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But I prefer the Olive Garden

I am currently in Lecce with a group of people traveling around Southern Italy. The group is from all over the U.S. While wandering around, I ran into two women from the group who hail from a very large southern state. They told me they loved Italy and had been many times.

We have a group dinner this evening and one of the courses is octopus salad. They told me they were not eating it. My conversation with one went like this.

Woman: I won't eat octopus. In fact, I don't think the food in Italy is very good. I like American food.

Me: You don't like Italian food?

Woman: I like Italian food the way they make it at home.

Me: At the Olive Garden? (I asked sarcastically expecting a look or comment.)

Woman: Yes.

Me: Seriously?

Woman: Yes, they make the best Italian food.

I didn't know what to say. I just looked preplexed.

Woman: We've been here a week and I miss American food.

We changed the subject and started talking about flying home. She had a few connections and didn't know when she had to go through immigration and customs. I told her where she would be leaving Schengen. She had never heard of Schengen.

I kid you not.

Posted by
5029 posts

Frank II, it is amazing how some people see the world, isn't it? It's been said before, but many people want the Epcot Center version of Europe, not anything authentic. I am not sure what is sadder, the disinterest in experiencing a different culture, or the lack of imagination in assuming there's only one right way.

Posted by
2811 posts

You know, this may lead to one of those discourses rife with strong feelings - either way.
It is not uncommon for tour travelers to have done little prep work. There is a layer of travel society that takes a tour in order to be lead around by the nose. They are quite happy to be told when to be at the bus and follow along. The less pre-planning (or educating) the better. Sometimes the 'tour' is only a tour of 2. Not everyone cares to learn beyond what is in front of them or told to them and are happy to just follow along.
Perhaps tomorrow you can direct her to a Starbucks or McDonald's for a little taste of 'home' - if any available.

Posted by
175 posts

I wonder why she went to Italy in the first place. What was the point? Yet she had been to Italy many times... I don't understand her thinking.

Posted by
446 posts

I see it as natural. Many of us are not "foodies" and don't travel to experience the cuisine. To me food does not make or break a trip. I eat so I can do the other things I enjoy. You either like art museums or history or old churches or fantastic scenery or neither or everything.

Posted by
8631 posts

Maria, there was a McDonalds a block away. This was her fourth time in Italy. But someone else made all the arrangments,

She also said on a previous trip she was in Switzerland and bought a few Swiss Army Knives for Christmas presents and tried to take them on the plane in her carry on. They were confiscated and learned she shouldn't do that.

Stan, my rule is to eat and drink local. While I'm not going to eat putrified shark in Iceland or bugs anywhere, I am open minded.

But I will admit that on long trips, I allow myself, once a month, to get a burger. With a local beer.

But even for non-foodies, food is such an important part of the Italian culture it needs to be experienced somewhat.

Posted by
1979 posts

That is funny. What sort of group is this?

To be fair, I'm not sure if I would know the term "Schengen" without this forum - that and "invidious".

Posted by
4822 posts

Well, to give her credit, one could assume that even Italian immigrants did not "like" Italian food when they arrived in America. They were the ones that added hefty portions of meat, more sauce, more cheese...and the melty kind; because meat and dairy was much more available here, and they thought they were improving older dishes.

Seen the same with Mexican, Chinese, and a host of other cuisines, make it sweeter, spicier, cheesier, meatier, any "er" that tastes good.

Given that, yes, I don't get people like you met. I understand eating what you like, and I understand missing it when it is not available, but given the opportunity to travel, you need to take a chance, try new things, even if it disgusts you, and understand food in the place you are traveling. I could care less that they like Olive Garden, sure they have some tasty food, good Italian American dishes, but for goodness sake, appreciate the food where you are at.

Posted by
4168 posts

I am a Southerner and believe me, we have some great Italian restaurants here in the South. Most people down here consider the Olive Garden to be OK to mediocre. They do have one dish that I really like, mushroom stuff ravioli.

I have been to Italy several times and it is one of my top five European countries. Love the food. The best Italian food that I have every eaten was in New York city. Same with pizza, the best was in NYC.

In fact, the pizza in Italy usually doesn't have a lot of toppings that I like, however, the classic Margarita Pizza is always good in Italy.

Posted by
342 posts

Frank,

I worked in China for a year, so this phenomenon is very familiar to me.

There are many Americans who can't stand the food in China, believing it's far inferior to Chinese food in America. The vast majority of Chinese restaurants in the US serve food that has been drastically Americanized, with some ingredients that barely exist in China and rarely serving many other ingredients or dishes that are daily fare in China. If you'd never been to China, you would have no idea about this.

When I lived in the Boston area, I knew of only one restaurant, in Woborn, that served authentic Chinese food, and on weekends especially you would look around and nearly everyone there was mainland Chinese. I wouldn't be surprised to see that the restaurant had terrible reviews in Yelp. There was another restaurant in Cambridge that was half authentic, and my husband and I used to go there for the jellyfish salad... until they took it off the menu.

Posted by
8631 posts

It's a tour. I will sometimes take them when they are going to areas I want to see but public transportation isn't good. I just venture out and do my own thing.

They are good in that this company supplies local guides everywhere and the included meals have been in restaurants with mostly Italian patrons. (They are only 18 of us.)

Posted by
1530 posts

Well I don’t eat Octopus either! They are absolutely fascinating and intelligent creatures and I prefer to watch them swim in the ocean.
That said, I dislike Olive Garden and what passes for mexican food here in the US. I’m sorry, but opening up a can of refried beans does not count as mexican food. Real, authentic mexican food is amazing!
And, I do consider myself a foodie and I also had never heard of Schengen before I joined this forum 1 1/2 yrs ago.
And why would I have?? I am not of retirement age therefore my days of traveling for months on end, is still a ways off.

Posted by
1167 posts

Well, my wife has IBS, which is unique to each person, so she tends to eat what she has eaten before and knows it won't upset her stomach. Sometimes there is a mystery spice or sauce on a dish that will throw her off. If anyone here has IBS you know what I'm talking about. It's tricky and hard to figure out.

While we do eat at foreign restaurants, it's usually something "safe" for her like a sandwich, pizza, and that sort of thing. So, we're not very adventurous eaters, but I'm not much of a foodie, as is Rick Steves, so now I feel better about myself. Kidding.

Subway? Fine.

Posted by
3279 posts

It takes all kinds, I guess. Thanks for sharing the story! Hope she enjoyed some aspect of her trip, and that it was good for the Italians who did encounter her.

Speaking of Italians, have you seen the condition of some of the buildings in Rome? Like at the Forum? When are they going to remodel and upgrade them, you know, like the Olive Garden restaurants in the USA?

Local food has been a vital part of our travel experiences.

Posted by
3951 posts

I was once recommended Olive Garden once when in California and was told they served authentic Italian cuisine, I never returned.

I first had snow crab in South Carolina and was instantly addicted. I've enjoyed a lot of Mexican but that's because there are so few Mexican migrants in the UK, in fact it's probably the cuisine I opt for the most when in the US. I've had great BBQ in Texas but disappointing elsewhere and one of my favourite meals I've eaten in the US was teryaki bison in West Yellowstone.

The best meals I've eaten have been in the UK (predominantly London) and Spain with Poland and Italy sharing joint third.

Posted by
1949 posts

We took our 3 kids to Europe for a "finished college" trip. We had always eaten a variety of foods.

I was quite amazed at my son, who was not happy with European coffee. He wanted "all you can drink" American drip coffee.

Still can't figure that out. In the part of the world that INVENTED high-quality coffee culture (Vienna), he was holding out for that lower-quality drip.

Posted by
1949 posts

Every culture "localizes" foreign food. Have "chinese" food in France. It is not the same as in the USA. The French have different ideas about spices and about "sweet food". I think that is primarily what Americans want - corn syrup in everything.

Posted by
50 posts

Your story reminds me of an early morning at Fiumincino waiting to fly home many years ago. A very loud woman near me was explaining to the some people why Italian food is so much better in Tennessee than Italy. She was offended that an Italian waiter was calling an arugala salad "Rocket." There were several other criticisms of what Italians do wrong that I wish I had written down because I've forgotten most of it. But basically, she was convinced that Tennessee was better at being Italian than Italy.

