Living That Tour Life Part 1: Eating

If you know me at all, you know that food is a very important part of my life. Admittedly, it’s an important part of everyone’s life because if you did not eat, you would die. I am not arguing that my need to survive is greater than others, but my appreciation and interest in food exceeds normal. My older brother gets lovingly frustrated with this obsession. For example, when I heard about his romantic proposal to his fiancée, one of my first questions was inquiring about all of the details of the celebratory meal they shared after. Not of the juicy details of their conversation, but of the juicy food on their plates.

I not only love talking about and eating food, I love cooking it as well. My mom is wonderful and always welcomed me into her kitchen, even at a young age when I thought recipes were for chums (many apologies to my family for being forced to try everything). This past school year was my first time living without my mom’s cooking or a meal plan, and I loved cooking for myself! It is so fun and relaxing having a kitchen and unlimited possibilities.

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So glad this treasure was preserved

Tour life is different. I have yet to master how to buy an appropriate number of groceries for one person one week at a time. Going from hotel to hotel, I never know what kind of situation I will have. One week we were really lucky because stayed at our sponsor’s house and had access to a fully stocked kitchen! Another week we were housed at an extended stay and had a stove, full refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, and access to appliances and pans. The very next week we were back to a mini fridge and microwave. No coffee pot. That week I discovered coffee concentrate mixed with hot water. Not bad….

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Week 1 on the road, I didn’t have coffee filters, so I improvised with napkins from the continental breakfast. It was worth it to get freshly brewed Mudhouse coffee! I have since bought coffee filters.

In addition to whatever the hotel may have, I brought along my hot water kettle and a small George Foreman, so that helps. Once again, food is important to me. I don’t like to eat simply because I’m hungry or it’s time to eat. My mood is significantly affected by what I eat, the presentation, the quality of the food, etc. First world problems. Whatever.

Anyway, I refuse to eat PB&Js and ramen all the time, so I get creative. Last week I had the typical mini fridge/microwave combination and made a meal I was pretty proud of: turkey burgers grilled in my George Foreman, topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, red bell pepper, and spinach, served with steamed green beans and butternut squash. Those steamable bags are so handy!

 

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Cooking with a George Foreman and microwave is easy enough, but hotel room cooking is awkward because of the lack of prep space. I cooked my turkey burgers and the excess juices simply leaked all over the hotel desk (yuck). I cleaned it up, but the maids probably didn’t know what to make of my towel covered in turkey grease. I bought a dish wand so I can clean things properly, but somehow things never seem that clean when you’re washing dishes at the same sink where your hairbrush is sitting. That night, after cleaning dishes that held raw turkey, I was a little bit nervous that I would be brushing my teeth with an accidentally contaminated toothbrush, simply from being around that area.

So far, so good on the contamination issues.

This week our motel only has a mini fridge. There are no microwaves and signs prohibiting all cooking appliances. We’re in a big fishing town, so apparently they had issues with people frying fish in their rooms and stinking up the whole motel. Even though it would probably be fine to make a panini, rule-abiding Samantha can’t bring herself to rebel. Grocery shopping knowing you only have a mini fridge is depressing. Luckily, our sponsor for the week gave us each a $50 gift card to the gas station. Their iced coffee is surprisingly good.

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That brings me to eating out on the road. Yes, I do eat out. I prefer to save my money and cook for myself, but especially weeks where cooking can’t really happen, we turn to the town. I have been enjoying exploring local restaurants and witnessing the connectedness of these small towns. Tonight Kevin and I were clearly outsiders as other patrons didn’t even need a menu to order.

 

Sunday is our travel day, so when Kevin and I make it to our new destination for the week, we like to eat out, get settled into our hotel, then do our week’s worth of grocery shopping. Unfortunately, local restaurants are often closed on Sundays. Sigh, but expected. What is not expected, however, is that we have found that apparently Monday is the second holy day of rest because SO many restaurants are closed on both days. What’s up with that?

