Tag Archives: Eating Habits

Ready For Your (Belated) Women’s Day Special…? Chew On That, Bitches!

If you were lucky enough to be female AND in China on 08 March 2016, someone may have presented you with this to show you their appreciation:

International Women's Day China

Love those perky little mushrooms…

What’s this? I hear you ask.

It’s not chocolates.

It’s not flowers.

It’s not Gloria Steinem’s Empowering Fudge Brownie Cubes.

And – thank God! – it’s not a bag of salad either.

It’s dried BEEF STICKS. In a gift pack.

Premium jerky, if you will. Six of them, individually wrapped. Promoted as a “special treat for women” on yesterday’s joyous occasion that was International Women’s Day. The purveyor, Sentai Foods, with a reported slaughtering capacity of 30,000 cattle per annum, is evidently China’s most emancipated meat processor.

This is what is says on the packaging:

“You see, this is what REAL women like to get their teeth into. Shoo, shoooo all you little vegan princesses clutching your mewling bairns to your bony chests down The Sustainable Oat Flake Café while completing the multiple choice final exam for your MSc in AntiFrackingology on your iPhones. And, please, take your fairtrade banana bread and your rainbow frog coffee in unbleached sandpaper cups with you.”

(OK, I made that bit up, but as far as I understand, you cram a hell of a lot of info into just a few Chinese characters.)

Now, in case you want to get your teeth into some of those beefy Girl Chews, the product is available from a popular Chinese internet shopping site called JingDong (jd.com).

I must confess, after having facebook et al. vomit go-be-proud-you-were-born-with-a-gash-between-your-legs messages for 24-hours straight, finding this news item (on globalmeatnews.com, where else!?) totally made my day.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait for next Valentine’s day… ooooh, let it be hickory-smoked chicken feet on a battery-operated stick! The company might even go for a little rebranding… SentaiMental Foods, perhaps?

[Here is the link to the original article, in case anyone’s thinking I’m making this shit up…]

 

 

Nothing Separates A German From Their Sausage

Vegetarians of the world please avert your eyes. What follows is pure carnage. Of the most delicious kind. Let’s do the food porn first, and leave the educational bit (I am using that term very loosely) till later, shall we?

Currywurst is a legendary German invention... this one was devoured on a hike through Munich by the river Isar

Currywurst is a legendary German invention… these two were devoured my mum and moi on last week’s hike.

My brother and my mum beneath a sign in Munich advertising the most famous of Bavarian sausages: The Münchner Weißwurst.

My brother and my mum beneath a sign in Munich advertising probably the most famous of Bavarian sausages: The Münchner Weißwurst.

What is a Weißwurst, I hear you ask…

It's this! Actually, I don't really like them...

Here’s a pile of them. The while ones, obviously. Actually, I must confess that don’t really like them all that much… SACRILEGE!

And of course, you can get them canned

And of course, like any kitchen cupboard staple, you can get them canned. For emergencies.

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A small selection of a local supermarket’s sausage offering

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Those bits in there are finely sliced tongue, in case you're wondering

The chunky bits are finely sliced pieces of tongue, in case you’re wondering…

A seven-pound pack - now that would make for a nice afternoon snack

The seven-pound pack makes for a tasty afternoon snack

Now imagine this potential nightmare scenario: You’re at home, it’s late, you desperately fancy a meaty midnight morsel BUT YOU’VE RUN OUT OF SAUSAGE! If you happen to be living in a semi-rural area like my folks, 24-hour supermarkets or convenience stores are far and few between. What is a desperate sausage-dependent German to do?!?

Well, there is hope: My tiny little village of 700 inhabitants, which only has one restaurant and no shops at all, sports one of these:

YES! There is a God!

YES! There is a God!

The day is saved!!!

Just look at that shapely line-up…the day/night is saved!!!

