We talk a lot about getting an authentic travel experience by getting to know the places and people of the culture we’re visiting, but we don’t always live up to that standard. The biggest example for me is food. I like what I like and there isn’t much else to say. Still, I’m willing to try anything, especially if it is a local dish from a region we’re visiting.
What’s on That Skewer?
We were traveling in Greece with my family and sat down to eat at a taverna and found the restaurant menu was all in Greek (go figure). My father and I didn’t bother to wait for a translation and used our embarrassingly limited Greek to place an order. I have to say, if you never had goat before it’s an under-rated meat. The roasted souvlaki* (meat and veggies on a skewer) was lean, tender and gently seasoned. I am not a huge fan of red meat, my main staple of protein in chicken, but now and then crave a burger or meat sauce. So having goat wasn’t out of the realm and gave me a story like this to tell.
Our recent trip to Nassau was another chance to try something new. We walked from downtown Nassau to Fish Fry, a small community of restaurants just to the north of town that specializes in local fare. The Bahamas are famous for their use of conch (yes, the snail-like creatures that live in the pretty shells) for cooking. I wanted to try some conch fritters. Balls of ground up conch, batter-dipped and deep fried. The look from the outside wasn’t much different than a serving of hushpuppies (a ball of fried dough). I don’t like sea food, so with the ample application of ketchup I took my first bite. The fried meat was surprisingly tender and not chewy, the “seafood” taste was very mild, too. I could see ordering this dish again, but not on a regular basis.
The unappealing look and texture of the crunchy, yellow-shelled, sloppy-joe-filled tacos they used to serve in your school cafeteria is one of the things that has turned me off to Mexican food even today. But even I can find an exception now and then. We were traveling with our snorkeling and sailing group in Mexico and the mini-bus pulled over to this small restaurant with a partially enclosed porch where we were scheduled to stop for lunch. The town it was in probably had a total of 10-15 houses and no paved roads.
We took our seats on the classic plastic patio chairs and pulled up to a long table. A waiter, most likely the owner and cook, came by and asked us our preference of fish or chicken (yes, I chose chicken), and a few minutes later plates of soft tacos featuring pulled chicken layered with peppers, onions and lettuce were placed in front of us. I was always taught to eat what was offered, especially if you were a guest. So, with no complaints, I rolled up the taco and took a bite. I really don’t like onions, but pushed past them to taste the mildly spicy chicken and enjoyed the meal.
I have a trick for getting yourself up for experimenting with your tastebuds; it’s called being hungry. I make sure to not snack and work up an appetite so I generally want (and need) to eat. So, take some time to test those taste buds. I find your finickiness vanishes when your stomach is grumbling.
*the linked Souvlaki Recipe is for pork, but you can substitute goat, lamb, or poultry.