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I'm a Brit. I'm also a closet Frenchman. To cap it all, I'm happily retired in Bangkok, the city of a street food culture that's second to none. The Thais are healthy and slim. I'm just this side of alive and far from slim. Lockdown has me fantasizing about my days working in London, Paris and New York, an existence, if one could call it that, revolving around gastronomy of one kind or another. They paid me, not so very much as it happens, to do what I enjoy doing most in life. We all get to do it, but I was one of a fortunate few who made it his metier. Well all that's in the past now, but I still dream of my time in Paris when lunch was a tad short of 2-hours, little-known local bistros remained affordable until the day they were discovered by La Bible (Michelin Guide) and the students were revolting - this was the summer of '68, for heaven's sake. Someone should open bistro here in Bangkok with a table d'hote of Soupe a l'Oignon gratinee, Blanquette de Veau, a stinky Epoisses and Tarte Tatin to finsih with creme fraiche. Ah, it's back to lockdown and pad Thai.
I was thinking of doing a food blog of my recent trip through parts of New Zealand's south island. Most of the food we had was nothing spectacular, but the experiences and various scenery we had over the trip were amazing. Is there any interest in this?
It's one o'clock on a warm summer's day in Florence, I'm on my way to get ingredients for lunch. The sun is high in the sky, the cobblestones are warm under my feet and the aroma of something delicious is in the air. My mind starts to drift to the onions, celery and tomatoes I need for my pasta sauce, oh and don't forget something sweet for dessert...this truly is la dolce vita.
My thoughts are soon interrupted by an unwelcome "chiuso" sign on the door of my new favorite deli. The blinds are closed and the friendly owners are nowhere in sight. The reality of having my favorite pasta dish for lunch was slipping further and further away.
What a nightmare! How can this be?
A local passing by must have noticed my frustration. "Signorina, è riposo. Tutto è chiuso!"
Of course! How could I forget about the sacred Italian siesta?
A siesta or riposo, as most Italians call it, is a time of rest. This time is usually around midday, or the hottest part of the day (very inconvenient if you're craving a bowl of pasta.) No one can really say where the tradition of the siesta originates, but many say it's all about food (no surprises there really).
For many Italian families the main meal of the day is lunch. This heavy meal in the middle of the day is attributed to the standard Mediterranean diet: A minuscule breakfast of a coffee and pastry , a heavy lunch and an evening meal around 10 o'clock. The logic is that after such a heavy meal one would surely be drowsy and need to rest, no one can work efficiently on a full stomach!
Post offices, car rentals, supermarkets and even coffee shops (in some smaller towns police stations too) all close their doors for a riposo. Everything comes to a standstill as every Italian goes home to kick of their shoes, enjoy a homemade lunch with family and bask in the Italian sunshine for three to four hours. This is serious business. One would not dare work for 8 hours straight. After their riposo most businesses open again around 4 o'clock and stay open till 7pm. Its the perfect balance between work and play and does wonders for your digestive system!
"Grazie!" I thanked her for the reminder. The midday sun started to become unbearable. The streets had cleared with only a few tourists braving the midday heat still around. I thought about the strawberries I bought from the market earlier that week. Strawberries for lunch on my shaded balcony and maybe a nap afterwards sounded like my perfect riposo. The pasta will have to wait till 4.
OK.... here we go again!!! While this post is a bit premature (we don't take off until around 1:30AM tonight), I am extremely excited so I figured I'd just set up the topic now. As in previous foodblogs, I may post a bit from time to time while we're there, depending on how good my internet connection is, and how much free time I have... but the bulk of posting will really get started around July 9th - the day after we get home (hopefully without too much jetlag!!!)
OK - so I think it's very fitting for my 1000th post that I start this food blog... I love eGullet, and have been a member for several years, but I don't post that often, and have never done anything like this, so please bear with me!!!
My wife and I left NYC for Singapore on July 1st, at 1:25AM on an EVA flight connecting through Taipei, Taiwan. There used to be a direct NY to Singapore flight on Singapore Airlines, but SA discontinued it a few years ago. I like the long overnight flight to Asia because, on a 14 hour flight, it gives you plenty of time to eat (they feed you very well on those flights), medicate yourself and sleep for 6-8 hours, then wake up and watch a few movies before landing at about 6AM. Plus, since the flight leaves so late, it makes it much easier to sleep on the flight (especially after working a full day beforehand).
The EVA flight is quite comfortable, even in coach. When I say they feed you well, I mean it - dinner was a stir fried chicken with steamed bok choy and rice, with many sides. Throughout the flight they came through the cabin with mustard coated fried chicken sandwiches as snacks, then breakfast of pork congee with many sides (including a package of fish floss). Sorry, I didn't take photos of the above - I was exhausted!
We had about a 2 hour layover in the airport in Taiwan, so what does that mean? Time for dim sum and beef noodle soup!!!
This was our breakfast destination
Left to right, Xie Long Bao (Shanghainese pork soup dumplings), char siu bao (fluffy buns filled with BBQ pork - although this Taiwanese version was not nearly as sweet as the typical Hong Kong version), Taiwanese beef noodle soup, and a loose leaf oolong tea. With the waters, cost about US$20!!! It was quite the feast, especially after the constant EVA flight 'buffet', and the fact that they were going to feed us again on our next flight to Singapore!
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