Posted by
915 posts

Different strokes for different folks. Not just Americans, how many British people love their curries and Tiki Masala. Take them to India and see if they would like real Indian food-my guess is no. Give these women credit, they are out there seeing the world and trying new foods.

Reading the OP suddenly brought to mind Frasier and Niles Crane in Cafe Nervosa.

Posted by
5817 posts

It's perfectly possible to love Italy but not be a huge fan of the food and prefer what you get at home.
Some people just aren't particularly interested in food. Others have very particular tastes and opinions that might seen ridiculous to you but are just normal to them. It doesn't make them "wrong".

My mum has very little interest in food. She lost her sense of smell when she was a teenager so most food is pretty dull to her unless it has a distinct texture. I love food and will pretry much try anything once, niether of us is right or wrong we just don't agree.

I have visited Rome a couple of times with work and whilst I enjoyed the food I wasn't a huge fan of the number of courses that I had to get through at some meals. By the end of most trips I'm slightly craving "home"food. Sometimes familiar is what you want or need.

Posted by
3951 posts

As Tikka Massalla is an Anglo/Indian invention you'll be unlikely to find it in India. Recently people are becoming more interested in the more authentic Indian/Bangladeshi food and you're seeing more and more restaurants introducing these "regional specialities". Still, that being said there are still those who don't want to move on from the staples that have been on the menus since the 70's.

Posted by
187 posts

I wasn't a huge fan of the number of courses that I had to get through at some meals.

Is it a must to order multiple courses in Italy? I never did primi, secondi, etc. It would be too much food for me and take up stomach real estate reserved for gelato. I used to just order a pasta dish and maybe an antipasti to share...

Posted by
1655 posts

Hey, at least they're traveling. We all have our idiosyncrasies.

I've of two minds on this. First, I think all Americans should travel to see that not only do citizens of other countries have different ways of living, but also are quite happy with their way of doing. The have no interest in living like Americans. Yet, they share many aspirations with us. They want a living wage, decent housing and decent healthcare. They want their children (and their neighbor's children) an opportunity to get a good education. In addition to visiting first world countries, they should also visit third world countries and not just as a four our stop in a port of call on a Carnival cruise. Try building pig pens on a farm in the mountains of Nicaragua or seeing patients in remote villages in Honduras and Tanzania.

My other thought on the subject is there are far too many travelers like the woman who prefers Olive Garden. As mentioned by another poster, they want the Epcot version of Europe and tend to regard the citizens of these other countries as amusement park help who are there to entertain them with their quaint customs or serve them food or sell them tourist trinkets. We do our best to avoid them by planning our own trips and balancing the "touristy" things with getting as close to the ground as possible.

Posted by
3382 posts

Your perplexed look was probably the same one that locals give each other daily when they see tourists flocking to some of those touristy, microwaved “food out-of-season” restaurants in Italy’s Top 3. ....and why won’t the waiter bring my bill??? Ha!

Lest you think I’m making a smug comment, we learned the hard way with the absolute worst pizza in Venice.

Posted by
20632 posts

Remember that taste and perception of taste tends to be unique to individuals and, as you age, you lose taste receptors. So how two people taste the same item can be very different. Arguing (discussing ?) taste may be the same as discussing politics. I remember a few years ago on this site that someone posted that she strongly recommended that if you wanted a good cup of American coffee you needed to bring a jar of instant coffee with you. She could not believe how bad the coffee was in France.

And, of course, our experience was the reverse. For years we drank drip coffee from a can, and then in '93 spent a week in Italy and every morning had coffee at a little stand-up espresso bar near our hotel in Milan. When we came home the can of coffee was pitched, bought a coffee grinder, and found a local coffee shop for freshly roasted whole bean coffee - and never looked back. Now have a second, fairly expensive espresso machine (worn out the first one) and a reputation among friends and family as being pretty damn good at getting a good espresso draw.

Posted by
7173 posts

I’ve never been on a group tour and have no plans to ever be!

Olive Garden is on my list of most disgusting food ever...right up there with Applebee’s 🤢

Posted by
2811 posts

I don't think there is anything from home that I crave while traveling, but sometimes I get tired of the 'same old, same old'. Breakfast becomes the most mundane for me. I have wheat, egg and dairy sensitivities, so I tend to have to rotate through them and avoid wheat as much as possible, so one can only manage muesli or something so many days in a row :-(. I will admit that as I tend to rent apartments, I have a little more control over what I eat but as I get lazy, there is a lot of repetition of easy dinners so I get tired of picnic meals.
I haven't been back to Italy since food started to make me sick, so not sure what I'll eat. I anticipate there will be osso bucco or veal options....but I understand they are well versed in gluten free pasta. As long as there are salads and italian coffee, I'll live....and enjoy it.

Posted by
915 posts

@Emma- I noticed Indian food in the UK vs US is different, even when allegedly the same dishes. Wonder if that's due to where the cook immigrated from in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh.

Rick Steves had a video a while back about a young couple who bought a pasta shop in Orvieto(?) Italy and the woman wanted to make homemade pasta because she saw so many young Italians buying frozen pasta at the grocery store. So there are many Italians who probably eat frozen pasta dinners and like it. Same as all of those who go into the cities McDonald's.

OT but my grandparents loved going on tours after they retired. They went to the Holy Land, Egypt, Germany and the UK. They loved traveling and seeing new places and visiting exotic locales. But they always missed their meat and potato dinners at home. For some people, food isn't that important on travels. I hope the OP has many more journeys!

Posted by
1741 posts

Poor chef, if you think at all the time it takes to tenderize and cook octopus...

I think italo-american food in NYC to be almost disgusting, overpriced and cooked using time-saving tricks I know from a mile away. Pizza? You don't like pizza, you like cheap toppings. Probably because 9 restaurants out of 10 don't know how to make the right, good tasting dough while everybody can cover a re-heated frozen dough (true story) with tons of toppings.

But this is not "the truth" about Italian restaurants in NYC and, I'm sure, it isn't "the truth" about US pizza. It's just my point of view, based on the flavours I've come to know growing in Italy. Same for the lady who loves Olive Garden, she's not wrong. The untrained palate - just like eyes - at first likes only the things it knows.

is it a must to order multiple courses in Italy?

No, it isn't. When you are a guest you are always offered all courses, but nobody demands you to eat them all. To tell the truth nobody cares if you eat one dish or six.

Posted by
2295 posts

Italian-American food is really a different cuisine from Italian food. I grew up in an area of NY with lots of Italian immigrants, an Italian American grandmother, and a different red-sauce checkered table Italian-American restaurant for every occasion. I love Italian American food. Olive Garden does a really bad version, IMO, but that’s what it’s trying to be. I also go to Italy frequently and love Italian food. But these are different things. I think we shouldn’t compare the two, but judge them on their own.

It’s entirely possible to like Italian American food and not Italian. I don’t quite understand but...I dislike food from a different European country. I still enjoy that country, just not the food there. I try, I eat at the most authentic places and I’m sure it’s good. It’s just not to my liking, so I will eat other types of food some days (Chinese, Indian, Italian, American) when in this country.

Your acquaintance sounds pretty uninformed about travel, but she must like other things about Italy if she keeps going back.

Posted by
2388 posts

Rather than making fun of those who are less traveled and less knowledgeable than us (because we do our homework), we should be glad that they are at least getting out of what is obviously their comfort zone. I don't like cephalapod dishes either and I also never go to Olive Garden. And I confess that my favorite foods in Italy are pizza and gelato and of course Florentine steak.

Posted by
187 posts

No, it isn't. When you are a guest you are always offered all courses, but nobody demands you to eat them all. To tell the truth nobody cares if you eat one dish or six.

Good. Thanks!