In summary, trying to eat healthy, save money, and cook as much as possible is challenging. I’m not a starving artist, but an artist who is hungry for good food.

And one final tidbit: a silly Samantha fantasy is to have a singing cooking show where I cook and then instead of cutting to a commercial while the food is in the oven or cooking on the stove, I serenade the viewers. If you know of anyone who’d like to produce, I’m open to it 😉

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Let’s Talk Food

How else would I start a travel blog?

My food experience here has probably not been “traditional” German because my tour guide is a vegetarian who doesn’t really like the typical German food. I suppose that’s not too different from me showing Mara around the US because I’m not one to eat burgers and fries, so maybe it is an accurate portrayal of a German college student.

Anyway, my first night Mara and her roommate cooked risotto with tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula. I’ve asked her to translate the recipe from German to English so that I can cook it in my flat in London. Even with the recipe in English I might struggle a little because the recipe will be in mL rather than cups, but that will be a challenge for another day.

There is bread everywhere. Germany is a carb-lovers dream, but you won’t find the typical soft, bleached bread that Americans like. They have pretzels, rolls, and simply slices of bread – all full of texture and flavor. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I can understand now why this is what Mara was most homesick for when she was at my house.

My first morning I woke up to my first German breakfast - rolls with a lot of different toppings. Note: there was peanut butter, though I think that is due to the fact that both Mara and her roommate studied in the US.

My first morning I woke up to my first German breakfast – rolls with a lot of different toppings. Note: there was peanut butter, though I think that is due to the fact that both Mara and her roommate studied in the US.

It is still surprising to me that I can’t read anything, including menus. So, rather than having people read me entire menus, I have had to be trusting and let them recommend delicious food. So far, it’s been successful because I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve eaten. Here are some of my restaurant adventures:

Street Kitchen

This is a Vietnamese restaurant that is enjoyed by a lot of college students because it is delicious and cheap. We made a reservation because it's so popular, but Mara warned me they would likely hurry us out. I had some type of chicken and noodle dish with salad served on top that was topped with some kind of spicy dressing. I cooled down with a refreshing traditional Vietnamese drink (or so I'm told) that is basically lemonade, but with limes.

This is a Vietnamese restaurant that is enjoyed by a lot of college students because it is delicious and cheap. We made a reservation because it’s so popular, but Mara warned me they would likely hurry us out. I had some type of chicken and noodle dish with salad served on top, dressed with something spicy. I cooled down with a refreshing traditional (or so I’m told) Vietnamese drink that is basically lemonade, but with limes.

Traditional German

Mara and I ventured to her hometown of Göttingen so I could meet her mom and sister in person (as opposed to the usual Skype meetings). To celebrate the long-awaited introduction, Mara's mom treated us to a traditional German meal! As you can maybe see in the picture, we ordered the same thing, mostly because I let her choose for me. I had schnitzel, white asparagus, which is the seasonal specialty, and potatoes, washed down with alster (beer mixed with sprite). Mara encouraged me to order my drink on my own, so I mustered an,

Mara and I ventured to her hometown of Göttingen so I could meet her mom and sister in person (as opposed to the usual Skype meetings). To celebrate the long-awaited introduction, Mara’s mom treated us to a traditional German meal! As you can maybe see in the picture, we ordered the same thing, mostly because I let her choose for me. I had schnitzel, white asparagus, which is the seasonal specialty, and potatoes, washed down with alster (beer mixed with sprite). Mara encouraged me to order my drink on my own, so I mustered an, “Ein Alster, bitte,” but then was flustered when he asked me small or large. I told him small, and when he asked me to confirm, for some reason I said, “Oui,” which is neither English or German, so I don’t know where that came from. I think it’s good to have humbling experiences like that.

Germans like to finish a meal with a shot of espresso, but I was amused to see that it is paired with a shot of water. This is the only free water I have managed to find in Germany.

