Posts Tagged ‘food’


Max: Food…

December 4, 2011

One aspect of culture that affects all of us each day is the topic of food and drink. For this reason, it’s possible to get many insights into the way a culture works just by looking at the way eating and drinking are treated. Here are some of my observations:

In Germany (and probably elsewhere in Europe, although I can’t confidently make that generalization) breakfast, lunch, and dinner exist just as in the US. The difference is in meal size: The largest meal of the day is traditionally supposed to be breakfast, followed by a reasonably large lunch, then a small dinner. In practice, however, lunch seems to be the largest meal, while dinner is still just a few slices of bread with cold cuts, cheese, or other toppings. The prevalence of the small evening meal is evident in the language itself, where the word for dinner, “Abendbrot,” literally translates to “Evening Bread.” There are, of course, exceptions: On special occasions or holidays the celebratory meal is held in the evening, much like in the United States. 

This is probably one of the reasons the university cafeterias only serve lunch, as opposed to the ones in the residence halls at the U of M, which serve all three meals.

Eating out here has a similar role as in the US, as long as you don’t count fast food as “eating out”. All I can say in the way of differences is that there seem to be a lot more outdoor restaurants in German cities than in American ones, although this is probably more because German cities have more pedestrian zones, being based around pedestrians instead of cars (more on that in a future article on transportation). 

Fast food is another matter. In America, it takes the form of cheap, often greasy and unhealthy, food-in-a-box that’s meant to stuff your stomach for a low price. While McDonald’s does exist in Germany, most “fast food” is more like real food that is packaged to be eaten on the go. Bratwurst on a roll, buttered pretzels, and gyros are all more readily available in Munich than greasy, suspect burgers.

Students are usually a segment of the population whose eating habits differ significantly from the rest. In America, I lived in a residence hall and did not cook for myself (a logical consequence of not having a kitchen), but I don’t think this is the case for most students living in off-campus apartments at the U of M. Their situation seems to be the same as for students here, where the students are on their own for morning and evening meals and most student residences have kitchens. The universities here just don’t provide full meal service of the type that exists in American college dorms. 

So what does all this say about our cultures? My interpretation of these differences is that food and eating maintains a more traditional role in Germany, whereas in America some of this tradition has been compromised by practicality (a trend which seems to exist in Germany to a lesser extent). I think this conclusion applies not only to food, but to each culture in general.

The only thing left now is to clear up why I put an ellipsis in the title. Since I have so much to say about food and drink, I decided to push the “drink” part to the next post, which you can expect sometime next week.


Thomas: Food & drink

September 4, 2011

It’s everyone’s favorite topic: food. After all, everyone must consume it to survive, so why not enjoy it a little. The food in Buenos Aires has been exceptional thus far, although as one can expect, there are several differences in how people from the United States eat/drink to how the Porteños eat/drink.


I must admit, at my homestay, I am getting fed more like an American than a Porteños. It seems like my serving sizes are slightly larger than everyone else’s in my family. A breakfast tray is put out for me seven days a week, which includes bread for toast, orange marmalade, queso blanco (cream cheese spread), dulce de leche, two kinds of cereal, milk (warm and cold), instant coffee, and sometimes fruit.

Quite the display, I know. Most people here just eat toast with spread, coffee and maybe juice. You won’t find any pancake or waffle breakfasts here in Buenos Aires. It’s the lightest meal of the day. A couple items to highlight, the coffee and the dulce de leche.

I know in the U.S., instant coffee is becoming more popular, but this is my first time trying it. It’s not bad, and I usually enjoy 3 cups in the morning. In restaurants here in Buenos Aires, you will find many people enjoying a typical breakfast of coffee and a croissant. All coffee found in cafe’s is actually espresso, so it’s mighty strong and comes in a tiny cup. A lot of people enjoy their coffee with steamed milk (half coffee/half milk or Cafe con leche). In the U.S., we would call this a Latte. Also note, portion size in Coffees is much smaller than in the U.S. Most places only give you a small or a medium size coffee. A medium size looks more like a small in the U.S.