By now, you’ll have gotten the point. Germans have a very special relationship with their sausages. Not only are burly bangers ubiquitous in local fast food outlets, butcher’s shops, supermarkets and vending machines, but they have also wormed their way into the common vernacular in the form of countless expressions. Here is a selection:

Picture the scene: There’s a terminal struggle going on. Everything’s at stake. It’s a matter of life and death. This is when, for a German, “es geht um die Wurst” (it’s about the sausage). And that tells you all you need to know about how we feel when it comes to our precious meat products.

I’m quite partial to the (British) phrase “I don’t give a rat’s arse!”. The German equivalent is “das ist mir Wurst!” (It’s sausage to me!). This appears to contradict the aforementioned “es geht um die Wurst”, but it’s really just proof that the sausage is all things to all people. (To all German people, at least.)

Some sad individuals love nothing more than to be offended by anything and everything. These bothersome thin-skinned types are liable to earn themselves the title of “beleidigte Leberwurst” (insulted/offended liver sausage). And while they stomp off in one of their huffs, they might well call the hapless culprit who (probably inadvertently) caused their latest grievance a “Hanswurst” (a buffoon).

When Germans get philosophical about the finiteness of things, they like to point out that “alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei” (Everything has an end, only the sausage has two).

 

[For those interested in German food-related expressions, you will enjoy this post: How To Be A Hater With German Food Phrases]

 

 

Salamanca – Food First!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I spent last weekend in Salamanca, a town with more history than you can shake a stick at. There will be photos of stunning buildings etc. in due course, but – and this will surprise no one(!) – I’m putting the food pics up first:

Let’s start with a round of pinchos, which is essentially the same as tapas.

The one in the middle is called "jeta". It's a colloquial word for face, as in "mug". As for the dish, it's pork snout :)

The one in the middle is called “jeta”. It’s a colloquial word for face (as in “mug”). As for the dis itself, it’s pork snout, oink! 🙂

But what Salamanca is most famous for in the food stakes is this:

Ham

Jamón!!!

And here's the nice man cutting it for us :)

And here’s the nice man cutting some for us 🙂 Pricey stuff, but so worth it…

Empanada

More ham

This burger was divine...

This burger was divine…

Nice wine display :)

Nice wine display 🙂

Who'd turn down such an evocative invite for afternoon coffee?

Who’d turn down such an evocative invite for afternoon coffee?

Not me!

Not me!

"Chochos Tipicos de Salamanca"  "Chocho" has two meanings: sweets/candy and... erm... fanny (beaver, if you're American).

Chochos Tipicos de Salamanca
“Chocho” has two meanings: sweets/candy and… erm… fanny (beaver, if you’re American).

Key West – A Seafood Paradise

The US is not exactly known for being home to a nation of fish lovers. However, in some coastal regions and on its islands, such as the Florida Keys, fish and seafood dishes are as wildly popular as they are delicious. I took these pictures of some of what I gobbled up in various restaurants:

Salute

Blackened black grouper with mashed potatoes, black bean sauce and spinach

Yellowtail snapper

Yellowtail snapper salad with mango salsa

Rooftop cafe

Scallops on sesame rice with edamame beans

Shrimp Green Curry

Shrimp green curry

Ceviche

Ceviche (a marinated fish dish popular across virtually all of Latin America)

Horseradish-encrusted hog fish

Horseradish-encrusted hogfish on a mountain of salad

A crab cake starter

A crab cake starter

Fancy any of these…? 🙂

Spain’s Fruit Is A Total Let Down

“The food tastes nothing like it does back home…” is such a cliched expat gripe that I’m almost ashamed to join in. But today, I’m going at it hell for leather. A burst water pipe put me in the right mood. I now have a spare bedroom Home Spa with a ceiling-to-wall water feature feeding a rapidly expanding infinity pool on what was once a shiny hardwood floor.

Right, let’s get to it. I’ve not moved countries for the first time in my life, so I’m used to missing many beloved food items. Decent bread, for instance, is hard to find outside of Germany/Austria/Switzerland, and if you’re used to proper English tea, you’re going to have to find yourself a teabag mule once you take flight from the rainy British Isles. That’s just how it is, and you expect that.

