(Above are just some of the many images I have of George in the various kitchens he has worked in on this trip: Trieste, a fish in Dubrovnik/Mlini, singing happy birthday to me on Andros Island, and Barcelona. Since he has been the one to do almost all of the cooking on this trip, I’ll let him write about the delights of markets, and working in some very tiny kitchen spaces….)
Two days later: Well, George is writing out his lengthy blog by hand, taking it very seriously, and will eventually get it up on this site. In the meantime, let me just make some comments about our favorite topic, food. While we would have liked to dine out all the time while on this trip, we would never have been able to afford to do this for as long as we have been travelling. We have found restaurants to be relatively expensive everywhere we have been, and in some places like London, prohibitively so. Sadly, there don’t seem to be many real steals anymore in Europe unless you really, really search, or end up in very tiny, out of the way places. When we do eat out, we usually have gone at lunch time, we don’t drink alcohol (G. has occasionally had a glass of wine or two if at dinner), and we share the appetizer and usually one salad. In every place we have been, we have been averaging about €30 as a minimum, €65-70 as a maximum. We have splurged a couple times and gone as high as €80-100. We have tried to find authentic modest places, and have sometimes been very happy with what we have found, and other times rather disappointed. We have had some plates of the day–the ”menus”–that have been less than €30, especially in Barcelona, where we had the most consistently good food. In other words, daily menus are rarely under €10. One of our biggest surprises was that fish in the Southern countries–even in Portugal–was not cheap, indeed was quite expensive. We had to pay €20 for one medium-sized fish in Andros, for example, that we took home to cook ourselves. What was reasonable in restaurants in all these countries–Portugal, Spain, and Greece (and now Italy)–was shellfish: mussels, clams, shrimp, and squid.
Restaurant times: I have already mentioned this in other blogs, I think, but it has been fascinating to learn the variations in eating times in all these places. We never bothered with restaurants for breakfast, since most Europeans aren’t too big on early breakfast, except for a croissant or Semmel and coffee. In Vienna, we did run down to the corner bakery for fresh Semmel, but otherwise, we had all our breakfasts at home.
Lunchtime in the North: noon to 2, at which time many restaurants usually stop serving. Then there’s the South: in Portugal it was possible to find restaurants open for lunch as early as 12:30 SOMETIMES, but they really preferred 1 to 3. In Spain, nothing was even open for lunch until 1:30, and most Spaniards don’t eat until at least 2, and some as late as 4 p.m. Greece is like Spain, although they usually eat before 4. Then in Croatia, it was back to lunch 1-2:30, and in Italy, lunch starts at noon until 3 or perhaps 4. (Why the Italians are back to Northern times, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s because we are so far north in Italy!). You can imagine how worried George became about lunch.
We never ate out for dinner in Spain or Greece, since we were in bed by the time they started getting around to dinner. Really! You cannot find a restaurant open in Barcelona for dinner before 8:30, and that’s considered childishly early to eat. And our friend Evy in Greece was often preparing dinner for her family at 10:30! We are just too old to adjust to these different times, although we did get used to having lunch at 2 and dinner at home at 8. We also got used to little coffee stops at mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon with pastries or sandwiches–this is certainly the way Southerners eat, kind of snacking a lot all day. We saw Barcelonans having sandwiches, tortas, at 10 a.m., and even drinking wine then.
So we did a lot of cooking and a lot of visiting markets throughout Europe! Or let me correct that: GEORGE did a lot of cooking! He just kind of commandeered the kitchen from the start, and since it seems to make him happy, who am I to protest? (I did keep my hand in with ”my” dishes: dressing salad, making pesto, Haselnusstorte, pies, and Thanksgiving dinner!) He loves going to the markets, especially the open markets, and he has found it a challenge dealing usually with less than optimum cooking arrangements. What a guy! On that note, I will end this first of what will probably be several notes on foodways, and hope George gets around to writing his thought son the subject soon.