I want to highlight Dulce de Leche because it is a staple here in Argentina. It’s made here and enjoyed daily by almost everyone. Dulce de Leche literally translates to “candy of milk”. It’s basically heaven in a jar. It tastes similar to caramel and milk chocolate, but nothing really compares. Sometimes I will spread it on my toast in the morning, eat it with a fruit, dessert, or with nearly every candy in Argentina. Many candy makers include Dulce de Leche in their products.


Enjoyed between 12 and 3 o’clock. Typically I eat out for lunch at a cafe or restaurant near my school. A light sandwich or salad is a common lunch and is much like those we enjoy in the U.S. One big difference when eating out is that water is not free here in Buenos Aires. It comes with or without bubbles, and in a glass bottle. As someone who typically orders water in the U.S., free of charge, this has been difficult for the pocketbook to grasp.


Enjoyed between 8:30 and 11:30 pm. My host-mother is a fantastic cook, so I have yet to dislike a home cooked dinner in Buenos Aires. Each night I am served at 8:30, early for most people here. Porteños eat very late. Like the U.S., Argentina eats a lot of meat and potatoes, and they are of course most famous for their cuts of steak. I have had steak twice at home, but never at a restaurant.

A favorite meal of mine so far at my homestay included three different varieties of potato, seasoned chicken breast w/ grilled onions, and tomatoes w/ olives on the side. Argentinians love their desserts, and so far I have been served a number of traditional Argentinean dishes. Of course the food, culture, and livelihood here is heavily influenced by the Europeans as most Porteños are direct descendents of Italy, Spain, France, or Germany.


A very popular candy in Argentina is the Alfajor. This treat consists of two soft wafers glued together with dulce de leche, and finally covered with chocolate. Muy delicioso. There’s no question, Porteños have a sweet tooth.


Hilary: A whole month gone

August 23, 2011

One month down and one semester to go!

Tomorrow I finish my first month of classes in Ecuador!  I can’t believe how fast this is going!  I have a final exam tomorrow and then need to finish reading that huge packet of articles over our 5-day weekend.  I am going to find a conservatory to practice voice on Thursday and then going to have a fantastic workout at the gym and get my censo (id card for residents who are non-Ecuadorian).

Below is a picture of the lunch I eat almost everyday: Ingredients: fresh bread, fresh cheese, kale, avocado, grapes, and a clementine. Cost: $3.50/week. 

Fun food facts for Ecuador! You can buy 25 mandarin oranges for $1, 4 or 5 avocados for $1, 2 big loaves of bread or 8 small loaves of bread for $1, almuerzo normal (classic lunch which consists of a delicious creamy soup, followed by rice and meat, and juice) for $1.50.  You can buy a beer for $2 but they only have Club and Pilsener… not my favs, but I’ll take a Club thanks! Things that are expensive here: chocolate, any alcoholic drink besides beer (unless its ladies night!) granola… don’t think I’ve tried to buy much else!  Oh they don’t have chocolate chips here!!  Soo.. if you want to send me something, send me chocolate chips so I can bake chocolate chip cookies with my sisters! (My Ecuadorian sisters, yes dad, they aren’t my real sisters)

Bueno, todo es muy bien aquí y estoy súper feliz y emocionada por este semestre!  Shout out to the LU Spanish faculty: Muchísimas gracias por todo su trabajo y apoyo en LU, con nuestras clases estaba preparaba para el tiempo aquí y estoy feliz que tuve la oportunidad practicar hablando durante clase junto con la gramática! 

This weekend I’m going to the provinces of Esmereldas and Manabí (aka the beach!) we are going to rent a car and drive the coast!  I am excited to have this adventure because once the semester starts I will have 4 classes, 5 days a week and lots of homework.. ah school, yay for my last year!! 

In the past month I have written several papers, the most interesting one is about an Ecuadorian Indigenous Woman named Transito Amaguaña (1909-2009) she died a month before her 100th birthday!  She has been recognized just this past year for her work fighting for indigenous and women’s rights. She was one of the first women in Ecuador to step forward and commit her life to human rights and she had many successes. Her testimony has been printed (in Spanish) for all to read. Her story is super interesting and it is a great book to go along with the testimony of Rigoberta Menchu (from Guatemala).