But there are certain things you don’t expect to be in short supply when you move to a sunny country. I’d never have thought that in Spain, I’d miss decent fruit. Yes, you read that right. In the very country, which is Europe’s biggest exporter of fresh produce, I find the fresh fruit offering terribly lacking.

Spanish Straws: Look great. Taste of nothing.

Let’s start with strawberries. We all know Spanish strawberries, right? (Well, if you happen to live in Europe, you do.) It’s those turnip textured red things which start arriving en masse in supermarkets and greengrocers around February. They sure do look like strawberries, but they taste of absolutely zilch. And what’s worse – they are CRUNCHY, for Pete’s sake! HOW WRONG IS THAT?!

Now, because my work is tightly connected with the food industry, I’m well aware that many countries grow two different “types” of fresh produce – produce for domestic consumption (which tastes great but doesn’t transport well) and produce for export. Those turnippy aberrations are excellently suited for the latter – you can toss those into the back of a lorry and truck them across the entire continent, and even after a week in transit punctuated by the odd motorway pile-up, they will emerge at the other end looking fresh and dewy and miraculously unbruised. And if you’re a supermarket that wants to display perfect looking strawberries on its shelves, this is exactly what you want. It’s all about durability and shelf life.

I naively assumed that Spain had two types of strawberries, i.e. those engineered for export, and those divine creations, which were surely spun by the angels from crimson sunset-dipped cotton candy clouds, and which fall from the heavens in the month June.

But I was wrong. I’ve quizzed friends about this, and the response has been a puzzled stare, as if I had been enquiring about the fairies living at the bottom of their garden. Unlike the good people in countries like the UK, Germany and Sweden, Spaniards only know turgid turnipberries. They have no idea of the gloriousness of putting a REAL strawberry into your mouth, and squishing it into a sweet, succulent mush, without it ever touching your teeth.

It’s always a good idea to wrap any dangerous missiles…

Next in for a lambasting are mangoes. All I can find here are those horrible red-green coloured harpy eggs from Brazil. I’m convinced that they are, in fact, a byproduct of cricket ball manufacture. Their fibrous, acrid, slightly slimy interior remains as hard and rubbery as a British Bobby’s baton right up until they start to rot in your fruit bowl.

Nowhere to be seen in Spain are those delectable golden yellow Pakistani mangoes with their rice-pudding soft, perfume-scented flesh that just melts in your mouth, which you can pick up all over London for six quid a box.

And there’s no point pleading with the greengrocers, although some will tell you, with a churlish grin on their faces, that there’s no broccoli to be had because “it’s not in season right now” (WTF?!), and they will quite happily import woody Chilean asparagus stalks so rigid that you could use them for knitting needles.

Pakistani Mangoes

Oh, how I miss you, my luscious friends…

But it is Spain’s apple situation, which is probably the biggest disappointment of them all. I sorely miss English Apples. Coxes. Orange Pippins. REAL apples, with just a few brown flecks on the outside and crispy flesh imbued with that perfect balance of tartness and sweetness on the inside. No such thing as Bramley cooking apples here either. All I’ve seen in Spain so far are generic, polished, sterile fruit that looks and tastes like syrup-injected candle wax fluffed up with polystyrene. Sure, those blemish-free mutants are found in supermarkets all over the globe, but usually, in most other places, there are at least some tasty native mongrels populating the shelves during the autumn months.

Red Delicious – a misnomer if ever there was one. Get this thing away from me!

Where art thou, my lovely Cox?

Where art thou, my lovely Cox?

I realise, of course, that people across Spain have the most sumptuous fruit sprouting in their back gardens, but, as nobody grows these varieties commercially, the good stuff just isn’t entering supermarket supply chains. Ho hum 😦

So, is there any fresh produce you really miss?

