Culture hopping: Europe

Europe has always been a dream destination for many people.

While some like it for its culture and elegance, it may also be because Europe is a place where various treasure troves from the ancient times can be found and have been thoroughly preserved, up to date. Any artist, architect, historian, or even engineer would  be at a loss for words simply by seeing the beauty of Europe’s famed structures. The wide collection of art from the Renaissance period to the present is a testament to humanity’s progress.

But, let us talk about food.

Travel destinations carry stereotypes, prejudices and preconceptions that people bring with them.  For instance, most Asians who have gone to Europe usually complain about the food, specifically the small portions, the prices, and of course, the lack of rice. On the contrary, these accusations no longer ring true. Despite its antique tradition and rustic character, the European food scene is burgeoning, and has now brought itself to the 21st century. Asian restaurants, most specifically Chinese, Japanese and Thai ones, have sprouted all over Central Europe.


Try Local

Still, one of the best parts of traveling is the local cuisine. Instead of heading to the nearest McDonald’s (or the American Embassy, as some would call it), or gobbling down cup after cup of instant noodles, it would definitely not hurt to be adventurous and sample various flavors of, say, gelato, as well as compare the robust aroma of food immersed in fresh herbs. Moreover, there are many worthy substitutes to rice such as bread, potatoes, pasta, and the like. After all, it is not every day that one gets to dine in a radically different manner.

One does not need to eat in an upscale restaurant to accomplish this, as most Europeans do alfresco dining by eating outside. In Italy, people even eat while walking. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Europeans are so fit. Aside from walking long distances, the only fried food offered on the menu is French fries, which is contrary to the American, and even Filipino way of eating.

In any case, a simple meal in Europe still packs a lot of punch, no matter what the country is. Everyone has bread, jams, cereals, and cheeses for breakfast. Ah, cheese.



There are so many things to be learned simply by identifying various kinds of cheeses, as one will come to realize that there is more to cheese than Parmesan and Cheddar. Some cheeses, like Mozzarella and Gouda, are to be eaten alone, while some, such as Emmenthal and Camembert, are best paired with breads.


Simply Italian

Italy, a place famous for its pizzas and pastas, can be described by the saying “less is more”. Pasta dishes are without frivolous embellishments as in our country, as tomatoes, clams, or vegetables are all that accompany them. Pizza, meanwhile, consists mainly of a heavy layer of cheese with one kind of topping, and is sold by the slice or by weight. Outfoxing these two heavyweights is the gelato, as there is an endless supply of Italian ice cream with dozens, yes dozens of flavors to choose from. Despite its sweetness, gelato does not settle heavily into the stomach. This definitely bodes well for dessert lovers who have the gumption to try them all.


Germanic Gourmet

As one goes up north to the German speaking countries of Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, the shift in eating habits is noticeable. Self-service restaurants, called Autogrills abound, wherein salad greens and fruits are a staple. Furthermore, roasted potatoes accompanied with meats like schnitzel (deep fried veal), bratwurst (veal sausage), turkey, chicken and beef take center stage. Cakes like sachertorte (chocolate gateau) also provide a welcome distraction from gelato.


Chocolate Haven

In order to continue delving deeper into the European food experience, one simply cannot miss the things that make Belgium popular as it is today. These are the famed Belgian waffles and chocolates. If Italy has gelato shops all over, then Belgium has chocolate and waffle shops in every corner. No amount of imitation can topple the originality and taste of these sweet treats. Belgian waffles are the classic example of crunchy on the outside, yet chewy on the inside. Along with this comes box after box of chocolate being sold. The quality of Belgian chocolate cannot be discounted, for people purchase them from the most ordinary kind to the most expensive kind.


City of Love, City of Food

Just several hours away from Belgium is Paris. Now, Paris may have been labeled as the City of Love, as well as a reputable high-end fashion attraction, but it is also a foodie destination. After all, it is the place where connoisseurs flock and award Michelin stars to bistros and cafes, as depicted in the movie Ratatouille.

Paris is more than any tourist could hope for, because even a bite of Macaron de Paris or French crêpe is capable of satisfying one’s sweet tooth. Its wide array of international cuisine will surely make one spoilt for choice. Of course, not to be missed is the authentic French cuisine, complete with presentation, such as duck drizzled with red wine sauce, or salmon with hollandaise sauce.

Most countries in Europe may be unified by one European Union, but they all have maintained their individuality. Each country presents its culture through food, and one will come to realize that while nothing can beat the flavors of European gastronomy, there are at least people who try to recreate the same sensation here in the local food scene.

Stephanie Tan

By Stephanie Tan

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