Spanish gets harder and easier depending on the day, but I finally figured out subjuntivo. Goodness, seriously we spent a week on it and I finally get it!!  (well really only the beginning, but at least it makes sense now!)  I hope that all who are able take advantage of studying abroad and learning a new language. It opens up so many possibilities in linguistics and in life! 

Something random that I just figured out today (just a side note, thought it would make you all laugh):  I am used to editing my papers on actual paper so I actually read the mistakes I am making out-loud and see them, I think my brain thinks that the computer words aren’t actually real…  Anyway, I need to adjust to my idea about saving paper and to not having a printer!  Hence, I have a new mindset with editing papers on the computer.  The words I type are real AND I read to the computer instead of to the paper!  Wow, sometimes I can really trick myself!


Kadie: Welcome to my Moroccan life

March 11, 2011

So I lived through the first week of classes! (This is quite the triumph, because somewhere around Wednesday afternoon/Thursday morning, I really wasn’t sure I would). So, I am now one week in to my first six-week term here at the Arabic Language Institute of Fes, and I’ve been living with my family now for about a week and a half. I’ve learned SO MUCH so far, both in terms of Arabic language, and the Moroccan culture… so that gives me a lot of hope for the level I might be at when we get to the end of this semester.

Everything with my host family is still going splendidly! Forgive me, in advance, but I NEED to rant about the FOOD!! The meals are AMAZING… breakfast is usually pretty simple—just some fresh bread with various spreads to put on it. (Butter, apricot jam, chocolate spread, etc.) And lunch is usually huge and hearty, and traditionally the biggest meal of the day. I come home almost every day for lunch in between classes, and on the days where my break isn’t really long enough to warrant the commute, my host mom packs me a sandwich! And dinner is usually eaten really late…my family eats around 9pm, and it’s generally pretty light. Anyway…some of my favorite dishes so far? EVERY kind of soup my host mother has made so far. I’ve had more soup in the last week than I think I’ve had in the last year…it’s a fairly common dinner…and I’ve also had some of the most amazing couscous in the world. OH and one night for dinner, we had this sweet pasta dish…like egg noodles with almonds and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I KNOW it sounds weird…but it was good. Oh and we’ve had this little side dish with lunch a few times…it’s like chopped/pureed carrots in orange juice with cinnamon. Again…sounds kind of strange, but soooooo good. I love how veggie-friendly my diet has become here—definitely a good thing! We also eat chicken quite a bit…and its always absolutely delicious…I just have to remind myself not to think about the souq we bought it from.

SIDENOTE: I went to the souq (traditional market) with my host mom and another girl on the program today (who is staying with my host-aunt and uncle…we’re cousins!) We went to the one little corner store to get our weekly stock of chicken, and I watched my host mom pick out which one she wanted (it was alive and kicking and squawking) and when we returned about an hour later to pick it up, it was all wrapped up and cleaned, packaged and ready to go. Ummmm yea. I guess it’s a good thing I know its fresh??

My host family has also realized that I don’t eat fish. They tried serving it one day last week, and I tried eating it, I really did…but to no avail. So now they know, and I guess things are better that way. They haven’t yet tried to make me eat beef…for which I’m grateful…I’m not very good at pretending to like certain things…

Sorry for the ranting on food…but meals are a huge family deal here, and so they’ve come to be quite the event in my household, especially as so many of the meals are so different than anything I’m used to. I can tell you one thing though, after being on my own for so long, and cooking for myself all of last semester (PS: I cannot cook…ask anyone), it is wonderful to have home-cooked meals every day again. I know this will be one of the things I miss most when I’m gone…