Posted by
2429 posts

I agree with Cala. No one knows everything. To most of us on here, we are surprised that someone wouldn't understand security rules, but maybe she'd always checked a heavy bag so security was never an issue and now she's traveling lighter. Or at least she's traveling and appreciating her interests, not yours. I am not an adventurous eater although I will try plant based anything (I'm mostly vegan/vegetarian). In Sweden, sorry, not interested in the fish...oh, but give me a Princessa Torte any day! In Greece, I did not try the Octopus, trout, or pork, but, oh, what they can do to Eggplant! Best ever! How many meat eaters didn't even try the eggplant? Quite a few from what I observed. C'est la vie.

OT, kind of. In my French Cinema class a few years ago, I was describing my RS Greece tour (in French, homework, very badly). Afterwards, a lovely octogenarian male came up to me and referred to the handling my own luggage statement, saying, 'You mean you had to put your own luggage outside the door of your room for pick up?' I laughed and explained I had to get it to the bus. He was bewildered. On the other hand, this lovely man studied French so he could go to Paris for a month on his own in his mid 80's, which he successfully did. So his first statement, would have seemed to preclude his second statement, and that is the reason we should not judge people, because we don't have the entire picture.

Posted by
5817 posts

Roubrat, when ever I have been in Italy it has been for work events where everything is catered.
The italian hosts were out to impress so we got the full "event" for every meal, including all the wine!
This was fine in the evening but 5 courses at lunch was a bit much.
The food was lovely but the timing and meal size just didn't agree with me, even if I skipped courses which I did end up doing.

It was quite funny. The events were timetabled by the americans, catered by the italians. Cue lots of stressing US military types who had timetabled 30min for lunch but were now watching the attendees start their 5th course with no wish to rush. Then we all fell asleep in the very comfortable auditorium!

Posted by
3315 posts

Hey, I like Olive Garden too. It is OK food at a decent price. But I love food I find when I am in Italy! I have no desire to experience an Epcot version of the world, heck I don't even want to go to Epcot anyway.

I'm not sure what all the hate is based on that is directed toward Olive Garden. They are not claiming to be anything beyond what they are. Sure, their food is not going to be as good as what your mom or grandmother made if they were Italian, I wouldn't admit it if it was, but it is not all that bad. And it is definitely Americanized to suite what they feel is the desired taste for their target audience. Maybe it depends on which Olive Garden you eat at or what part of the country it is in, but I have no real complaints about the one near me. Sure you can have a bad experience at any restaurant and get a bad meal which is why I always give any eating place at least 2 opportunities before I declare them unacceptable. And yes, there are much better (pricier) true Italian restaurants around me that I like to eat at as well. And there are some that have food which is completely tasteless and flat out disgusting to me. I guess it depends on what you are used to.

As far as the rest of it -- not being aware of Schengen, not knowing you can't take knives on the plane with you, etc. At least these people are traveling and maybe learning something about the world outside the little corner of America they normally inhabit.

Posted by
766 posts

We've all got stories that make our faces crunch up with pain. In Assisi, an American tourist kept asking (louder and louder to the shop owner who was with another customer): How mucho is thiso? As she left, without getting an answer other than 'un momento', she turned and said: if they want my money they need to learn English. The owner then turned to me and said, in excellent English: Robert, welcome back, how was your year?

Posted by
187 posts

I witnessed a similar scene in Venice where an American couple sat at a table at an outdoor café and immediately started shouting “Biscotti! Biscotti!” in the general direction of every waiter and the cafe door. This went on for about 2-3 minutes then thankfully they left in a huff.

Posted by
11970 posts

De gustibus non disputandum est
(Matters of taste are not up for debate)

To each his own.

Posted by
1741 posts

To each his own.

Not always. I saw an american student in Naples who pointed the pistacchio tray and said: "Yes, I want the green one. Yes, Pistacchio, the green one". Then he tasted it, said "this is not what I asked" and went away laughing. Laughing. Oh, he also refused to pay, walked behind the counter and threw his pistacchio ice-cream in the first bin he found.

This happened in Forcella, Naples. Probably one of the last "interesting" neighbourhoods in central Naples. The owner picked the ice cream out of the bin and threw it in the bin for organic waste. Then, When he saw my puzzled face, he told: "I know... I know... that laugh... but I can't shoot in the legs any rude foreign kid that enters my shop. The good old days are gone. For now". I left a small tip, just in case.

Posted by
238 posts

Little late to the show but have to humbly disagree with Paul's perception that ethnic foods becoming meatier, sweeter, cheesier, etc in an attempt to improve upon dishes because of the availability of items - at least for Chinese foods. They became that way because of Western preferences

Grew up in a family run Chinese restaurant and the food we eat at home and during our meal breaks are markedly different than what all our establishments offered. If you go to Chinese sections of major cities, the foods offered will be different as well. Even here in Charlotte, there are couple of Chinese restaurants that have two menus - one that most non-asians would find....interesting.

Posted by
1655 posts

Rather than making fun of those who are less traveled and less knowledgeable than us (because we do our homework), we should be glad that they are at least getting out of what is obviously their comfort zone.

The point is many, including the subject of the OP story, don't want to get out of their comfort zone. They want the rest of the world to cater to their whims and conform to the American way of doing things. They go to foreign countries ignorant of the culture and come home unimproved. It's been going on for well over 100 years, just read Mark Twain's opinions of American tourists.

I am forever indebted to our chaperone on our first trip to Europe when I was still in Junior High. She was a science teacher and an extremely intelligent, curious and well read individual. We spent 8 months before the People to People trip meeting and learning about the places on our itinerary. Each of us was assigned a segment of the trip and had to prepare a report on the significance of the area. There were 8 of us and when we joined the other 56 students on the trip, we were the only ones who had any idea of what we were seeing and why we were seeing it.

We also had to report on the culture and the lifestyle of those whose country we would visit. We were encouraged and afforded the opportunity to try new things and think in new ways. I think this is part of Rick Steves' philosophy and I appreciate that he promotes it.

Posted by
1167 posts

I'm terrible about what type of wine to order with certain fares.

My wife was once embarrassed when I was asked what type of wine we wanted, and I said, "The good stuff." She buried her head in her hands.

Posted by
688 posts

We try to view the food of an area as a quintessential part of the trip. My mom will almost always just try the chicken on any menu cause she is very set in her ways. That’s ok too. At least she tries the desserts. LOL

The only food I could not get used to was in England. Those authentic British breakfasts were gross and made me feel ill.......didn’t even like the eggs......

After a few days of this on a moth long trip, we started going into Morrison's grocery store and having breakfast picnics in our car. Mom loved it. It was fun.

Best breakfasts were in France with warm croissants and Bonne Maman jams.....they are cheap but I love those jams.

Posted by
133 posts

This whole discussion is amusing and even an important one, going to why we travel. Is it just to see the Disney version of a place and take snapshots of monuments? Or do we want to learn something about the place and maybe, ourselves?

Here's the thing. She said this:
In fact, I don't think the food in Italy is very good. I like American food.

Note that she didn't say "I don't like Italian food." That would be fine. It's her taste, her opinion. But she said that she doesn't think the food in Italy is good. That's a whole different animal. It's a value judgment based on ignorance. It may seem like a small semantic issue, but it's plain wrong. In most ways Italian food is qualitatively better, in terms of food safety, permissible additives, and care in preparation, especially when you're away from the tourist centers and the more cynical operations.

I reacted fairly strongly to that, because she showed that she is that stereotypical ugly American, arrogant and unwilling to learn and accept how others live in their own countries.

Posted by
5817 posts

We don’t actually know what she said.! All we know is how it is being quoted back to us so it’s a bit (a lot) unfair to be reading nuance into her statement that might never have been there in the first place.

From what we are told, she loves Italy and had visited many times, she just doesn’t like the food!!! How dare she! Well she is just the definition of an ugly American for having an opinion that other people don’t agree with.
From what I can see she wasn’t rude. She didn’t spit her food out on the plate she just expressed a preference to a fellow traveller that other people who happen to like the food disagree with.

Hopefully she will never find these posts and read the really quite unpleasant stuff being said about her perfectly valid opinion.

