Friday, August 31, 2007

Food, Glorious Food

The subject is what and where I ate while on vacation, a non-exhaustive survey. First breakfast, always in the hotels, always a bit different but always with meat and cheese as well as the expected yogurt [Dannon and Yoplait are there too] cereals, breads, juices and coffee, sometimes eggs, sometimes not. Going to a breakfast room is something I really enjoy about traveling, having it all laid out for me to choose. The coffee is rarely as good as I would wish and never served in nice big cups -- take that back, in one hotel there were even Parisian size cups for cafe a lait.

I think for most of us the picnic lunches in the midst of long hikes were really the best. Tomas always bought fresh breads and assortments of local cheeses and deli meats. I will think with delight for a long time about the whole wheat rolls with pumpkin seeds all through them as well as on top. There were crisp peppers and tomatoes that had actual tomato flavor, and wonderful peaches and apples that were local and had not been picked green for transport in refrigerated trucks. And there were good chocolate bars cracked into pieces to end with.

We ate our picnics wherever it was possible to park the van. A collapsable table was set up but we had to sit where we could find a spot -- sometimes we were lucky to find logs or stones. Other times we balanced paper plates however we could. But always the lunches had that wonderful flavor of good food eaten out of doors after serious exercise -- possibly the very best circumstances for eating.

Other lunches and all dinners were in a variety of restaurants and hotel dining rooms. Some were the vaulted, cellar-like spaces at basement level which is always romantic in a kind of gothic way. Some were on terraces, some in private rooms, some slow because we were eleven altogether and kitchens had a hard time dealing with that.

Food was heavy reflecting what was essentially a rural part of the world until rather recently. Soups were very delicious and always hearty and sometimes contained unexpected items like halves of hard boiled eggs. A true old world touch was in one restaurant that served both a crock of butter and one of lard -- with bits of cracklins -- and idea so old fashioned to we North Americans we were a little horrified, cholesterol conscious as we all are. Beer was always good, light and dark, and the wonderful Pilsner Urquel, so expensive in the US, seems to be the national beer of the Czechs. "Like mother's milk," said Tomas.

My favorite meal actually was one of the first, in Prague. We went to a restaurant in a park, high on a hill with a view of the sprawl of Prague below us -- a well known restaurant [Bill Clinton ate here -- and many others in and out of politics]. The main course was leg of rabbit wrapped in bacon -- very tender, very delicious. As someone said, those bunnies were too tender and non-gamy to have ever ranged freely in the woods and fields of Bohemia. Having an unusual meat is just the kind of eating experience that makes traveling so interesting. And now I'm home and dieting is in order -- much easier of course, since no one is preparing food for me but myself.

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