FOOD ON THE FLY (not flies on your food...)Nov 30, 2006 10:49PM ● By Don Kindred
by Maggie Zeibak
Olives from Alexandria, Egypt.You’ll have to admit not every meal can be appetizing when you don’t really know what it is, especially when you are far away from home. Unappealing, questionable and monotonous fare can ruin a trip, but what to do when everything seems so very foreign and alien to your taste? There is an easy fix, of course. Go on a cruise and indulge in their gourmet dining options several times a day.
But, perhaps you’re sitting here planning next year’s vacation and you’ve chosen an itinerary to include a few exotic ports of call in the Mediterranean, South Pacific or the Caribbean. Wouldn’t you like a little culinary adventure or to know what to bring back as a souvenir?
Let’s start off in dreamy Barbados where the Oistins Market Fish Fry is an event not to be missed on Fridays or Saturdays, and you don’t have to dress up. Buy fried or grilled freshly caught fish from one of the many stalls, or try the macaroni pie while you listen or dance to island music. Lightly slather on some Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce if you want rivulets of sweat running down your neck. Crikey, that’s good stuff. You can buy a bottle to bring home – it’s available in the local supermarkets.
Mysterious Istanbul has become a popular port to visit. Not only can you visit the Blue Mosque with its blue-green Iznik tiles and Hagia Sophia’s intriguing mosaics, but also Topkapi Palace where the 86-carat, pear-shaped Spoonmaker Diamond sparkles. Ooh, that sort of bling can work up a serious appetite, although if you can’t get back to the ship in time for lunch, grab a yummy, crisp pretzel on the street from a friendly seller on your way to the Grand Bazaar. You’ll need your energy for serious shopping.
Long overlooked is Egypt’s port of Alexandria. By passing the strenuous tour trek to Cairo and the Pyramids there are catacombs and ornate mosques to see. For the history and military buffs, the magnificent memorials to the fallen soldiers underscore a trip to El Alamein to recap the actions of Montgomery and Rommel in WWII. Buy some juicy dates or a slab of sun-dried apricots for a snack on the bus. After you’ve seen the new Library of Alexandria (remember Cleopatra?) and admired the stunning architecture, swing by the market/souk and treat yourself to some very cheap olives or clothes-staining pomegranates.
Pretzel seller in Istanbul.When your jet-lagged brain is teetering just a teensy bit behind semi-normal function, it’s nice to be in England where they speak the same language. Or do they? Accents vary and slang prevails, causing you to wonder who speaks the Queen’s English. Stop by a pub for a Ploughman’s Lunch and you’ll be treated to a selection of English cheeses tasty, smooth and very satisfying. Bakeries are in every town and you’d do well to try a Chocolate Eclair or Neopolitan to taste the delicious pastry. Suitably nourished, you can start looking for edible souvenirs to bring home and the local supermarket has plenty. The most unusual gift you can find is a pot of Patum Peperium, known as The Gentleman’s Relish, and enjoyed by the fussy uppercrust of society. Spread on toast or crackers, this anchovy relish awakens your taste buds in a nano-second.
Now let’s zip over to the South Pacific’s island of Tahiti. Turquoise waters in sleepy lagoons lap at your toes and majestic mountains tower above. Tuck a fragrant tiare (national flower) behind your ear – left side if you’re taken, right if you’re looking. Notice the boxes outside homes, not for mail, but the warm, crunchy French bread, delivered twice a day.
Walk from the cruise ship wharf to Papeete’s market where fresh tropical fruits and vegetables are sold. Go to the area where the fish are delivered and watch the vendors slice and dice with wicked looking knives. Take your camera; it’s a color fest.
Back home and up the Oregon Coast a way, would you consider a week-long riverboat trip on the Columbia River? Making history come alive, you can follow the footsteps of Lewis and Clark without the hardships of the pioneers. Visit Fort Clatsop and picturesque Multnomah Falls before transiting the Bonneville Lock, the first of many. Viewing the “fish-friendly” channels that skirt the Dam can conjure up visions of a well-garnished plate of trout for dinner. After a cooked-to-order breakfast, luxury coaches transport you to cowboy-country and Pendleton’s subterranean city where Chinese laborers were confined in the 19th century. On Day Six of the trip, jet boats provide a thrilling trip to Hell’s Canyon and you’ll be ready for the picnic lunch before you return to the mother-boat and the evening’s entertainment. Another highlight is the 1940s era railroad cars that take you up the fruit-producing region of Mt.Hood. Later, a visit to the renowned Skamania Lodge crowns the day with a Northwest Native-American Potlach salmon bake, authentically prepared to tantalize your sophisticated palate.
Without a doubt, next year’s vacation is on the horizon, complete with gastronomic delights and indiscretions. Consider sipping a glass of Port in Portugal, nibbling beignets in New Orleans or marveling at the beef in Argentina, but this is merely food for thought over a TV dinner. Ciao for now. b