Photobearsam, cooked English breakfasts in hotels are universally grim. They are very rarely cooked properly and don’t stand up well to being left hanging around on hot plates. A freshly cooked one done at home, abiding by your own personal preferences, is a thing of beauty. Just don’t put beans anywhere near my bacon!! I preach tolerance to people who don’t like Italian food, I will smack you if bean juice sullys the bacon! :-)

Posted by
291 posts

All things considered, I do like Olive Garden. I find it to be wholly satisfying quasi-Italian-ish/esque/inspired/adjacent food. :)

Posted by
873 posts

My brother in law asks the question, "Why don't they do reviews of the food at Olive Garden?" and responds, "Because most reviewers can't spell 'Haaaaackkkk!' Actually, as noted, it is decent food at a fair price. It is Italianesque, Mediterraneoid, copious, and you never have to worry about them running out of breadsticks and salad.

In Fargo, North Dacota, an 85 year old woman wrote a review of the local Olive Garden which went viral. Here is the link to the article: https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/85-year-old-earnest-review-olive-garden-internet-sensation-article-1.1036629

I eat most things Italian when I am there. This year, I am consuming some Valium and am going to try rigatoni con pajata. Wish me luck.

Posted by
2963 posts

It is so easy to judge others. I find myself falling in this trap sometimes as well.

Posted by
8906 posts

Epcot has come up a few times in this thread. I suspect many haven't actually eaten there as many of the sit down restaurants are quite good, upscale and authentic to what one would find in the actual countries they are representing. Still would prefer being in the actual countries, but the comparison is poor.

Posted by
5029 posts

Michael, I brought up Epcot, not to point to it as an example of bad food (I agree its not). Rather as an example of what some people prefer when they travel - all the comfort and familiarity of being at home, and none of the nuisance of an actual foreign experience. I suppose I make the same bad assumption that people would want authentic.

As far as the criticism of the person in the original post, yes, I suppose people who have reached a certain age are entitled to know and have what they prefer. It was the complaint that a whole country's cooking as being inferior rather than just different.

Olive Garden (and Applebee's too) is a step up for a lot of people. But one of the things you should learn from travel is that its not real Italian, its American. I can't count how many people I've heard come back from Italy and express surprise that they couldn't find spaghetti & meatballs or lasagna everywhere.

Posted by
133 posts

Amen. And it's corporate American, not the honest stuff that a family-owned Italian-American restaurant might have. The Wall Street Journal did an article on Olive Garden some years ago, and it was a window into how they think. They actually tried to cook pasta correctly but the customers complained. Or so they said.
But objectively, c'mon. A huge meatball plopped on limp spaghetti? Grilled chicken on "Alfredo sauce," whatever that is. Call me a snob, but that kind of stuff perpetuates that folkloric notion of what Italians and Italy are like. Yes, we have big ceremonial dinners every now and then, but it's not like that. And I'm sure that what that woman said in the original post is accurate--I've heard and seen variations of it myself.
Anyway, thanks all for a stimulating debate. Remember, too, that this is Rick's site, and he does want people to mingle and to learn from their experiences abroad. I think he'd hope that the woman would get in the swing of things, and not just confirm her prejudices.
For a laugh, and the final word perhaps, go here: Olive Garden reviewed by Italian nonnas

Posted by
995 posts

Dear God.

I have not had the pleasure to travel to some countries, but I always assume that the food prepared in the country in which I am staying is how the food should taste. I have eaten at one - ONE - Italian restaurant in the US (not a chain) where the food tasted similar to what I had in Italy. There was once a Chinese restaurant near my house which was owned by a wonderful Chinese woman who made food that tasted AMAZING and nothing like any other place in town where all of the Chinese food tastes like cardboard.

Having said that, I applaud people who are willing to risk what is to them the unknown. But to expect that it is the same as what they know is foolish at best.

Posted by
2388 posts

Stan-so true that Olive Garden (and Applebee's) is a step up for a lot of people. My mother lived in a small college town and when my husband wanted take her to eat at Ruby Tuesday's she said "that's the most expensive restaurant in town". We are still laughing. Virginia was the farthest north she ever visited and eastern TN was the farthest west.

Posted by
342 posts

I can't count how many people I've heard come back from Italy and express surprise that they couldn't find spaghetti & meatballs or lasagna everywhere.

Surprise at this is a good thing. Dismay is something else.

When we went to Greece, my husband could not understand why we didn't see gyros on offer anywhere. He liked the food we did have there, so this kind of surprise is part of getting to know another culture, abroad, and not necessarily a bad thing.

We should applaud those who are open to cultural discoveries. We all have our misconceptions before we travel!

Posted by
1167 posts

The great thing about Epcot is you can virtually visit several different countries at a fraction of the time and cost of actually flying there. Win-win as Steven Covey liked to say.

Posted by
407 posts

Well, this certainly isn't limited to international travel. Two friends from California visited me here in New England a few years ago. At dinner they ordered New England clam chowder. But they were surprised when they received their chowder because it was full of...yes...chunks of clams. They didn't enjoy it all. Too many canned soups over the years I guess. Oh well, to each his/her own.

Posted by
4168 posts

marcia,
We spent three weeks in China and ate the local cuisine every day. We loved the food there. It was better than most Chinese food in the USA. There was more variety to the dishes served. We have never seen eggplant in Chinese food in the USA, but it is common in China and great.

Some on this thread opined that Americans travel to other countries and expect to find what they have in the states. I have been to 78 countries and lived for a total of 9 years overseas. Yes, a few Americans are like that, but most want to experience great local cuisine.
I generally will eat whatever the locals eat. I ate camel meat in Saudi Arabia, but I skipped some dishes in East Asia like "pork anus" and fried insects as well as dogmeat.

Posted by
2865 posts

This thread brought to mind a memory from many years ago. We were having dim sum in a small place in San Francisco Chinatown, when a young couple walked in. After looking at the menu they asked the waiter, “Don’t you have any Chinese food?” He looked perplexed. They elaborated, “like chop suey.” He said no, and they left.

Posted by
407 posts

Rosalyn,

(Sorry in advance, I know this is off the topic really) But the mere mention of chop suey always makes me think of the old movie Flower Drum Song. If you haven't seen it, one of the characters sings a song by the same name, though it has nothing really to do with food.

Posted by
7 posts

Frank II. You have stirred a fascinating slew of comments. I didn’t know the term Schengen until now and I’m probably not the only one who had to google the word to understand the context. I’m thinking the Olive Garden lady’s issues likely stem from not being able to read the menus. You just can’t get Italian food in North America like Italy. I hope she got her Spaghetti with meatballs on her plane ride home.

Posted by
145 posts

It’s ok we’re not all worldly. At least she has the option to travel and enjoy her life the way she likes. I appreciate all good people.
Enjoy your life the way you choose

Posted by
39 posts

This thread has been interesting. I enjoy the cuisine in Italy, but not Ligurian--I can't have shellfish. I try what I can--love the pesto! It's all part of the experience of traveling, at least for me.

I also love the coffee in Italy, but I can now admit in public that there are times when I wish I could get it in a "to go" cup. I would love to walk around early in the morning before the hoards come out while drinking my coffee and enjoying my surrounding. I know, the horror ;)

Posted by
60 posts

Interesting thread. We travel to Italy often but independently, never on a tour which in many ways insulates you from the everyday life of a city.
I will share an embarassing situation. My husband packs condiments as his liquid allowance (we only travel with carryons), catsup, mustard, mayo etc. After hearing “if I could only add.....(insert condiment) this would be great”, I have accepted this. We all like what we like.

Posted by
7146 posts

“We have never seen eggplant in Chinese food in the USA,”

geovagriffith, you’ll find eggplant dishes at Chinese restaurants in this part of the USA.

Posted by
30971 posts

After reading the details of your conversation, I was in disbelief that anyone would not like the food in Italy. I had to wonder why someone would travel to Italy multiple times if they didn't enjoy it there. As others have mentioned in this thread, I suppose this comes down to "each to their own".