But besides the food in my life…everything else is going well too! Classes, as you might have assumed from my description of my last week above, are hard. My brain is constantly swimming with Arabic, Arabic and MORE Arabic. Most of my day is gone about in Arabic…and it’s hard, but rewarding at the same time. It’s a lot more class hours per week than I’m used to, and a lot more homework than I’ve had in a long time, but I’m adjusting. I’m being challenged again, which, in my opinion, is never a bad thing. I just hope I can keep up with it all. When we were walking through the souq this morning, and I was looking around, I realized for the umpteenth time how lucky I am to be living this life. I became conscious of just how crazy this ride has been. Sometimes, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far…I can’t believe I’ve been able to do it all…and then sometimes, I don’t think I’ve done nearly enough. It’s an interesting feeling…and one that seems to hit me at the strangest of times…like when I’m weaving my way through a crowded souq street, dodging yells of “Andik!” (Watch out!) And trying to avoid the heavy-laden carts, and occasionally donkeys, and giant vans and trucks that think they can squeeze their way through the throngs of people going about their weekly shopping. It all keeps reminding me of something my mother said to me numerous times while she was here…it feels like a movie. My life…sometimes…feels like a movie, like there’s no possible way it can be real.

Another small side note-yesterday we did a girls day at the hamman, (the local public bathhouse) and my host mother took us. I’m grateful she was there to show us what all to do, and to explain to us how much it should cost, so next time, when we brave it on our own, we’ll be pros! I think we might turn it in to a weekly event? Something about sitting there in the hot, steamy room just chatting for however long we please, as we go about getting really squeaky clean is just so much FUN. What a wonderful part of ancient Arab life…even if it is a bit awkward to our American-cultural senses at first.

For the rest of the weekend, I believe some serious shopping (I am so in love with the scarves and the traditional dresses here…I must have them!) and some serious tudying are in order. And next weekend I think we might try to organize a group trip somewhere? Get away for the weekend? Not sure yet…oh and I’m still taking suggestions for where to go for our spring break!!! SO if anyone has any, let me know!

And here are some more random samples of pictures….

The girls in front of the Royal Palace in Fes el-Jdid

Donkey love.


This is our nice little study center in the Medina..and where I sit to upload all my blog posts!

The garden at said study center…

I prepared a presentation for one of my classes last week on the protests going on in Madison (we needed to use new vocabulary, which, coincidentally, includes such words one would use concerning a protest)…anyway, hope that democracy is still alive and well back home. It’s been so great being able to talk about it with some fellow badgers who are here (there’s five of us!). After an entire semester of being the ONLY Midwesterner around, it’s nice to no longer be the odd one out?


Amanda: Why Indian food might convince me to go veg

February 28, 2011
When I was little my cousin went through a vegetarian stage.  Inspired by a teacher who told her she should never eat anything with a head on it, my cousin Mollie vowed, from the age of 7, to forgo beef, chicken and pork and opt for veggie burgers for eternity, or at least until she turned 10.  At family cookouts my dad would plop a veggie burger on the grill for Mollie.  Veggie burgers, wrinkled, green and frozen in comparison to the big, round, beef patties my dad crafted himself, seemed as absolutely unappealing to me then as they did a month ago.  Few of my friends in high school and college, too, vowed a promise to abstain from meat, leaving me unaware of and uninterested in vegetarianism’s large hold on people throughout the world, specifically, here in India.

I never considered being a vegetarian until now.  Why?  For one, veggie burgers, unlike the wrinkled, green and frozen ones my dad made for Mollie ten years ago, are the bomb in India.  Like their meat counterparts, they pair well with ketchup and their fresh and spicy taste is completely satisfying.  Speaking of spice, Indian food is super-spicy. Spicy enough, sometimes, to make my eyes water and my nose run.  Vegetables here are fresh and yummy, and since my host family purchases produce from a street market, I know that most everything I eat is local and in season.  Almost everything I eat here is prepared from hand, even the garlic, with its invading scent, that my host mother peels and minces for dinner.

I haven’t actually missed meat at all in the past 6 weeks.  Unfortunately, I suspect being a vegetarian wouldn’t be as fun (or delicious) in the US as it is here.


Britta: Soup

November 12, 2010

As the days are starting to get cooler, more soup recipes are coming out in the kitchen. But soup isn’t such an easy translated word from English into Italian. If you go to wordreference and do a search for soup you get three results:

  1. Minestra
  2. Zuppa
  3. Minestrone

So whats the difference?

