23.Goodbye and Hello
It's time to end these columns on eating in Europe. For while it's still as much fun to write them as when I started several years ago, and while I always enjoy talking or writing about anything European, the truth is I'm running out of ideas.
I fear I am starting to repeat myself, something I will do again before this column is done, but alas, it's a summary, so it doesn't really count. However, on the whole it's been getting tough to come at this subject from new angles, so I think I'd better give myself the hook.
I've had a good time writing these little daubs of advice and adventure. Europe is my favorite place, and I always enjoyed returning there, if only in print, if only to talk about restaurants and cuisine. It's truly a place where everything from a grand dinner to a stop at a corner cafe for a quick espresso is a great and memorable experience. Europeans take their food and drink seriously.
I am also grateful to Stanley, an editor who's allowed me complete free reign. (Writers always love this.) In light of that, I'm not going away, just changing my focus. Coming home. Trading my Air France overnight kit for my own toothbrush and dental floss and bedroom slippers again.
I'll now be writing about restaurants and eating out in general, something I do a lot of. Rather than the narrow focus of Europe, I'd like to talk about the whole restaurant world—something we're endlessly fascinated about, judging from all the reality shows I see on TV—from a slightly skewed and humorous point of view.
I hope you'll come with me.
As for summing up An American in Europe, I'd simply say that: first, as far as Europe is concerned, GO! Don't worry about all the Euro worries or the claims that things are just not fun there now. They are. I was just there last December and had a blast, as I always do.
Second, use trusted guidebooks to research the great restaurants, as well as Google and the various eating guides, but ultimately go by your nose. Go to someplace and check the menu. Step inside or, and this is very common in Europe where so many places have outdoor seating, look at what people are eating right in front of you, trying not to be too rude about it (difficult sometimes). Is your mouth watering? Does it look and smell good? If so, you may want to dine there regardless of what the Michelin or other guides say. And if a place doesn't seem great despite its great reputation and your time somewhere is short or your budget tight and a learn-from-experience mistake is just not in the cards, then don't go. Sometimes the guides are wrong. Sometimes the chef or owners have changed recently. Sometimes there are feuds and vendettas that make reviews biased. And sometimes there's simply no accounting for taste. I had that thought when I saw packed McDonalds cafes in Paris.
Third, I hate to say this, but I take friends' recommendations with a grain of salt, unless, perhaps, they go to Europe a lot. The one bad meal I had the first time I was in Paris came from a recommendation a coworker gave to my wife. The best meals I have are so often places I stumble onto, that just feel right. Again, trust your eyes, trust your nose.
Fourth, if you love what's on the menu, go for it! Don't worry you're not eating Belgian Waffles in Brussels or snails in France, or that you are eating pizza in a German beer garden. Your stomach won't care. I've had great Italian food in Germany and bad Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna. This isn't as odd as it may seem. Haven't you had bad hamburgers and hot dogs in America?
Most of all, eat, have fun, compare dishes and cuisines, and be adventurous. Don't say, "That's weird." Try it. Weird is what you're there for. You'll probably find out it's not so weird after all, unless it's either monkey brains or masato (Google it!), both of which you're unlikely to come across in Europe anyway.
And so, starting next month, I'll begin my eating-at-home column. Still don't know what to call it. But it will be fun and it will make you laugh, that I promise. Stay tuned, as they say………………
Subscribe to We8there Travel RSS feed:
Back to top