travel stories: July 2008 Archives

Taking the slow way home

france
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Smplantatpath0001.JPGBy the time we got back to France, we'd reached the last few weeks of our journey - well, of the first half, anyway - and were feeling the need to slow things down a bit.  Being constantly on the move has been very exciting, but it can get a bit wearing too; fortunately, we now had some opportunities to stay put for a while, and we took them.

This also meant opportunities to get into kitchens and do some home cooking for the first time in a while, and we took them too.  That meant finding good quality ingredients - but this being France, that really wasn't very difficult.  Every small town and village we visited had a good food market at least once a week, and usually more than one butcher, baker and greengrocer.  Not only will the shopkeepers and stallholders sell you excellent produce at reasonable prices (compared to the UK, at least), they'll make sure you know how to cook it.  In fact, we even got the impression they wouldn't sell us their ducks or celeriac if they weren't satisfied that we'd treat them properly ...

Italy part 2: right to left

italy
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Smparmesancap0001.jpgOne moment we were admiring Roman soldiers parading through the palace in Split; one fast ferry ride later, and we were negotiating one-way systems around Ancona.  Tricky, but worth it - we were soon happily tucking into excellent pasta, fish and verdicchio at the Villa Amalia, and pretty sure we were back in Italy.  On the first part of our Italian trip, we'd had some wonderful experiences, but felt as though we'd barely scratched the surface.  So this time, we were determined to get to the bottom of things.  Just what does make Italian food different?  Why is the prosciutto here different to the pršut we'd just been learning about in Croatia?  And you can call it "balsamic" if you like, but isn't it just vinegar?

From gnocchi to njoki

croatia
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Smslovenia0001.jpgWe sped over the border from Italy heading straight for the Istrian peninsula, and the small village of Sveti Petar u Šumi - we'd booked ourselves into an agritourism-style place we'd found on the internet, where they said they could teach us all about the local cuisine.  Sadly, this meant completely ignoring Slovenia (well, we stopped for lunch) - we'll have to go back.  On the up-side, it meant more time in Istria, supposedly the gastronomic centre of this side of the Adriatic. 

We didn't quite know what to expect from Istria (or Croatia in general in fact).  We knew there'd been a lot of Italian influence in the past (and the architecture on the Slovenian coast certainly looked like Venice to us) - but was this still true?  And looking at the map, we also weren't far from where we'd been in Hungary all those months back.  Or would it remind us of Slavic Bulgaria?  Or even Turkey - the Ottomans got this far at one stage.  We were keen to find out ...

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