Annual Tapas Competition – Round II

Those of you who read last Sunday’s post will know all about Toledo’s annual tapas competition “La Jornada De La Tapa“, and how I’m sacrificing myself to participate 😉

I just got back from stuffing myself with these delicacies:

Roast (I think it was pork) with tzatziki in a mini bun

Roast Pork with tzatziki in a mini bun

I already sampled the above tapa last week, but forgot to take a picture out of sheer greediness. I made up for it today, phew! Unfortunately, the meat in my bun was very fatty and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as last week. A cracking tapa, though, the flavours really work!

Roast courgette filled with venison and topped with manchego cheese. Divine! ...but sadly a tad out of focus ;-)

Roast courgette filled with venison and topped with manchego cheese. Divine! …but sadly totally out of focus 😉

There was a third tapa, but it was a total disappointment on all fronts, visually as well as organoleptically. To console ourselves, we stopped by the ham shop:

My partners in crime: Begoña (beige coat) and Alfonso, tucking into his ham baguette

My partners in crime: Begoña (beige coat) and Alfonso, tucking into his ham baguette

A world of chorizo....

A world of chorizo….

If you want to take a look at last week’s tapas delights, click here.

I Know I’m In Spain When… It’s Muzzle For Dinner

Been meaning to take this snap for ages, but there’s always a queue at this butcher’s. Today I got lucky.

What do you make with those...?  Roast Sniff? Snout au vin? Snot pot?

What do you make with those…?
Roast Sniff?
Snout Au Vin?
Snot Pot?
Muzzle Moussaka?
Nostrils Napolitana?

 

Who Eats The Most Potatoes?

Germans have a reputation for being big on potatoes. But is it deserved? We shall find out…

As for me, personally, I can take them or leave them. Probably my least favourite are boiled potatoes of the “mealy” kind, which taste of nothing and clog up your windpipe. Floury potatoes are only ever palatable with lashings of butter and/or cheese, preferably mashed. Potato crisps, chips, fries, etc … I will eat them if they’re put in front of me, but it’s not something I’d ever crave.

This is the REAL thing

This is the REAL thing. Except for being boil-in-the-bag, that is… 😉

However ambivalent I might feel about spuds and potato products in general, I do have one big weaknesses: Kartoffelknödel. For those unfamiliar with them, they are the big brother of the Italian gnocchi. (Gnocchi have been, in fact, my fail safe substitute in foreign lands). It’s the texture that does it for me. They are like soft, chewy, springy putty. Gravy (there HAS to be gravy) sticks to Kartoffelknödel like iron filings to a magnet. Kartoffelknödel are a common accompaniment to German meat dishes, like pork roast and Sauerbraten.

Eastern Europe is Potato Crazy
OK, let’s get down to some figures. Which countries’ citizens consume the most fresh potatoes? I must admit, it was somewhat of a surprise to find Germany so frightfully low down on the list with just 22kg per capita in 2012. In 2007, it was still 30kg. Actually, Germany is very close to the global average of 23kg, but global consumption is slowly on the way up rather than declining. The reason for Germany’s dwindling fresh potato intake is the steadily growing popularity of processed foods, including processed potato products. Nobody wants to buy a bag of fresh potatoes anymore. I mean, they need preparation, perish the thought! Also, Germans scoff a lot of pasta and, increasingly, rice, displacing spuds as the national carbohydrate staple.

NewPotatoes

Really… you eat them like THAT?!?

As an aside – and things may have changed in the two+ decades since I left Germany – but eating a potato with the skin still on was totally unheard of back then. When I moved to the UK in the early 90’s, I was confronted with concept of “new potatoes” and baked potatoes. It was also the first time I’d seen people gobble up slices of (gasp!) unpeeled cucumber in their salads and sandwiches. I had clearly landed on an island inhabited by Pleistocene heathens. To my great relief, they did pull the skins off their bananas before biting into them, so not all was lost, as far as I could tell.

