Eric and I are big travellers. We don’t own a house or a car or nice furniture or the newest in technological gadgets, but we travel at least two or three times a year. This year, we’ve been to Italy, Bermuda, the US, Norway, and Iceland, and a big part of our travels is tasting the local flavours. For us, eating like locals affords us a window into the culinary culture, and gives us a more authentic experience. You can tell yourself you’re in Norway all you like, but until your belly is full of pickled herring, your body won’t really believe it.
We just returned from Norway and Iceland (thus the big gap between posts, with Burkina Faso bringing the blog back to life after about a month). I knew ahead of time that the food would be right up my alley, having already been to Estonia, the land of fresh fish and potatoes. Norway is famous for its smoked salmon (I ate it almost every day), as is Iceland. Both countries feature herring and mackerel on the menu, as well as root vegetables, dark breads, hard cheeses, and for those who eat meat (Eric tried it and loved it), smoked lamb.
In Oslo one morning, we enjoyed a breakfast spread at Grilleriet that showcased the many flavours of Norway, including such gems as rhubarb jam, gravlax, mustard herring, cured meats, and black bread. In Iceland, our most traditional meal was found in downtown Reykjavik at a little restaurant called Salka Valka, where they served an incredible fish stew (plokkfiskur) alongside rice, bread and steamed vegetables.
Usually, it’s those very traditional meals that stand out the most. In Tallinn, our favourite meal was from Vanaema Juures, a tiny restaurant that served up the foods of old Estonia. In Italy, it was a place full of locals, Pizza Al Porto, that served incredible pizza by the slice on the banks of the Tiber. In Puerto Rico, Orozco’s, a bustling cafe a few steps off the beach, blew us away with Puerto Rican mofongo.
The Wooden Spoon Wanderer project gives us a glimpse into those places we haven’t yet been, and for those we have, it gives us a glimpse back to what we miss. Eating a paranza (seafood fry up) immediately transports us back to Rome, where we had our honeymoon this past spring. Thick cut fries bring us back to London, England, our first trip abroad together. New recipes spark our interest in a place we would have never thought to go — like Bhutan or Serbia. It’s nice to think we might someday be sitting in Thimpu, enjoying ema datshi spicier than I could ever make.