Germans like to finish a meal with a shot of espresso, but I was amused to see that it is paired with a shot of water. This is the only free water I have managed to find in Germany. By the way, this restaurant was called Kartoffelhaus, which translates to potato house – I’m not sure what could be more fitting for my first traditional German cuisine.

Audrey Café

Mara and I passed this cute Audrey Hepburn-themed café as we were rollerblading, but we didn't think it was appropriate to go there in skates. Today while Mara was in class for 5 hours, so I took that time to go back. As this was my first adventure on my own, I was lucky that no one was in the café so that I could ask the worker lots of questions (and double lucky that she was fluent in English). Normally I would've gone for cake and coffee, but it was just past lunch time, so a meal was in order. She explained all of the meal options and I went with a panini with eggplant (one of the anitpasti specials of the day). I asked her what she would choose to drink with it and she brought out two flavor options of fritz-kola, which is somewhere in between soda and flavored sparkling water. Normally I don't drink soda, but I'm going with recommendations, so I tried the elderflower flavor. Very refreshing and perfectly pink to match the Audrey Café decor!

Mara and I passed this cute Audrey Hepburn-themed café as we were rollerblading, but we didn’t think it was appropriate to go there in skates. Today while Mara was in class for 5 hours, I took that time to go back. As this was my first adventure on my own, I was lucky that no one was in the café so that I could ask the worker lots of questions (and double lucky that she was fluent in English). Normally I would’ve gone for cake and coffee, but it was just past lunch time, so a meal was in order. She explained all of the meal options and I went with a panini with eggplant (one of the anitpasti specials of the day). I asked her what she would choose to drink with it and she brought out two flavor options of fritz-kola, which is somewhere in between soda and flavored sparkling water. Normally I don’t drink soda, but I’m going with recommendations, so I tried the elderflower flavor. Very refreshing and perfectly pink to match the Audrey Café decor!

Audrey has international appealNot pictured:

  1. Breakfast cereal – Jacob and Will, I’m sorry to inform you that you would not be able to destroy some sugary cereal here. The “cereal” is actually just uncooked oats with raisins and sometimes nuts. It is served with either milk or yogurt. One of my favorite breakfast meals is oatmeal, but Mara said that people only cook the oats for children. Eating uncooked oats is tasty, but it takes a really long time to chew….
  2. Cake/Cookies – When we reached Mara’s home apartment, her mom asked us if we’d like some cake and coffee. Mara informed me that as a college student she doesn’t have midday cake, but traditionally that is the custom around 3 or 4 PM. The cake we had was rhubarb cake and plum cake, cut into little rectangles and eaten with small, specialty cake forks. Germans have a lot more utensils than we use in the US. While we’re discussing cake, I have been amused that the German word for cake is Kuchen, which sounds a bit like cookie, while cookies are called Keks (pronounced cakes). Note: Cookies here are not soft, so I brought Mara some homemade American cookies.
  3. I was prepared for the portions to be smaller in Europe, but that does not apply to alcohol. Everything is smaller, but beers are GIANT! If you want water though, it will be tiny. And probably sparkling. I miss my Camelback. Luckily, tap water in Mara’s apartment is good and free.
  4. German pancakes – In between an American pancake and a crepe, we find Pfannkuchen, with a texture that is slightly rubbery. Like the breakfast rolls, there are many toppings you can put on the pancakes. My favorite was nutella, strawberry jam, and fruit salad. You can either eat it flat or roll it up. I asked if they ever eat it with syrup, but the closest thing they have is a molasses that is made with some type of vegetable similar to a carrot, though no one knew the English translation.* At this brunch, Mara’s mom also made me try Leberwurst, and that is the only thing I haven’t loved here.

*Mara looked it up, and it is made from sugar beets.

In a few hours, we are meeting up with Mara’s friends to have a picnic! I hope this post leaves you feeling hungry and wanting some hearty bread 😉 Guten Appetit!