Back to the stats: Trumping the fresh potato consumption charts is the Ukraine, with 143kg per person in 2012. Now, this sounds like some serious potato load, but it’s an underestimate, because potatoes grown on allotments/datchas etc, destined for private consumption, which never enter the formal market place, are excluded from these figures.  Poland managed 116kg, and Russia 70kg. Incidentally, Peru, birthplace of the tuber, stood at 79kg per head.

Irish spud intake almost pales into insignificance by comparison, with 47kg and a falling tendency, but Ireland is still ahead of the UK’s 30kg. The US, shock horror, barely musters half of that! But we all know why: fries.

Yes, it was once a potato...

Screwed-up potatoes…

Next, let’s look at frozen processed potatoes. This includes potato chips for oven baking, potato waffles, croquettes, etc. The UK leads world per capita consumption with 21kg in 2013, followed by Australia and Canada (both 19kg), and the US (15kg).

Where potato crisps/chips are concerned, the surprise global leader turns out to be Norway, with a per capita intake of just over 4kg per head in 2013. Hot on its heels are the UK, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, followed by the US and Spain. In Spain, a small plate of “free” potato chips is usually served with drinks in places that can’t be bothered to do proper tapas. It’s always a total disappointment for me 😦

Anyway, let’s hear it from everybody else – what’s your fave potato product that you couldn’t live without?

Who Eats The Most Butter? And The Most Cream?

Aaahh butter… and cream! So right and so wrong all at the same time…

Growing up in Germany, I was reared on liberal lashings of both. Two kinds of butter enjoyed permanent residency in our fridge: ‘sweet cream’ butter and lactic butter (made from sour cream).

butterbrotOven-fresh sourdough bread, crust still crispy, slathered with a lavish layer of butter… what could be more delicious?! Unless you’re my dad, who liked to cut himself half-inch thick slices of butter,  and eat them without bread.

But those blissful days just couldn’t last forever. In the early 90’s, I moved to the UK, where I encountered the sacrilege that is salted butter. The salt, I’m convinced, was meant to disguise the fact that it was half rancid.

A baffling phenomenon, especially as I remembered my Dad often buying Irish butter in Germany, and that tasted great. I was at a total loss to understand the UK butter debacle. Right next door, there was good butter (ditto across the Channel in France), and English people were putting up with candle wax dragged through sweaty armpits?

From the 2000’s onwards, thank God, the islanders started to see the light, and a better selection of unadulterated varieties started appearing on UK supermarket shelves.

ClottedCream

Scone topped with jam and clotted cream – heaven!

Moving onto cream. Well, on my planet, ice cream and cakes were not considered complete without a tower of sumptuous whipped cream artfully erected on top. In the UK, they would just pour it, unwhipped, over their desserts. Fine, I could live with that. Despite their beastly botched butter, they had some pretty good cream, including this most marvellous of concoctions called clotted cream. It tastes like a mixture of butter and cream, and it’s way more delicious than that description makes it sound.

But then… about a decade ago, it all started to go horribly wrong. ‘Cream’ dispensed from spray cans took over in UK restaurants and cafes. Now, what’s in those cans is not cream, but some aerated type of white sludge, emulsified within an inch of its life. (Is it even still dairy?!) Within three minutes of hitting the plate, it melts into an insipid puddle that looks like cum. They serve this aberration in Spain as well. Sigh.

To my great relief, when I was back in Germany this summer, I found that ice cream and cake were still accompanied with what I recognise as the ‘real stuff’ – dense-textured, full-bodied creeeeeeeamy cream, whisked into a shape that holds up in all weathers as it slowly glides from your spoon down your throat and directly into your arteries.

So, who does indulge the most*?
The world’s top butter consumer is Denmark with 5.7kg per capita in 2013, followed – oh yes! – by Germany with 4.9kg. Here’s the rest of the top ten: Finland, Austria, Belarus, Azerbaijan (really??), France, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Georgia.

The UK is in 16th place with 2.5kg, and the US is even further down with 2.0kg. Spain managed a paltry 0.4kg. (Spanish butter, by the way, is awful.) New Zealand’s butter consumption (2.6 kg) is double that of Australia’s.

