My second to last article is about- you guessed it- some fantastic food in Europe. Check out the text below (with a couple extra pictures) and make sure to hit up the Observer website to read more stories online!
Hands-down, one of the best things about studying abroad in Europe is getting to try all kinds of different food. This is part of the fun, but can occasionally be quite difficult if you’re a vegetarian like me. However, it is not impossible and you’ll probably end up getting to try a bunch of cool dishes you’ve never heard of (and that meat-eaters most likely wouldn’t order). In each place I’ve travelled I have tried to get a feel for the culture in part by trying some authentic dishes, and in the process I’ve come to think of myself as somewhat of a professional food photographer…. Hopefully omnivores and herbivores alike will be drooling a little bit looking at some of the foods I’ve gotten to try so far, and see that you’re not missing out abroad if you don’t eat meat! (I promise this isn’t annoying pro-veg propaganda)
If you know anything about Spanish dishes, you’ll know that Spaniards love their jamón (ham), which they’ll eat wth just anything. Spain is also the world’s largest consumer of fish per capita. Basically, it’s not always the most vegetarian-friendly culinary environment and you get a lot of confused looks if you say no to jamón AND fish. There are quite a few dishes that can be vegetarianized.
Number one: TORTILLA, an egg and potato dish that sounds so simple but tastes different everywhere you go. My second favorite is vegetable croquetas, which look like little nuggets. They’re very hard to find but my host mom whips up the best vegan croquetas I’ve ever tasted! I’m a big fan of gazpacho, cold vegetable soup, and the Andalucian version called salmorejo. Paella, a rice and seafood dish, is a big deal in Spain treat yourself to a quality veggie version, which most good restaurants witll serve. You’ll thank me later. Patatas bravas and patatas ali-oli are both simple potato dishes that can be served various ways but it’s the sauce that makes them! Big cities like Madrid are also fantastic places to try cuisine from around the world, not just what is characteristic of that country; I’ve had some fantastic sushi as well as falafel. In Spain there are a lot of markets where you can pick at a ton of small portions, called tapas. It’s a great place to go for lunch and spend a little more than usual (food is so inexpensive in Spain compared to America) because you can try a bunch of typical dishes!
My first weekend trip outside of Spain was to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. We were on a bus for most of the weekend so unfortunately we ate a bunch of rest stop food and didn’t get to try as many standard dishes as I would’ve liked. German food includes a lot of sausages and chicken dishes, which aren’t so much up my alley anyway. Instead, I went for more of the bakery route, specifically freshly made pretzels that were bigger than my head! I’d be lying if I told you this wasn’t the only pretzel I had that weekend.
Number one rule- eat all the feta and Greek yogurt you can. You MUST try the fried feta- the square thing. You’d think that fried cheese drizzled with honey would be weird but I promise you it tastes like heaven. Don’t forget to get some baklava– a rich and delicious traditional Greek dessert. I think I ate it before I could even get a photo! Side note (and this goes for anywhere): if there is fresh squeezed orange juice on the menu, always say yes. Usually they have these extravagant peeler-squeezer machines and the end product is absolutely wonderful. Make sure you get yourself some gyros, pronounced like ‘euro,’ and stuffed grape leaves called dolmas, which look really gross but are surprisingly awesome!
It’s no secret that Italy is known for their incredible food. Pizza, pasta, cannolis, gelato, you name it! Of course I had to try them all! My album on Facebook from fall break in Italy ended up being 99% pictures of me eating and I think I came back to Madrid about seventy five pounds heavier but it was worth it. I don’t know how people studying abroad in Italy do it! Less than an hour after we arrived, we were already at a pizzeria (which was open 24/7) and it was a roller coaster of deliousness from there. Some of my favorites were any type of pasta with pesto sauce and gnocchi, the tasty- and filling!- potato pasta that I can never pronounce correctly! If you travel to Italy and don’t get gelato everywhere you go, you haven’t lived! Every city has its own “most famous” or “best” gelato spots so, naturally, we tried them all. Our friends studying abroad in Florence taught us that the gelaterías with ice cream piled high are usually not as good and filled with tons of bad-for-you-stuff. The pastries in Italy are to die for. My favorite was something chocolatey that I got from a secrete late night bakery in Florence, where you discreetly knock on the door with a couple euros and you’ll be handed a freshly baked pastry of the baker’s choosing. I also got to try a few different types of veggie-filled 5 euro paninis the size of my face. If you’re in the Naples area make sure to try a whole bunch of pizza; you won’t be disappointed! That region is also famous for granita, a refreshing slushie-type drink which is made from the locally grown citrus trees.
European Food Festival
We were lucky enough to stumble across this annual festival set up in the piazza (plaza) right outside our door while in Florence, Italy. It is put on in Piazza Santa Croce for one weekend every October and it just so happened that we were there! It was the perfect chance to try food from all over and when you’re a travelling college student who’s ballin’ on a budget, having three meals a day there some days is totally acceptable, right?! This festival had samples galore so my friends and I tried cheeses, cookies, and olive oil from around the world. They had a Portuguese stand dedicated to potatoes, and about a million stands boasting freshly baked sweets from around the world. The cannolis with crushed pistachios were fabulous. When studying abroad in Europe, you have to get used to the fact that Nutella is LIFE. It’s in basically every dessert you’ll find, like these awesome mini crepes from Holland. The festival was such a great accidental find!