Time to Eat

 "What is that?" I'm waving my hand at something in the cabinet that looks like a cross between an egg custard and a spinach salad.

The woman behind the counter looks at me baffled while DrC at my side notes flatly, "Edible."

I'm not satisfied. "But is it sweet or savoury?"

DrC's eyes slant toward me, "Does it matter?"

Counter Lady at this point has lost interest in us and drifted off to another customer. This gives me the opportunity to press the issue, "But what if it's sweet? That's leafy... it's green. Maybe it's cheesy. It could be lunch not dessert." I press the case, 'We came to get dessert."

My husband has no patience with this logic, "Well it's that or this other thing here." He points at some vaguely croissant looking thing. We had that yesterday from another shoppe and frankly it was a sad disappointment. Dry and tasteless.

I concede. "Okay, let's try it."

This is a typical day in Conger land. We are covering so much ground, so many cities and countries each with their own unique stores, cuisines, specialities, that about half the time we don't know what we're buying when we shop. This is particularly true for items in the cheese family which can range anywhere from a surprisingly goaty, stinky denseness to a light mozerella basically in the same style package. Sadly, we can also find something we absolutely LOVE but by the time we realise it, we are 100 km and a language change down the road. This was true of a Monterey Jack like cheese we found somewhere in Portugal and have never found again.

We have had some notable successes. The Gorgonzola filled gnocchi of northern Italy, the Torre Strait Barbara red wine for 2 Euro picked up in La Spezia, the caramelised onion focaccia and cold beer on the beach in Cinque Terre, Spanish jamon alberico, also in the Cinque Terre the lemon basil sorbet (YES), the beer in Belgium... just all of it, and some spectacular ports we sampled in Porto and Duoro. It's all ephemeral. We try it. We love it. We never find it again. You have to treat each meal and each moment as a singular precious event. Which could be seen as fortunate because we have also had notable failures. We had a nasty cheap red from Morocco, pre-salted canned tuna, some really dry crumbly breads, a risotto we can't figure out how to prepare because we don't read Dutch. Last week we bought a large bucket of Greek yogurt that turned out to be ... sour cream? Sour cream cheese?

But on the whole, our meals have been more good than mediocre with a few truly amazing moments. We do almost all our own cooking on Dapple or at hostels which means local ingredients but not necessarily local foods. We can't afford to eat out frequently... I don't know how people manage to eat out in Europe on their own vacations as it seems really expensive to us. We do make a practice of trying to get gelato every day and frequently try to pick up a sweet for after dinner from a local pastry shoppe. It allows to explore the local flavours without spending a large amount.

By the way, it was savoury. What do you do when you have a savoury pastry for 'dessert'? You add a glass of tawny port purchased in the Duoro Valley, of course.

CURRENT: Brighton, U.K.

PLAN: It's a bit fuzzy, but southern England. Maybe over to Cornwall or Bath. Haven't decided. If you have a better idea, let me know.

LAST WEEK: We hotfooted it across the Continent as we are very short on schengen visa days. Spent a night each in Salzburg Austria, Deieichechan Germany and Ghent Belgium. Miss the Continent already. Two words: beer and bread.


TIP OF THE WEEK

Speaking of cooking and eating in Europe, it is always cheaper to eat at bars and restaurants that are NOT in the plaza. Explore the small alleys off the main tourist drags and find a place tucked in a corner. If you can, go a full 1km from the centre and you'll find better quality at cheaper prices. But if you just have to sit in the central piazza to people watch, remember that beer is one euro more outside than inside. An option is to buy a beer from a local stand and find a place on the inevitable central fountain or statue and enjoy the same view from the cheap seats.