ASK anyone what they remember about travelling abroad and food always features.
With the schools about to break up for the summer, the great getaway to the sun is about to begin and with it the chance to try new things to eat.
When mass tourism developed in the 1960s, foreign food was to be feared. Suspicion left over from the war years meant we were happy to enjoy the sunshine ofFrance, Italy and Spain but menus weren’t to be trusted.
These were people who ate ham for breakfast rather than bacon, so imagine what they could get up to with the other pieces of a pig!
Gradually, tastes changed and flights to more destinations combined with increasingly exotic restaurant options at home to stretch even the dullest Scottish palate. At last we seem to have lost our fear of foreign food.
Down the years I’ve seen fried mice on sticks in Africa and reindeer on the menu in Sweden. Each time I’ve wondered, how does that taste? In the case of reindeer, the answer is very nice but the jury is still out on the mice.
I’m just back from a few days in Ibiza where the food was fabulous. Homemade ravioli stuffed with local black pudding, served with a glass of rose in the sunshine was one of my eating experiences of the year so far.
Spanish food has always seemed like a poor relation compared to French and Italian cooking but that, too, is changing. Until chef Ferran Adria closed the doors, El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world and Spanish restaurants currently occupy second and third places in that poll.
On top of that a wave of new tapas bars has spread the message to a fresh audience.
Based on what I saw and ate this week, I’d say Spanish food is definitely the one to watch this summer.
My friend Markos has also introduced me to the delights of Greek food. I could happily survive for a week on his cheese pies and he cooks fish like no-one else I know. I suspect if Greece abandoned the euro and adopted the cheese pie as national currency, economic recovery would be swift.
So there seems to be a which Robert Peston has failed to spot. Countries with failing economies are good at food. Perhaps too good. Maybe Greece, Spain and Portugal are in trouble not because of economic structural deficiencies but because they are too busy enjoying delicious long lunches and leaving early to cook magnificent dinners.
Meanwhile, the Germans and Austrians fear leaving the office because that means facing more revolting piles of sauerkraut and sausage. I’ve never eaten as badly as I did in Germany and I hope I never do again.
So enjoy your summer holidays. Treat your taste buds and explore new flavours. But if you are going down the Rhine, take sandwiches.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South