The answer is debatable and often comes up at the dinner table with my roomates while we’re eating a delicious warm bowl of minestra/zuppa/minestrone.

Minestra: is a soup served typically as a main dish with a dry base such as pasta.

Zuppa: is a type of minestra with mostly bread and vegetables. Bread with boiled vegetables gives a semi-solid composition therefore differing from minestra.

Minestrone: again- a type of minestra except with lots of vegetables and broth. Pasta or rice can be added. This variation is known to be made with the vegetables that are available in the house, maybe not the most fresh.

I wouldn’t say there really is a great difference between these—add a few more vegetables and your minestra becomes a zuppa. And we can’t forget a vellutata which would be like a creamy asparagus soup or cream of potato. Who knew that a bowl of soup could be so complicated and complex?


Britta: Osteria de Sole

October 13, 2010

An Osteria varies from other restaurants in the sense that it’s focuses is on hospitality instead of “haute cuisine.” Osteria comes from the old French oste, which comes from the latin hospite meaning hostess… therefore the primary function of osterias is, well, hospitality.
Osteria del Sole is the oldest Osteria in Bologna. It dates back to 1452 and is still exactly the same today. It’s discreet and hardly noticeable with its unmarked entrance that has little wooden sign above the door with vino written on it.

Here, you must bring your own food to eat and share with others, and they provide you with drink, upon drink, upon drink.

Its modest with one small crowded counter where people can order wine, one bathroom with a key marked paradiso, and walls covered in photographs from top to bottom and wall to wall.
My flatmates decided to host an End of Summer party on Thursday to end the season right, as autumn is kicking in and classes are in full swing next week. We spent the afternoon cooking stuffed tomatoes, spinach pastry, homemade pizza, and salmon/herb rolls.
There was a great turn out of friends, more food one could possibly eat, followed by lots of laughter and singing.

Sam: The crave list

October 12, 2010

Before lunch today some of my classmates and I discussed the things that are making our stomachs homesick and, unsurprisingly, many were the same. We all appear to be jonesin’ for some kind of fast food (many for more than one type) as well as a few regional or unusual blends. Here is my personal list (and yes, most are horrible):

  • Brownies
  • Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Chili Doritos
  • Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme
  • Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme
  • Blue & Grey Café buffalo chicken meal deal
  • Waffles
  • Lunch meat sandwiches
  • Hummus
  • Lehigh Pizza with meatballs
  • Real milk
  • Assorted teas
  • Isaac’s Pipet
  • Fistfuls of cake from work

Connie: Of food & beauty

September 29, 2010

Let me start out by saying: I’ve always hated paperwork, and Japanese paperwork is no different. Worse even, since I can’t read kanji very well.

But really, aside from taking the bus from the hotel to the campus and having a nice man give me directions and help carrying luggage, there isn’t much to tell thus far.  So instead of my experiences I’d like to focus on two other things that strike me about Japan.

First is the food. I’m not going to talk about the taste or anything like that. Instead I’m intrigued by the way it goes through your system. It’s true that Japanese portions are smaller, and for an American like me, at first that seems dissatisfying. I go into the cafeteria thinking, This is it? This one piece of who-knows-what delicious meat? Why didn’t I get the curry?  The portion’s larger. Oh yeah, because I don’t really like curry.

Despite this I find myself able to go for a long while between meals. While living in America I would eat three meals a day and god-knows how many snacks in between. It was probably an awful diet for every part of my health. I could eat a giant portion for dinner and still pour a tub of butter over a bowl of popcorn an hour or two later (and I’m only exaggerating a little about the butter). Or I could eat a bunch of unhealthy things for lunch, not stay full, and get more continually until dinner. Or…  Well, typing out my awful American eating habits is kind of embarrassing.

With Japanese food I can eat a small portion of something that’s probably way better for me and be satisfied with three meals a day and no snacks. Before coming to campus all I had was a single onigiri for breakfast and still I was okay until lunch. I know nothing about nutrition or how food works, but I kind of enjoy not feeling compelled to eat all the time. Then again, a lack of money could be part of my motivation. One hundred yen shops are wonderful places.

