoodHolland and I want to welcome you in my home. It is a wonderful concept that brings together many cultures.

  9. Mindy says:

    When I was in Hawaii, I went to a place that was suposed to be a “British Pub” and had a steak and ail pie. looked exactly like your picture and it was delicious! Now, since we were in Hawaii, I have no way of knowing if it would taste the same in England!

    Also, my Mom has a friend who is a British expat here in Illinois. She made us Bangers and Mash, and Bubble and Squeake, and Both were also fabulous!

    But I will try anything! I love sushi, and sushi with eel and the eel sauce is my favorite!

  10. Dunk says:

    I have to ask if the bubble’n'squeak was fried in lard. If it wasn’t, it’s probably very good, but it’s not really authentic…
    Lard. Does anyone buy that any more?
    The Lard Marketing Board must have very quiet days at work, eh?
    do yu know, I’ll eat pretty much anything (apart from beetroot), and I’ve tried very hard with sushi, and I just can’t be bothered with it. It’s not anything bad, just I can’t be bothered.
    I do like eel though, as long as it’s not jellied, and smoked eel is sublime

  11. Mindy says:

    I think she used Crisco shortning….not sure.


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