I took 3 years of Spanish in high school, so although that was a zillion years ago, some vocabulary has stuck with me. I was in Puerto Rico on business in 1980 and the host took us to a local restaurant where the menu was entirely in Spanish. I looked through it, recognized the words for chicken and fish and shrimp….and purposely chose…..pulpo. I had no idea what it was. Everyone offered to tell me, but I believe sometimes it is better to try a new food without knowing what it is.
So many of us search for what is comfortable, even while we try to explore a new area. My family agrees to one constant: when we take a trip in an area where the food is different: McDonalds is forbidden. It is way too easy to fall into the ease of “what is known and safe” instead of taking some level of risk and trying new foods.
In a foreign country, this may mean being willing to order something you do not know…and perhaps, if you are like me, it may be better NOT to be told before tasting. Our mindsets can so often color the experience. My exposure to calamari was generally limited to the fried stuff you can get as an appetizer at nice restaurants, but on our trip to Croatia last summer I discovered that grilled squid is one of my favorites now.
Recently Graham and I were in Virginia Beach and once again could enjoy fresh Chesapeake Bay crabs. It is an easy and enjoyable task to compare recipes from place to place for crabcakes.
A bit more time consuming, but worth every minute, is the “whack-a-crab” experience, as we call it. Ordering a dozen crabs and then taking the time to pick out the meat is a task everyone who loves crab meat should work through. If nothing else, it raises the appreciation of the effort workers make to remove the meat from the crabs so we can enjoy it packaged at the grocery store.
Oh, and the pulpo? It turned out to be octopus….and it WAS edible. Not a favorite I need to repeat but also something I need not avoid ever again.