As for the second observation about life in Japan, here it is: everyone is beautiful.  Seriously.  It’s probably because their food has the properties I mentioned above, so there aren’t fat people like in America. I don’t know.  My main point here is that 90% of the people I see are what I would consider attractive.  (This is where you insert a comment about ‘yellow fever’).

This has a strange sort of effect. In the United States when I saw an attractive person, my attention would be immediately (and perhaps conspicuously) drawn to them.  But when there are beautiful people all over the place you get used to it real fast. They become part of the scenery. It really is true that you need all types, not that I’m in any way lodging a complaint.

To be honest, this is probably a good thing for me. I can grudgingly admit that I may have focused too much attention on the pretty people around me while living in the States. I’m sure it annoyed the crap out of my friends. So, maybe if I live in a society filled with beautiful people for a while, I’ll calm down. I’m pleased to say this is one of the things about myself that I’d hoped to get away from when coming here. I really want to be a better person when I return home.

And thus continues my Japanese life. I must fight off the evil jetlag, a villain hiding just outside of my room waiting until I show weakness to pounce.  So far I’ve been doing pretty good.  I’ll defeat him soon.


Eric: Food

August 4, 2010

This is one of my favorite topics to write about. In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of pictures of food in this blog. I think food is a really good representation of a culture, and I try to eat as local as possible. Among many other things, Moroccans do eat many western food such as crepes, pizza, McDonald’s, and omelets. I try my best not to join the crowd.

When it comes to Moroccan food, most people first think of couscous. I do admit that I was worried that I will be having couscous every single meal before I arrived in Fez. Turns out that I was just scaring myself. Other than the lunch sponsored by ALIF and the cooking lesson, I didn’t really eat that much couscous. My host-family hasn’t prepared couscous as a meal, and I don’t usually see it on a menu when I go out to a cafe or small restaurant. They do have them in big fancy restaurants for tourists, possibly as a response to the stereotype. Typically couscous comes with chicken and a lot of vegetables which are cooked so tender that they break apart when you try to use a fork to pick them up.

The national drink of Morocco is mint tea, also known as “Moroccan Whiskey” by the locals. It is made with green tea, a lot of mint, and a lot of sugar. Moroccans have really strong sweet tooths, so sugar is always added in the tea before brought to the table. It’s usually also boiling hot when it’s brought to the table, no matter the season. The only place I know in Fez that serves iced mint tea is a cafe owned by a non-Moroccan. Many people, men in the medina specifically, go to a cafe or tea place to drink tea with friends, strangers, or by oneself (rarely happens). The tea place, most famous for mint tea in Fez according one of my Moroccan friends, is usually packed from the morning all the way to midnight.

Tajine, another thing Morocco is famous for, actually refers to the cookware instead of the dish. It is a pot usually made of clay with a flat base and a cone-shaped cover. The food is piled at the bottom of the base, and then cooked on fire with the cover on. All sort of things could be cooked in a tajine. My host family pretty much cooks every meal except breakfast using a tajine, and so far I have been served chicken, beef, lamb, and a lot of vegetables. I sometimes also get eggs with some kind of salty meat (not bacon, as Morocco is a Muslim country) at a cafe across the street from ALIF.

Bread is an essential component of a meal (unless you are having couscous). It is both a tool and a food. You would use a piece of bread to scoop whatever is in the plate, and eat the entire thing. I have been having bread for almost every single meal I had with my host-family (there was one night when we had spaghetti and the other when we had a kind of really thin noodle with powdered sugar on top), and I am surprisingly not sick of them yet. Breakfast, though we have been waking up earlier and not had breakfast at home for a while, usually also consists of bread (usually French bread) and an assortment of things to put on it.

Olives appear on the table at every meal, even breakfast. It’s not really a main dish or a course, but just something to eat while waiting for the main course, or to change the flavor in the mouth a little bit when having too much of something else. The olives here are usually preserved in some sort of brine. Some of them are further mixed with tomatoes and carrots to give them more flavors.

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