Posted by
56 posts

Many years ago, my kids and I joined their dad while he was on a business trip in the far east. Our 10 year old was nervous about the food. To placate her, I brought a jar of peanut butter. I told her she could always have a PB&J but it would be great if she tried some of the other food. She ended up trying everything and still talks about eating chilli stingray. My son and I laugh about when he tried to order a sandwich with "American" cheese. They loved different foods then and still do. At the end of the trip, the peanut butter was unopened. However, every day, we'd go to some American fast food chain restaurant for a cheap ice cream cone. It's all about balance.

Posted by
171 posts

OP Frank,
Thanks for posting this. Might there be some equation that goes something like: 'Degree of enjoying travel = how open each traveller is prepared to be, in order to learn and experience new things?'
I am done. The end.

Posted by
291 posts

I do think it’s possible to be taken aback by food in Italy and other places - I’d suspect someone traveling to Italy for the first time (certain parts of it especially) might be very surprised by how much seafood there is. When you’ve lived your life to that point thinking Italian cuisine is all pasta, red sauce, pizza, and mozzarella sticks, the first time you spot a slimy octopus - its suction cup alien arms wiggling about, its big eyes staring back at you - that could be quite the surprise! I get it!

Where you’d lose me is finding fault with local cuisine being different than what you’re used to at home, and flat out refusing to even consider trying it.

None of us emerged from the womb knowing all we’d need to know to travel through Europe and the world, and a huge part of travel is exposing oneself to things we’d never otherwise be exposed to; learning things we’d never otherwise learn! Initial surprise is fine, but dismissal and disapproval is where she lost me. 🐙

Posted by
48 posts

so far I have never travelled with a tour and only a couple of times with a group
depending on the country , i will look for street food and go to a cart that has a lineup and cooks the food in front of me
for restaurants 90% ill never eat in a tourist area (the only exception is if the area is on a famous street with a good view and ill probably wont make it back to that city) . i go a few blocks away from it or residential areas and look for restaurants that have locals in it
to me the food is always better then when i order back at home

Posted by
1070 posts

A friend from Illinois had to make a sudden trip to Florida. Asked at the hotel for a recommendation for a sea food place, the clerk tried to send her to red lobster.

Posted by
3951 posts

residential areas and look for restaurants that have locals in it
to me the food is always better then when i order back at home

How do you know they're locals? Do they all wear t-shirts stating they're a local? You have no way of knowing, without asking each and every one of them if they're local or not. Even if they were it's no guarantee of a good restaurant, I could walk into a branch of Chuck E. Cheese and suspect that every customer is a local.

Posted by
3951 posts

Poor chef, if you think at all the time it takes to tenderize and cook octopus...

Not if you have it carpaccio, my favourite way to ear octopus. Or those crspy, deep fried baby octopus, they cook in no time.

Posted by
1741 posts

The octopus carpaccio is not made serving it raw or not tenderized, it would be inedible to everyone except the Japanese. To prepare octopus carpaccio you basically add 24 hours to the time needed for the octopus salad recipe. I'm afraid most buy the frozen carpaccios by fish wholesalers. You only have to slice and serve it.

Octopus is always kept in the freezer for one night or more, even when the chef buys it from a fishermen boat in his hometown. Nobody uses the old method to tenderize it anymore. The only exceptions are the baby ones, where did you find them?

Posted by
1039 posts

I have a very bad reaction to garlic. I was very worried on how I was going to survive the 19 days I was going to spend in Italy taking the Best of Italy tour eating Italian food. After all, almost every dish I had in an Italian restaurant in the United States had lots of garlic. Fortunately, the readers of this Forum reassured me that the food in Italy was made from fresh ingredients and garlic was not used nearly as much as it is used in Italian food in the United States. I obviously avoided the food that I knew had garlic, like Pesto, and had only one meal where I had unexpected garlic. Perhaps the person who didn’t like authentic Italian food was expecting more garlic in the food.

Posted by
173 posts

The only reason to go to the olive garden is for the salad and bread sticks. If they don't like the food in Italy...then no big deal. I go to Italy just for the food/history/culture...in that order. The most important thing to me is am I in a different place. I can just chill in sorrento for example for 2 weeks. Some people would say that is 10 days too long...different strokes for different folks.

Posted by
7146 posts

mtvaughn, I’m with you, two wks in Sorrento is definitely not too long...

Posted by
8631 posts

Will wonders never cease......Ms. Olive Garden has come around. Yesterday, we had a wonderful lunch of tuna, swordfish, eggplant tarte and something else (antipasti), pasta with mussels, clams, octopus and shrimp (primi), cooked fish (seabass or bream) with olive oil (secondo). She ate it all and loved it.

Posted by
238 posts

“We have never seen eggplant in Chinese food in the USA,”

geovagriffith, you’ll find eggplant dishes at Chinese restaurants in this part of the US

Being Chinese/Hawaiian, and growing up in Chinese restaurants, I do keep an eye out on what is offered in various parts of the country. Eggplant dishes are often found in restaurants in major metropolitan cities and in places that serve authentic Chinese food....

Posted by
11573 posts

Does octopus taste like squid? I've had calamari many times and of different preparations (mostly good except when overcooked: like chewing a rubber hose) but haven't had its relative yet.

Posted by
2811 posts

FrankII - Yeah!!!! good to know some people just take longer than others to 'convert'.

Posted by
1655 posts

Will wonders never cease......Ms. Olive Garden has come around...

Good for her! I hope this positive experience opens up a whole new world for her. We should all take her lead and make it a point to try something - food, experience, whatever - that is outside our comfort zone when we travel!

Last time in Paris it was escargot for me. This trip to France and England will be foie gras and punting in Oxford.

Posted by
2388 posts

The only challenging thing about escargot is knowing what it is. It doesn't taste weird at all. On the other hand, octopus, unless fried, grows in your mouth when you chew it.

Posted by
3951 posts

Octopus is always kept in the freezer for one night or more, even when the chef buys it from a fishermen boat in his hometown. Nobody uses the old method to tenderize it anymore. The only exceptions are the baby ones, where did you find them?

Yes, which is what I meant by it not being much of a hassle for the chef. Sticking an octopus in the freezer overnight is hardly laborious and when sliced and dressed with a simple garlic, herb and oil dressing it's one of the more easier dishes to make in a kitchen. Two of the best I've had have been at an Italian restaurant in Estepona and a Spanish restaurant in Benahavis.

As for the fried baby octopus, I've only ever eaten them in Spain, sometimes it's octopus other times it's baby squid but frequently referred to as chiperones, absolutely divine with a lemony aioli.

Posted by
3951 posts

Does octopus taste like squid? I've had calamari many times and of different preparations (mostly good except when overcooked: like chewing a rubber hose) but haven't had its relative yet.

Yes, it does but just like squid the cooking (or not) is the most important factor. Octopus either needs to be served almost raw and tenderised like a cerviche or cooked low and slow. The middle ground results in a tough, chewy waste of time. In fact I'd suggest that octopus tastes less 'fishy' than squid. My personal opinion for an introduction to octopus a carpachio would be the better option. Whilst some may baulk at the prospect of almost raw seafood the dressing (the lemon part) acts as a gentle cooking process which tenderises the meat and the remaining ingredients (olive oil, garlic, herbs etc) simply enhance the flavour. It's a very delicate dish and if I see it on a menu I'm almost guaranteed to opt for it.

Posted by
1741 posts

Yes, which is what I meant by it not being much of a hassle for the chef. Sticking an octopus in the freezer overnight is hardly laborious and when sliced and dressed with a simple garlic, herb and oil dressing it's one of the more easier dishes to make in a kitchen.

Sorry, JC but I'm afraid you don't know how octopus carpaccio and octopus salad are made.

It's 24 hours in the freezer to tenderize it, then you boil the same octopus for not less than 40 minutes per kilo together with pepper, laurel, celery and a golden onion.

When it's "almost ready but not ready" (easiest dish?) you turn the fire off and let the octopus slowly cool down in its own water. Then you pull it out of the pot¹ and skin the head and the thickest tentacles. Do not dare to skin all tentacles, people want the thinner ones to be red and a little skin gives a good taste to the dish. Too much skin makes it disgusting. How much skin? Good question.

