RSJ favorite Megan Edmiston has recently come back from a whirlwind tour of Greece and the UK. Her practical advice for eating like a local–and the mouth-watering photos that accompany it–will have you shamelessly reaching for haggis in no time.
After I ordered it, I was worried I had made a mistake. I’m all about new foods but this? This was taking it to a whole new level. Trying not to think about what I was about to eat was the hardest- heart, liver, & lungs of a sheep, minced with onion and spices. I was in Scotland & I was about to consume Haggis.
For my first experience, I decided to get a nicer version that didn’t come encased in the stomach but rather had been simmered for 3 hours. At this point, I’m not sure it was going to make a difference. When our waitress brought out the plate, I sat up straight, told myself that I was Scottish and I had no choice. Next thing I knew, my fork was filled with haggis and heading for my mouth. I let it sit in my mouth before as I slowly started to chew.
The mustard whiskey cream sauce was heavenly; the phyllo dough was perfectly crisp & that meat was flavorful and filling. It hit me that the meat I had just complemented was the haggis. It was over….. & I wanted more!
“This is really good!” I told my friend with a look that can only be described as utter shock and confusion; I wasn’t expecting to like it let alone lick the plate clean.
Now there won’t be dishes like haggis in every country you go to, but I can guarantee that you’ll come across some things that will surprise you.
Frog legs in France, rooster in Greece and even thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce (Vitello tonnato) from Italy. I’m not telling you to go try maggot cheese in Sardinia or dead mouse wine in Korea (those are real things) but go out of your way to eat some traditional, local dishes.
Go buy a cookbook of the country you are visiting. This will give you some great ideas of traditional dishes that you will be seeing abroad. If you find one dish that particularly intrigues you, go out of your way to find a restaurant that serves it.
- Do Internet research. Try and find a food blogger that specializes in the cuisine you are looking for or even Google “popular dishes of _____”. Be prepared before you go.
- Don’t get caught in the tourist trap. So you are tired from sightseeing and just want to eat at a restaurant closest to the Colosseum. Do it, but don’t complain when the pasta is overcooked and the sauce tastes like it’s from a jar. I know you are in Italy, but getting bad Italian food is possible anywhere, and places right next to famous sites are more often than not just trying to get money from tourists. Walk away from the crowded areas and find a place that looks authentic. Look at the menu for some dishes that you haven’t heard of rather than the usual 5 pasta dishes. Do they offer the menu in 6 different languages? Run. Try and find a place where the menu is in the official language of the country and see if the waiter can translate or give a recommendation- they usually can. Don’t be too worried if there is an English translation, this is getting more common.
- Close your eyes and dig in. The most important thing is to give it a go. Would you rather tell people you had Bobotie in South Africa or a McRib? Take pleasure in the fact that you are abroad and you get to experience a new culture, because it’s something that not a lot of people get to do.