November means Thanksgiving, which in turn, means food. In our travels, food has been an adventure in itself at times.
We’ve heard many complaints about airplane food. Jim and I travel business class and can pre-order our meals from their menu. We have never been disappointed in either the quality or the quantity of the food and our chosen beverages.
We don’t travel large cruise liners. We prefer riverboats (fewer than 200 passengers) or very small ships, such as the Viking Ocean Liner with 900 passengers. Regardless of size, food is available constantly and reflects local cuisine. Even the paddle wheeler we traveled on to Alaska boasted trained chefs. Riverboats and paddle wheelers have open seating, a blessing because meals with strangers are not necessarily pleasant.
Most of our trips include educational home meals. In these instances, our guide divides our group into four people each and arranges for a local driving service to escort us to a pre-arranged home for dinner. In Buenos Aires, the van was too small for everyone to have a seat. Three people sat either on the floor or on someone’s lap. Even those in seats were uncomfortable due to the narrowness of the seat. Our local driver didn’t speak English and didn’t know his way to the four host homes. When he finally reached the correct area, he couldn’t find the addresses. The situation involved cell phones and emails. After 2-1/2 hours, we reached our destination. Our official hostess didn’t speak English, but her daughter was there. Our hostess served us, rather than eat with us, creating some awkwardness. The food (beef empanadas, meat loaf, cheesy potato casserole, and flan) was overcooked but still tasty. Rather than risk calling the driver, we chose to walk the 12 blocks (in almost a straight line) to our hotel.
On our way to Machu Pichu in Peru, we traveled by motor coach through the Sacred Valley. Poverty is common throughout South America, but here it was the worst we’ve seen. We had a pre-arranged home visit to see how these people live. We stepped inside a small, one room, dirt floor hut, which housed six people. Chickens, guinea pigs, a puppy, and a kitten ran around our feet. The homeowner pointed to a guinea pig and said that one would be their dinner. I avoided guinea pig on the dinner menu that evening. Jim tried it and said it was boney.
After those two dismal memories, I will include a very pleasant one in Akureyri, Iceland. Conversation with Dori (an engineer) and Anna (French teacher) and their quiet seven-year-old daughter and active five-year-old son covered their lives. Anna prepared a dinner of salmon in a cream sauce, the best salmon I’ve eaten anywhere, baked sweet and white cubed potatoes, and salad. Anna played an electronic keyboard and sang a couple of Icelandic songs in her native tongue while Dori cleared the table and set out the dessert, a mousse made with skimmed milk (not yogurt) with blueberries and raspberries. The top was a designed swirl of raspberry sauce. This was one of our most enjoyable meals on our travels, helped I’m sure, by the gracious hosts.
In Melbourne, Australia, a singing Italian waiter serenaded us with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs while we enjoyed an elegant five-course meal featuring roasted kangaroo loin, on a tram that traveled around the city while we ate. Food and service were impeccable and we had a marvelous view we didn’t otherwise have on our earlier motor coach tour.
Two alfresco meals stand out in memory.
In Australia’s Uluru National Park, the red monolith known as Ayers Rock presents an outstanding display as the sun moves into sunset, changing the face of the rock. A mimosa at “The Rock” at sunset is a tradition. Our guide set out a table of food and drink including kangaroo appetizer, smoked salmon pâté, assorted Australian cheeses, and Lamington cake, perhaps the most appreciated cake in that part of the world, but new to us.
An Easter Island tradition is a sunset picnic on a narrow point where we enjoyed three kinds of empanadas (shrimp, tuna, and cheese) and assorted beverages as we watched the sun set behind five ahu maoi. Quiet music set the stage for the sunset and the rising full moon.