At this point you could serve it as a salad.

If you want to make the carpaccio you must cut the above octopus in chunks and press it into a plastic bottle cut in half. Then keep it in the fridge for 24 more hours. But you can't forget it in the fridge, you (or one of your kitchen slaves) must open the fridge every hour to drain the liquid that comes out of the holes you made in the bottom of the bottle.

So 50 hours after you bought your tentacled friend you are ready to slice it and make money from it. Slicing an octopus while keeping that nice "red marble salame" effect it's not that easy. The first time you ruin the all job and it can't be served to customers.

Chipirones are called Moscardini in Italy, they are Relatively cheap and can be found everywhere. The subspecies of the Mediterranean baby octopus is a different animal with two rows of suction cups. Unfortunately it's been over fished for years and now it's either very rare or very expensive (around 25 € per kilo in fish shops).

¹ Never throw away the water you used to boil the octopus. Filtered it will give flavour to shellfish risottos.

Posted by
915 posts

Normally, I'd stay away from octopus but Spain has some wonderful dishes. I believe most restaurants use frozen octopus instead of fresh.

Posted by
81 posts

Your post made me laugh! Thank you! And it reminded me of an encounter my husband and I had many years ago in Sydney, Australia. We were at a really nice, boutique Italian restaurant--very authentic. We are seated next to another couple from the US (from a very large state in the southern US) and we hear them start to complain about how the food is terrible and not like the food at the Olive Garden!! I almost spit out my wine hearing them make these exclamations. We did chat with them over the course of the evening. And indeed, they felt the food from the Olive Garden was far superior and authentic. We tried to gently explain that the Olive Garden serves American food not really authentic Italian. They would have none of it. Lol!

Posted by
1720 posts

Late to the party, indeed...

This kind of thing used to make me crazy. Years ago, sitting in a perimeter restaurant on the Piazza della Republicca in Florence--the only place open on Sunday at noon--I was quietly eating my ribollita when a group of eight Americans walked in, took over (and killed) the atmosphere by talking loudly among themselves, treating the help like 'help', ordering cheese pizza, and then I witnessed almost all of them leaving the crusts like so many watermelon rinds.

I wanted to stab them all with a fork.

But now? It's just a big 'whatever'. I simply don't care anymore. You either travel to assimilate, or you travel to bring your ethnocentric Americanized values, thoughts & mores with you. I choose the former. Why? It's just a lot more fun. I find it easier to communicate, to break bread with a local in a foreign country when you instinctively accept what they do, or are.

Now, I'm not an idiot about it. I've realized that I could wear stylish clothes, those pointy shoes that look like they'd hurt my feet, and drape a scarf around my neck, and locals would still see me as a tourist--and an American one at that--from a mile away. But I like nothing better than chatting up a shopkeeper in my pidgin Italian and having them respond in kind, and having a laugh about it. It's better than viewing static attractions any day of the week.

Posted by
7173 posts

Sitting in Murren at my favorite restaurant, Stager Stubli, there was a group of 4 adult Americans - part of a RS group (not difficult to overhear them) who were absolutely THE most annoying people I had encountered during my trip!

Nothing was good enough, complaining / condescension / stupidity - you name it, they had it all and displayed it loudly and openly.

Posted by
187 posts

group of eight Americans walked in, took over (and killed) the atmosphere by talking loudly among themselves

That's what gets me. I don't care what people eat/don't eat, but the arrogance of being loud is unacceptable and ruins it for so many others.

Posted by
1655 posts

But I like nothing better than chatting up a shopkeeper in my pidgin Italian and having them respond in kind, and having a laugh about it. It's better than viewing static attractions any day of the week.

I regarded it a minor triumph when we shopped at the COOP in Greve and did not speak a word of English. We also frequented La Cantina in Greve. It was December and a little slow. Alessandro, the owner, sat with us (after asking permission) and we had a great visit every time we ate there. He taught us Italian phrases and introduced us to Mama Lorena, his mother, who spoke no English.

These are the type of moments we treasure. I try to encourage those who ask questions here at RS who come up with impossibly crammed itineraries to leave some space to slow down and connect.

Posted by
725 posts

A colleague of my husband said of eating in Italy - the only thing she ate was Margherita pizzas as it was the only thing she liked. I have a friend who used to ski every couple years in Switzerland and was thrilled when he finally found McDonald's. No judgement since I don't have to eat the food they choose to eat.

Posted by
104 posts

This has been a very enjoyable post ... so many travelers with different opinions and ideas, especially around food. I've never traveled with a tour, nor with a group. A couple of times with ex-husband, but when he didn't want to go, I decided it is always better to go solo than to not go at all. I've pretended not to speak English in several dining experiences. The loud, obnoxious Americans that expect everyone in the world to speak English instead of them learning just a few phrases - or even using Google Translate!

As to octopus -- I am delighted that I learned to prepare it 4 different ways from a very kind and patient chef up in the lakes area. I am so grateful that I love food of all types from all sorts of places. My parents taught me that I could decline a menu item at banquets we had to attend for my father's job, but I had to at least taste it. They also declined to tell me what I was eating until I tasted it -- otherwise. would never have experienced some of the rare delicacies that other cultures treasure.

My experience has been that almost everyone, everywhere is willing to help you -- if you make a minimal effort to communicate in their language. Even if it is 25% verbal and 75% charades!

Posted by
332 posts

For many who are dismayed or, astonished about how other US travelers view food while traveling abroad, you should observe (if possible) tour groups from Asia. While some are more than willing to embrace the local cuisine, and dive-in head first to the specialties, the majority have no interest in eating Western foods that Europe offers. I never knew this until I met-up with a friend and his family going through Italy; his wife is Thai and his mother-in-law was with them. We never went out to eat together, it was always just he & I; find out that they packed a separate suitcase filled with Thai food to include an electric hot water kettle and a rice cooker. Outside of simply pastries, breads and sweets, they simply didn't like eating any of the foods, they didn't even bother trying, dismissed it all together. Come to find out that many Asians, from Asia, will not touch cold foods, or foods that are 'crunchy', preferring soups/stews and textures that are gelatinous, spongy, slimy and rubbery. They view Western foods as bland, uncomplicated, 'without thought,' cloying and lacking in fresh vegetables...not my words.

Similar thing observing Asian tour groups, depending on where they're from, they'll go to restaurants that cater to their tastes. Madrid has a fair number of Chinese and Korean restaurants, with a few Thai places sprinkled in, not only are they catering to the locals looking for something different, they're also bringing in tour groups, from their native countries. The lone exception seemed to be travelers from Japan, not sure if it's a cultural reason as they've been traveling and embracing Western culture far longer than any other Asian culture or, they're more willing to step outside of their comfort zone.

Interesting observations when traveling abroad...

Posted by
3951 posts

Come to find out that many Asians, from Asia, will not touch cold foods, or foods that are 'crunchy', preferring soups/stews and textures that are gelatinous, spongy, slimy and rubbery.

That's not entirely accurate. Take Vietnamse spring rolls for example, soft, gelatinous rice paper wrapped around cruncy raw carrot, beansprouts, cucumber and rice noodles with herbs and dipped into a sweet and salty sauce. Always served cold.

Then there's Pad Thai, often accompanied by a garnish of finely shredded crisp vegetables and crunchy peanuts, in fact crunchy peanuts feature a lot in Thai and Malaysain cuisine.

Thai noodle salads, always served cold, cooked and cooled rice noodles mixed with lime juice, carrot, cucumber, chilli, beansprouts, fish saice and a little sugar.

The ethos of much food in Asia is all about balance, the correct balance of salt, sweet and sour and textures being important. A lot of dishes rely on the combination of soft and crucnchy, this is particularly noticeable in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.

Posted by
1167 posts

I get the idea that one can have a rich and rewarding cultural experience without being much of a foodie, like Rick Steves.

I could probably eat at Subway every day, which some folks when find abhorrent.

Posted by
5817 posts

You've done it now Mike! Expect a baying mob of foodies waving "authentic Italian" pitchforks at your door within the hour.

