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Margaret Pilgrim

What food/s do you miss most when you travel?

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Is there a food that you particularly miss or crave when you're away from home?  How far do you have to get before you notice that this food is no longer available?  Do you try to substitute in your new environment? Have you ever found a better product in your search?

Mine is San Francisco Mission District Mexican Tacqueria fare.  I have finally given up trying to eat burritos because a proper SF burrito is enough food for a 180 lb. man for a whole day.  But when I'm away for a couple of weeks, I begin to need a super taco: 2 5" corn tortillas layered with beans (pinto, refried, black), meat (carnitas, carne asada, grilled chicken, al pastor, lengua, chile verde, several moles), fresh salsa, shredded lettuce, shredded jack cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomato and onion slices, cilantro.  ū.45, including all the jalapenos you can eat, a huge pile of fresh tortilla chips and 3 kinds of table salsas.  It's my regular Friday lunch, and the one I head for when I get back to town.

This presentation is available in about a half dozen small shops in one district of SF.  I can go about 10 days before I start needing jalapenos and cilantro.  When the going gets bland, I will try anyone's version of any kind of Latin American food, or even substitute Indian, Thai and Sechuan, but always look forward to coming home to this fresh and sparkling favorite.

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My diet is, shall we say, diverse. That's a way of saying that I eat a lot, all the time. So when I hit the road it takes me awhile to miss anything. It actually takes me awhile to get hungry at all. But when I do start to get cravings, they're usually for foods we in New York take for granted: Pizza (for all my complaining in print about the general decline of New York City pizza, the reality is that the average New York slice shop would be the best pizzeria in most small American towns), deli (both Jewish and Italian-style deli sandwiches, competently prepared, are a rarity in the rest of America, though they can be found in some surprising places), and bagels (again, an area where New York has declined but is still way ahead of the pack) are leading examples. What I also miss is the Fairway style of grocery store, where the best cheeses, charcuterie, olives, etc. available in America are displayed unpretentiously in a high turnover environment -- and priced reasonably.

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" The best cheeses in America"  Mmm?  rather like saying the best drivers in Italy.

Anyway, there are not many things I miss on my travels as there are always so many wonderful things to eat.  That being said, I find I soon begin to crave a McVitie's Choccy Digestive Biscuit after a few days deprevation.  I have days dreams about dipping them in a cup of tea and sucking all the choc off.  Bliss

S

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What I miss when I travel is a good American-style breakfast. I cook a hot breakfast every morning, and after a week of pastries, I want a blue plate special, or a Southern style breakfast, like biscuits and gravy. Or grits, country ham, and corn bread. Nobody else in the world understands how to cook proper breakfast potatoes, or knows what breakfast sausage is. And then they try to serve us an "English-style breakfast" because we speak English. Stuff I wouldn't serve to my family even if I was in a bad mood. And they wouldn't eat it even if I did.

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It's not that I eat home very much but when I am on vacation I start to crave homecooked meals, yogurt which I eat almost everyday and fresh fruit.

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fresh ground pepper, which is why i have 3 of those "mini-grinders."  a traveler's best friend, imho.

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Tommy--you bring a pepper grinder with you on vacation?

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Quote: from Rosie on 1:04 pm on Sep. 23, 2001

Tommy--you bring a pepper grinder with you on vacation?

without a doubt.  i "discovered" the beauty of this, and other things, on my honeymoon in fact.
  • Haha 1

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Quote: from Rosie on 6:58 am on Sep. 24, 2001

Do I dare ask???;)

scuba diving.

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Easy question. The ONLY type of food I miss is simply-cooked food (which is what I mostly get at home). After a few days away, I'm just craving for meat without sauce, vegetables cooked al dente without sauce or dressing.

When I'm away, I eat a lot of wonderful food, but oh for chicken that just tastes like chicken, cabbage that just tastes like cabbage.

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I know this doesn't sound exotic or adventurous but I miss a nice chewy sugar-free apple or pear bran muffin. Most of the muffins I find while traveling are oversized, tasteless and too sweet. For instance, why do bakers add so much sugar to their carrot muffins when carrots get sweeter as they cook. Lots of muffins are really cake in disguise and I always miss good NY muffins in the few places I've been able to find them (even those are hard to find in Manhattan).