On the cream front, Sweden leads, slurping and spooning down 11.1kg in 2013 per capita, followed by Belarus with 10.3kg. In third place, we have Canada, with 9.1kg, which, curiously, is far ahead of the US’s 4.0kg. Can anyone explain this…? Next in line are Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Lithuania. The UK and Spain trail far behind with just 1.7kg and 1.2kg, respectively.

Well, people, butter or cream or both?! Go on, spill all your dark, delicious dairy fat indulgence secrets…

[*For data source, click here]

Who Eats The Most Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Mustard?

Mayo, ketchup, mustard – they all have their place. Sometimes they can be found in amiable unison, lubricating the innards of a nice juicy burger in fairly equal measures, but the uptake of these condiments shows considerable variation around the globe.

Personally, I’m not overly keen on mayonnaise – give me sour cream instead any day – but it is a popular condiment in Germany, where liberal lashings of it are added to potato salad, for example.  Germany is also infamous for ‘Pommes mit Mayo’ (Chips/fries with mayonnaise). It’s at least as popular, if not more so, than the ketchup alternative.  You can get Pommes mit Mayo from any burger van, unstylishly served in either a paper cone or a cardboard tray.

The "Mayo Potato" pizza, offered by Domino's in Japan, alongside the Avocado Shrimp and Giant Quattro, also liberally doused in the stuff

The “Mayo Potato” pizza, offered by Domino’s in Japan, alongside the mayo-laden Avocado Shrimp and Giant Quattro

As for who eats the most mayonnaise, if anyone had asked me before checking*, I’d have plonked for the Japanese being the highest per capita consumers. I’ve seen them deploy this condiment, seemingly without any scruples, on most types of food, and especially on those that are not traditionally Japanese.

But I was wrong. Japan is 20th down the list! It’s the Russians who are the true kings of mayo, clogging up their arteries with 5.1 kg of the stuff in 2013 per capita. Japan managed a comparatively humble 1.5kg, the UK just a smidgen more with 1.6kg, while Germany is quite a long way down with just 1.0 kg, less than half of Dutch consumption levels.

Across the Atlantic, 1.9kg are set to slide down Canadian and US consumers’ gullets this year. Australians and New Zealanders won’t even hit the 1kg mark.

So, led by Russia, the top ten of mayo loving nations is dominated by Eastern European nations in the following order: Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Chile, Netherlands, Poland.

In case anyone’s wondering, the world’s leading mayo brand is Hellmann’s (by Unilever), followed by Kraft.

In the Ketchup stakes, Canada leads with 3.1kg per head, followed by Finland (3kg), Sweden (2.7kg), the UK (2.4kg), Norway (2.3kg), Austria and the US (both 2.2kg). Russians aren’t nearly as fond of ketchup as they are of mayonnaise, squirting just 1.4kg onto their bangers. And yes, of course Heinz is the world’s leading brand, who else?! Second in line, though, is Kagome, a Japanese brand, which I hadn’t expected. Must be big in the Asia Pacific region.

Händlmaier's - Germany's most popular sweet mustard brand

Händlmaier’s – Germany’s most popular sweet mustard brand

As for mustard, Slovakia sports the most enthusiastic uptake with 1.6kg per capita in 2013. The Czech Republic is in second place (1.2kg), and France ranks third (1.0 kg). At least Germany features in the top ten. We do love our mustard, and we have tons of different regional varieties. A very sweet type of  mustard (as sweet as chutney), for example, is served with several traditional meat products and sausages, including the famous Weisswurst.

Weisswurst with mustard - A Bavarian classic. Which I don't really like :(

Weisswurst with mustard – A Bavarian classic. Which I don’t really appreciate 😦

Are you more of a mayo, a mustard or a ketchup person? Are there any weird food combos featuring any of these in your country or region? I’d so love to hear about that!

[*For data source, click here]

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