Maybe you could distract them by throwing the uneaten crust of your subway at them, ketchup for dipping, optional. :-)

Posted by
332 posts

The ethos of much food in Asia is all about balance, the correct balance of salt, sweet and sour and textures being important. A lot of dishes rely on the combination of soft and crucnchy, this is particularly noticeable in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.

You're not wrong however, take the totality of Asian cooking in-general and cold/room temperature dishes are a small fraction not to mention, much of what you mentioned are popular due to Western palettes from the US and Australia.

Many of these tour groups I mention are first timers outside of Asia. Eating European or, Western food, is simply an exotic and other worldly experience. Like some of the examples mentioned on this thread, view Western food through the blinders of their own prism and experiences.

Posted by
1084 posts

"Nothing was good enough, complaining / condescension / stupidity - you name it, they had it all and displayed it loudly and openly."

I would have had to go over and quietly request (ok... tell) them to be less loud.
I'm over 60.
I have no filters now...…… ;)

Posted by
23585 posts

this post has cracked the 100 mark - woohoo!

Posted by
3279 posts

So responding to BigMike and emma, if Subway works for you, great, But I wonder if you can find Subway shops in Italy, and if theirs are as “good” as the franchises in the Virginias? Their cold-cut-combo might actually use local prosciutto, rather than the Oscar Mayer-type baloney offered on US sandwiches.

I got turned off on Subway about 35 years ago, when dining with a bunch of fellow poor students, I ordered a sandwich, took a bite, and couldn’t bite all the way through - something was incredibly tough. Turns out the kid making the sandwich hadn’t pulled out the paper that separates the slices of meat ! We’re supposed to get fiber in our diets, but that was going too far. And I believe he was stoned at the time, long before marijuana became legalized in Colorado. Hope he didn’t lose a finger shredding iceberg lettuce some time.

Similar thing happened nearly 20 years ago at an Applebee's - halfway through my meal I came across a plastic tag in the food. I mentioned this to the server, and the manager cane over to say it wasn’t a big deal to him, apparently something they use to sort out their pre-assembled food in the freezer or kitchen. At home or abroad, I now avoid chains. There are sure a lot of them, so they clearly work for a lot of people, but I’ll pass.

Octopus? In Greece, Italy, Spain, Croatia, certainly! In Florida, that’s THE thing to get in Tarpon Springs, north of Tampa.

Posted by
5817 posts

Cyn, it was humour!

I personally don’t have an opinion on the pros and cons of Subway.
I actually love food and will try anything. Food is an important part of my holidays, but I don’t judge people who feel differently.

Based on some of the responses to this topic I think I would much rather spend my trip eating MacDonalds and yes even Subway than spend my time judging the eating behaviour of the people around me.

Posted by
3279 posts

emma, so noted! Just that BigMike had posted a message and you’d responded to it next, and hopefully everyone avoids a place where pitchforks are employed in the kitchen.

So if Subway had been founded in the UK, would they be called Underground? Happy travels & happy dining.

Posted by
23585 posts

The Subway in Bern Westside mall, Bern, Switzerland is an oasis of reasonably priced (around CHF 7) salads and sandwiches in a city and country with fairly high restaurant prices. I can eat there (and at other Subways around the bigger Swiss cities) for a fraction of what it costs at "proper" restaurants, and because I can tell the chap (or chapess) behind the counter exactly how much and what I want on my salad I can stay on my slimming plan. Cheap, cheerful and healthy.

About half the price of the McDonalds next door.

Posted by
1167 posts

Dipping a Subway sub in ketchup? Appalling!

Cyn: Good question, or not?

Here in Boone County we get dressed up a bit to go to Subway.

I'm getting in the mood to reporting someone; anyone, really.

Posted by
1070 posts

S J, I feel yr pain. In 1992. As a graduate student at Boston University my best friend had a unique safety value when he was feeling stressed.....
He go next door to the student union and find smokers not in the smoking section and yell at them.......
After he got a disappointing grade he'd actually say..... ok, gotta go kick some Smoker Backside.... or words to that effect

Posted by
1514 posts

what some people call road kill, I call dinner. Fried possum with onions, like Maw Maw made, is indescribable.

Ha! Well, after some thinking, I decided to delete the videos. I thought maybe they didn't apply to the op. lol

Posted by
1873 posts

Normally, I'd stay away from octopus but Spain has some wonderful dishes.

Regarding Spanish Octopus (pulpo), the best way to prepare it is "a la Feria" aka " a la Gallega". Your first challenge is finding the right size of octopus in the States. Since I now live in Los Angeles it's been rather difficult, however a local seafood shop has begun to import wild Spanish octopus (from Galicia no less!).

A fairly large one will do, then you get a big pot (traditionally a copper cauldron) of boiling water with sea salt, a few bay leaves, and some drops of olive oil. Dip the Octopus 3 times in the pot before finally submerging it. In 45 minutes it should be done, take out the octopus from the pot, then you get a wooden plate and dip it into the octopus water in the pot to soak up the flavor.

Boil and slice some potatoes and arrange them on the wooden plate, then take some scissors and snip the legs of the octopus to create rounds, put then on top of the potatoes. The final touch is to dust some Spanish paprika and sea salt on top of it all, then drizzle your best extra-virgin olive oil on top. If done right the octopus should be light and fluffy, with a nice glass of Albariño you'll be set, buen provecho! :)

Posted by
5029 posts

Enough about octopus and possum. You're making Olive Garden sound good.

Posted by
171 posts

A new Subway just opened on our corner. Weird coincidence: its staff has not one, but two folks from my professional past.
First, one of the folks there is a woman who'd once been in my Special Ed class, a pretty First Nations gal who was an outstanding athlete: her last-minute trio of 3-pointer long shots dramatically won our girls basketball team the come-from-behind winning of the 2000 City Championship. I still tear up recalling that dramatic moment, because I knew then that it'd be her sole '15 seconds' of whatever.
Secondly, her Subway workmate is the mother of another of my former students, an Afghani refugee who suffered from TIA and thus forgot most everything that we ever tried to teach her. Nice to chat with them both.
Fave flavour: tuna.
I am done. The blast from the past.

Posted by
1514 posts

I don't care for calamari or polpo - blah! My Grandmother would sometimes make it and put it into the sauce ('gravy')

She made "the best" baked, stuffed clams -- all fresh ingredients, no subs. One of my cousins would bring a huge box from the Boston "fish pier."

At Christmas, he would come with a 5-pound box of shrimp. We had that for New Year's. My family also made delicious baked, stuffed artichokes -- fresh bread crumbs, fresh pecorino, the best oil, fresh parsley and so forth. She would make an extra pan so we could each take one or two home after holiday dinners. lol.

And the veal or chicken cutlets? To die for. Baked goods? -- from scratch -- cakes, cookies. A tiny woman with the strength of 10!

Posted by
3382 posts

“My name is Jean, and I eat one meal each trip at McDonalds....”. Yes, I admit it.

But, I also savor those authentic meals, especially in Italy.....mouth is watering just thinking about them! Olive Garden type food would be such a disappointment!

Posted by
1514 posts

I have to say, that one of the good things about McD's is that you can blend in and use the restroom without obligation to buy something, lol. "Over 99 Billion served."

Oh and some McD's are high end compared to the ones in the USA. Nice Italian desserts, beer, espresso. Hmm...

But, if those hot fries are calling your name...well then...you must answer...

Posted by
1514 posts

One time in NYC, I visited the McD's. It was funny. I walked in, there was a man dressed in a tux at the grand piano. Interesting. Different clientele. Same food. Same prices.

Upstairs was a gift shop with unusual McD's souvenirs - things you could not get anywhere else.

A lot of McD's (here) are being revamped -- pre-order kiosks, streamlined counters, updated & professionally decorated dining rooms, new uniforms for the associates, increase in prices.

Posted by
230 posts

What really is the point of this post? It just seems mean spirited to me.

I agree with Greg.
Live and let live.

Posted by
1191 posts

Becky was right -- and that was even without any comments from me!