I also miss good strong coffee when traveling as so much of it is weak or boring chain store variety.

 

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Quote: from Simon Majumdar on 4:42 am on Sep. 22, 2001

" The best cheeses in America"  Mmm?  rather like saying the best drivers in Italy.

Quote: from Katherine on 4:47 pm on Sep. 22, 2001

...An "English-style breakfast sausage"... Stuff I wouldn't serve to my family even if I was in a bad mood. And they wouldn't eat it even if I did.

Wow, we are getting into some stereotyping, aren't we?  Born in England, now resident in the States, may I first defend American cheeses?  Forget Monterey Jack.  A very superior range of cheeses are fairly readily available from small producers.  If you're in New York, get along to Picholine or Artisanal and ask Max or Peter for an American cheese tasting.  

And now my homeland's sausages.  Sure, the cheap nasty mass-produced links you find in supermarkets are open to severe criticism.  But have you bought a pack of breakfast links in D'Agostino's recently.?  Again, if you're actually in England, try independent butchers who make their own sausages (you'll find a wide range, and I partiularly recommend a well made Cumberland), or an imaginative specialist chain like Simply Sausages.  For my taste, their products are a little too low in fat, but they are certainly fit for human consumption.

Oh, the original question?  I rarely miss specific foodstuffs.  The main problem I have had with travel - especially business travel where one doesn't pick the destination - is visiting places where the general standard of restaurant cooking is way below what one has come to expect.  It was this that brought home to me the non-transferability of Zagat scores.  A restaurant which scores 20+ points for food in, dare I say, St Paul or Atlantic City, just is not of comparable standard to restaurants which score the same in New York, London or Paris.  What a pathetic answer, then, but true: I miss good food well-cooked.  

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I deal with the problem by waiting until I arrive back home (usually from overseas) when I'll have first thing a fresh turkey sandwich on rye with cole slaw. Then the next morning, it it's a Sunday, I'll go to Barney Greengrass for pickled lox, kippered salmon, smoked sturgeon and a bagel with a schmeer. I've toyed with the idea of opening up a sandwich shop in Nice that serves smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagle. I could call the place "Make It Nice", but I'm not sure how well it would do over there.

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Quote: from robert brown on 2:37 pm on Nov. 1, 2001

I deal with the problem by waiting until I arrive back home (usually from overseas) when I'll have first thing a fresh turkey sandwich on rye with cole slaw. Then the next morning, it it's a Sunday, I'll go to Barney Greengrass for pickled lox, kippered salmon, smoked sturgeon and a bagel with a schmeer. I've toyed with the idea of opening up a sandwich shop in Nice that serves smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagle [sic]. I could call the place "Make It Nice", but I'm not sure how well it would do over there.

If there are enough American expats (add to that all the curious French who have never even seen pastrami, never mind tasted it) you'd probably do very well.

When I'm down on Grand street, I notice there are more Asians in diPalo's mozzarella store than Italian-Americans.

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Franklanguage, Nice is about 20% Jewish (ca. 100,000 Jews) and with a ton of tourists. I just wonder about the probabilities of making appetizer taste like it should over there. (Given my age, the pain-in-the-ass environment for doing business in France and the state of international tourism, I doubt I'll be the one to realize such an undertaking).

I'm glad you also brought up diPalo's. It's a real New York City treasure; the food shop closest to what you would find to a stand or stall in a market in Italy. ( I like that they let you buy all unpackaged products in the quantity of your choosing and that their prices are extremely fair; i.e. the large Badia olive oil is around ศ. vs. as much as ะ in my area.) It seems to me that there are more Italians than Italian-Americans there as well.

P.S. Do you remember George Rock?

(Edited by robert brown at 4:08 pm on Nov. 1, 2001)

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Hey, Wilfred, I looked at what you posted and said to myself, "I didn't say that, did I?" I was right.  You edited my post and changed a quote completely. I never said "English style breakfast sausage", it was "English style breakfast".

American-style breakfast sausage is something which is only made here, a unique product for which there is no substitute.

We're actually grossed out by being served things like beans and hot hard-boiled eggs in the shell at breakfast.  Sunny side up eggs give us the willies. And it's not a complete breakfast without potatoes, either. This is a thing which has to do with personal/cultural preferences.

