Eating Stumptown

Tag "Travel"
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Just when I was getting used to being back home and feeling pretty good about it, I see these videos. 11 countries in 44 days. Wow.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

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Hellllloooooo!  I am sorry to be away for so long, but some of us have to travel to Europe for weeks on end and live with limited internet access.  I know. You feel terrible for me.

Especially when I go places that look like that.

In my absence I spent a few weeks in Austria (and a touch of Germany) with Erik’s extended family.  We stayed with Erik’s aunt and cousins having a travel experience you just don’t get normally as a tourist.  I got to see what day-to-day life was like for an Austrian family and it was incredible. I am so grateful to have the experience, I can’t even put it into words.

But, since this isn’t a travel blog, but a local food blog. Let me deal out some food insights, yo. The Austrians are an inspiration for local eating.  They grow food in their gardens, can jam and pickles, drink local beer and wine, and refrain from buying tempting fruits from far off lands in the grocery store (probably because they are too expensive).

Of course, this also meant that we ate a lot of what you would expect: cabbage, potatoes, meat, bread, cheese.  Occasionally we would get a salad when we would go out to a meal, but rarely at home.  I am told during the summer you eat tons of green, leafy veggies and brightly-colored peppers, but we were there in Fruhling (aka spring) and in Fruhling you eat brothy soups with frozen veggies or roasted cabbage and potatoes.

This is a pork rib platter we had my last lunch in Austria. Delicious ribs in a tomato-based marinade atop roasted cabbage with bacon and fried potatoes.

The daily meal structure was also a tad different. Austrians tend to eat their biggest meal at lunch. For breakfast there was medium-boiled eggs, bread (not toast), butter, jam, cheese, and cold cuts (also, sometimes yogurt and granola). For dinner there was maybe some food leftover from lunch, but mostly bread, butter, cheese, cold cuts, and some pickles.

The lunches, though, were beyond fantastic. Each meal started with a soup – a rich broth with dumplings or duck or vegetables – usually from some part of the meal from the day before. Then we would have a wiener schnitzel (breaded pork (traditionally veal) pan fried), apricot dumplings, steak smothered in a dark, sweet gravy and swiss cheese, or a giant tray of pork ribs.

Yup, we ate it all.

At first I thought eating bread, cheese, and smoked meat products two times a day was awesome, but after a while, I really started to miss my regular food. Every time we had a chance to eat somewhere different, Erik and I would search out Asian food. Something as simple as noodles with vegetables called to us in train stations and when we had sushi it was so good I never wanted to leave the restaurant. One night we went to an Vietnamese/French place in Vienna and almost died the food was so delicious – a spicy mango and duck salad, cod in a green curry sauce, foie gras atop pureed mangos and chocolate.

And you can’t talk about Austria without mentioning the desserts.

Actually, I didn’t eat too many desserts (unless wine counts?), but since they are known for them I thought I would mention. Above is a picture of the famous Sacher Torte from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. It was originally made for royalty and they apparently went ga-ga over the thing. Me? I thought it was okay. Kinda dry and the layer of apricot preserves a little off-putting in a chocolate cake. But, I ate the whole thing, obviously. When I told people in Austria that I didn’t love it, they looked at me like I was crazy, so maybe it is just me.

Although I am glad to be home, I think this was one of the most incredible cultural experiences I have ever had. Rarely have I been fortunate enough to meet such generous people who let me into their home and lives – even though we don’t speak the same language.

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