I'm a little bent out of shape a month after this thread trailed off to see that the kinds of discussions that when I put out in the forum are quickly labeled elitist and condescending and narrow-minded were puttering along for weeks on end, so long as it didn't include me. Grumble.

RE: the OP -- recall that I have mentioned how reviews on Yelp UK of an amazing local restaurant in Sevilla gave it low-to-middling scores because English patrons complained that the place was mostly empty at 7:30pm (dinner time?) and the paella was sub-par. Don't tell them that that's not dinnertime and that paella is not mozareb. Mozareb? We're in Spain, replies the English tourist, where the rain falls mostly on the plains. Don't try to confuse the situation.

/s

Posted by
1167 posts

I'll eat at Subway or McDonald's because I know what I'm getting, it's fast, and cheap. There is always time for a "cultural dinner" later the same day.

Posted by
1514 posts

If the lady Frank II encountered prefers The Olive Garden, so.....It's on her, not you. She's missing out on some good food while in Italy. Maybe she'll regret it or maybe she'll still patronize Olive Garden and continue to commend their culinary skills. Don't worry.

As long as "you" had the meal you wanted and enjoyed, it does not matter what others around you order.

Eating once in a while at McD's or some other fast food place is not really a big deal. I really think there are more important matters in this World to be concerned about.

I'll repeat my previous post from last month, lol -

I have to say, that one of the good things about McD's is that you
can blend in and use the restroom without obligation to buy something,
lol. "Over 99 Billion served.

Oh and some McD's are high end compared to the ones in the USA. Nice
Italian desserts, beer, espresso. Hmm...

But, if those hot fries are calling your name...well then...you must
answer...:

Picture this: McD's fries, hot from the fry basket, waiting to be sprinkled with salt, put on a hold rack under a warming lamp - patiently waiting to make someone's tummy happy.

Posted by
1513 posts

We’ve lived in Italy for 10 months and we had a couple “miss US” food moments for the first time this week. At LIDL, the ALDI version in Italy, they had a fajita kit, hot sauce, and jarred jalapeños. So Made fajitas with Piemonte chicken breast, fresh bell pepper and onion. First Mexican food in a year!
The next day were at a mall and broke down and ate two egg McMuffins from McDonalds. Our first US fast food visit in 10 months. But we love the food here!

I’ve made octopus and found a great recipe for marinade. Only €10 per kilo. So about $5/lb

Posted by
145 posts

Lots of opinions on this topic. :)

Here's mine: I agree with RS that travel broadens the mind. IF the mind in question is willing to expand. If it isn't, I wish they'd stay home so there were fewer crowds in all the pretty places I want to experience.

Posted by
145 posts

For those of you who don't eat octopus, try Aristide Ristorante in Manarola (Cinque Terre). Until I ate there, I limited my fish intake to "things cooked and covered with sauce." I had the best meal in my life at Aristide, hands down.

(Please wait to flood the place until after my visit in early July.)

Posted by
34 posts

“...from a large Southern state.”

Is this story any different if they are from “a small Mexican village”? Such detail is unnecessary - unless there is some odd intent here.

Posted by
5730 posts

Grilled octopus is among my favorite dishes. It is a reason to visit Spain, Portugal and Greece!
We stayed in beautiful boutique hotel outside of Castellina in Chianti one time. It was set among vineyards. We learned that in the next building, down the dirt road, was located the training center for Olive Garden. Such a shock! We asked if they trained them to take “the real Italian “ out their dishes.

Posted by
1455 posts

I have to laugh. This thread started before we left on our RS Southern Italy trip. On one of our first bus rides, our Sicilian guide shared that his mother’s favorite restaurant in the US is....the Olive Garden.

Posted by
3279 posts

Hmmm, Patty, I wonder which location?

Posted by
291 posts

our Sicilian guide shared that his mother’s favorite restaurant in the US is....the Olive Garden.

haha. I love that!

I like Olive Garden! I'm under no illusions it's like what mama would make in the old country (said in my best, but still worst, Vito Corleone voice), but it leaves me more than satisfied when I need a tasty carbs and sodium fix. Similarly, I love McDonald's fries - I'd avoid McDonald's when traveling mainly because I'd feel eating there would mean missing out on an opportunity for something more unique, local, and special, but I don't scoff when I pass by one. Indeed, I'd say I more often than not notice just how many locals in whatever country I'm in seem to be thoroughly enjoying the McDonald's. Being half Thai and raised on Thai food, I'm not really bothered by it when people throw a little peanut sauce on a pizza or salad and call it "Thai", and can enjoy it if it's tasty enough on its own merits.

I am going to have to bookmark this thread for folks' octopus recommendations, though. I've always had an aversion to sea food, no matter what or from where, and it's a quirk I need to kick.

Posted by
3951 posts

I am going to have to bookmark this thread for folks' octopus recommendations, though. I've always had an aversion to sea food, no matter what or from where, and it's a quirk I need to kick.

Personally I find squid tastier than octopus. I had a couple of octopus dishes in Mallorca last week, both quickly chargrilled but both lacking in flavour. A decent octopus carpaccio is a delight however squid often wins out on the flavour front no matter how it's cooked except for deep fried baby octopus, they're the seafood equivalent of crack.

Posted by
1191 posts

As much as JC and I clash on other issues, on the tastiness of fried baby octopus we agree! What a relief.
Fried calamari starters have become a cliché but that doesn't change the fact that when prepared well, with the right (aioli) accompaniments, it's a great appetizer.

Posted by
291 posts

You had me a “aioli”. Oddly enough, as much as I tend to not like seafood much, I quite like what comes with seafood - I don’t like fish, but I like tartar sauce; I don’t like shrimp but enjoy cocktail sauce; I don’t like lobster but will gladly take that drawn butter off your hands :)

Posted by
3315 posts

I'm the exact opposite when it comes to seafood -- I really like the seafood but can do without most of the sauces.

Aioli? A puddle of grease in my plate.

Cocktail sauce? Perfectly good ketchup ruined by adding stuff.

Melted butter? Great to cook eggs in for breakfast, worthless waste to use as a dipping sauce.

And fried calamari tastes like nothing other than fried. Give me some that has been lightly grilled with a good squirt of lemon and a few Italian herbs.

Tartar sauce is OK, I have used it in place of mayo on a sandwich.

Posted by
1514 posts

My Grandfather and cousins would bring fresh fish and shellfish direct from the Fish Pier. Couldn't get any better.

Once in a while, she would make sauce with squid. Not for me thank you - I would pick it out or she would set aside sauce for me with no squid. I still don't like it.

Posted by
1514 posts

aglio e olio with spaghetti. A simple dish; when made correctly, it is very delicious.

Posted by
1720 posts

Marrone, Girasole! Sei veramente italiano?

Obviously you have never had the homemade linguine with calamari & squid ink at The Daily Catch, a tiny joint on Hanover St. in Boston's North End, incredible! Or had--in the old days--freshly shucked oysters at Haymarket Square...

Posted by
1514 posts

Marrone, Girasole! Sei veramente italiano?

LOL Jay!

I don't like anything too squishy. I did not acquire a taste for calamari or oysters. Well, I used to like fried clams. When my Grandma made colhogs, they were delicious! I do love shrimp and scallops though.

edited - decided to remove some information.

Posted by
3951 posts

Well, I used to like fried clams.

I think it's impossible to dislike anything fried.

Posted by
1514 posts

Ha ha true. For some reason, as I got older, I became sensitive to clams.

Posted by
48 posts

somewhat related .
my friend is headed to an all inclusive (probably a 3 or 4 star ) in mexico . I asked her what she was looking forward to . her answer : the Italian food at the resort
I was like : WTF .
you go all the way down there and the Italian food excites you the most

it always come back to : there is no right or wrong way to travel , whatever works best for you is the right way

Posted by
1514 posts

The above made me chuckle. That is the same idea when people go to eat "Chinese" and order American from the menu 0_0

Get a margarita or two! I can't eat real spicy food, but I like some Mexican food.

An old friend brought me to a Korean restaurant in Cambridge ages ago - introduced me to Sigeumchi-namul (Spinach side dish.) It was very good!