When my brother travelled with a British rock band, they always asked for beans with their breakfast. Usually they'd get looked at funny, and somebody in the kitchen would run to a convenience store for a can of baked beans, and everything was fine. Then they got to the Southwest, and when they asked for beans, they got refried beans, and their tender palates couldn't handle the hot'n'spicy.

Here's my experience with English style sausage, since you brought it up:

I had bangers purchased from my grocer's frozen food case once, and we hated them.

Actually, I haven't been to D'Agostino's in my life, and since NYC is six hours from my home, in a different region of the country, I don't expect to.

It's possible that bangers my supermarket carried briefly were not typical, or perhaps were typical but were something that British sausage-lovers would know enough to avoid. I'm not surprised that they were only carried briefly; they tasted like dog food, due to what tasted like raw soybean used as a filler in fairly large quantities.

I can't imagine that whoever was in charge of putting new products in the store had even tasted them. They had a pretty package, though.

(Edited by Katherine at 10:35 am on Nov. 2, 2001)

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Well, having lived here in Scotland for a year, after coming from Melbourne (Australia) the one food thing that I really crave is Vietnamese food. The freshness of it, the clean flavours and the cold beers that go with it. I am trying to grow some Vietnamese mint so that I can make some of our favourite recipes, but the plants are not happy in Scotland damit. I also miss decent sausages and fried fish. I think that I have the sausage problem sorted finally, but have yet to have decent Fish 'n' Chips here. The locals bang on about how good it all is, but as most of the fish is pre-cooked and wrapped in plastic for due to local health rules, it's really not very good. They also sell deep fried pizza, haggis, black pudding, white pudding and Mars bars here, so what is considered edible and a health risk here by the locals is questionable.

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When I travel, it takes a while before I miss any particular food; I really enjoy tasting new dishes and eating food that is not so familiar to me -  in my opinion, that is an important part of travelling, of experiencing something new. However, at some point I begin to crave for fresh fruit - and not for pieces of fruit you get in a fruit salad, but for, say, a whole apple or a pear...

Another thing I usually miss after some time of travelling is Finnish rye bread. There's nothing like it anywhere else (not that I know of, at least). It is very dark because it is made entirely of rye flour. I particularly like it when it is whole meal with lots of whole grains in it. Yes, it is probably one of the healthiest food in the world (plenty of fibre, vitamin B etc., very low on fat…) but still, I'm almost addicted to it, I hardly ever eat any other bread. The only "substitute" for this that I have found is German "vollkorn brot", which looks pretty much the same. However, where I've seen it, it has been wrapped in plastic packages to preserve it for a long time, so it doesn't taste very fresh and though the ingredients are much the same, the taste is nothing like that of the Finnish bread I like.    

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Having just come back from trips to both Germany and The US, I can honestly say that there is no one in the whole world apart from us brits who has a bleedin clue how to make a cup of tea.

From luke warm cups of water with crappy twinnings bags on the side, to stewed slop in Frankfurt.

It makes me glad to come home and proud to be half british

S

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I've found that in the US, the only place to get a properly brewed cup of tea is in a coffeeshop. In restaurants they invariably draw a cup of coffee-temp water from the coffee machine, let it sit until it cools a bit, and then drop in the bag, or, even worse, bring it to you in the dining room lukewarm, and let you open the bag and drop it in.

Of course, the tea at my house is perfect and the selection is excellent.

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I miss Texas' Tex-Mex the most when I'm gone for too long. Other areas of the country have their versions, but there seems to always be a little something lacking in the translation. Probably lard!

Celine

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Quote: from stacy bell mcquaide on 12:49 pm on Dec. 10, 2001

(W)hen I am in Mexico or another Latin country I miss salads and other raw foods.

Generally I dislike most salads, and other sources of vitamin C, but I confess I have missed them after being in Spain for more than a week.  I recall a menu of regional delicacies at a restuarant in Bilbao:  soup (a sort of garbure) with visible globules of fat; blood sausage; spring lamb actually sitting in its own hot fat; and a desert which turned out to be some kind of crema, but looked disturbingly like a helping of lard.  Even I was ready for some watercress after that.  A few days in New Orleans can have a similar effect:  I am nervous that if I order a salad there it will come deep fried and dusted with castor sugar.

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