And Now for The Important Part About Being Abroad…
Adapting to the food abroad was, unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges for me.
Just to paint a clear picture, my daily food intake in Los Angeles consisted of either avocado toast for breakfast or a quick walk (and online pre-order) for a Sunlife smoothie from the village, an iced coffee, a salad or maybe a protein bowl for lunch, the occasional frozen yogurt and always, sushi. Whether it be the Fertita Hall sushi, Enya sushi downtown (must-try if you haven’t already), or the poke place I recently discovered just a block away from Fertita (also pretty decent), I would very frequently find a way to include sushi into my diet. In general, I enjoy healthy food. Don’t get me wrong, dessert is my favorite part of my day: but my preference was always to eat healthier meals in order to save up for crazy, insanely high calorie desserts. All of this changed pretty quickly.
Since the weather is commonly cold and rainy in Manchester, iced coffee is not popular – most coffee shops charge extra for ice and some don’t even have ice at all. Manchester is in the middle of England, over an hour away from the nearest ocean and is not known for their fish – other than fish and chips, of course. I quickly discovered sushi is not popular in the North of England, which did not surprise me because I did my research beforehand: there is only one poke shop in the entire city, located 45 minutes away from my accommodation. I could not have anticipated though that my favorite type of food would be considered “gross” to the British and Irish friends I made. Frozen yogurt is definitely not big and neither were smoothies, especially since they are usually made with ice so my original diet consisted largely of avocado toast. There were very few options for food within walking distance from my student accommodation, which was a thirty-minute bus to the main city center. Any of the food that I could find within walking distance from my accommodation would not be food I would consider compelling; there were an unhealthy amount of fried chicken places, the occasional noodle bar and some fast food, chain restaurant. I ended up having to cook a lot more than I used to, buy food out in town and sometimes even order delivery (I had never been a delivery type of person since I do not believe in paying extra for the food to often come cold). I had anticipated a drastic change in diet but even so, I could not have anticipated the types of food I would find myself consistently craving.
Eventually, I realized I needed to start sucking it up and eating like a local – this was the best decision I made the entire semester.
England is known for their Fish and Chips, of course, but I had very little knowledge on their other specialties such as British Pies, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Sunday Roast, and Mushy Peas. In Manchester specifically, curry is a huge specialty. I lived a 10-minute walk away from Curry Mile, a mile-long strip of curry and middle-eastern restaurants. I had never tried curry before and wow, I am happy I decided to try it.
I ended up trying a lot of different foods from a lot of different countries. Every time I visit a new country, I make a point to eat the foods that they specialize in. And my overall verdict: British Pies are the most amazing food. Ever. But here are some other countries I visited and some of the local or even just more exciting foods I enjoyed.
In Germany, we went to the most local restaurant we could find. We were served traditional meat and potato but unlike normal potatoes, this potato was the size of my head. I went with a group of about ten people, all of whom ordered a dish with a massive potato and none of us could even finish half of it. When we asked the waiter, who barely spoke a word of English, if anyone is able to finish the entire potato, he informed us that a man came in the day before and finished two.
In France, we enjoyed their beautiful cheese, wine and crepes, and even ending up trying some escargot. I found it was a bit slimy so I will put a more aesthetic picture of a Nutella crepe and chocolate dessert on here instead! J
Barcelona is known for their tapas and paella dishes. Since I was only there for a weekend, and staying with my American friends studying abroad there, we did not each much of either. Instead, I was amazed by their amount of healthy options and absolutely insane amount of incredibly tasting poke bowls. I was able to make it out for some Spanish tapas, which were very tasty: I highly recommend going for their fish dishes.
Copenhagen was a blast: a very unique place. I found online that they are known for oat porridge, which is found in their most famous market – Torvehallerne. Of course, they are famous for their Danish hot dogs; they had many different types and I highly recommend trying because you can definitely find one that suits your dietary needs.
In Belgium, we ate tons of waffles and chocolate – no surprise there.
Amsterdam is famous for their Dutch Poffertjes, which are essentially little, thick and puffy pancakes. These were the legitimate best things I ate during my entire abroad experience- if you read this blog and end up going to Amsterdam, send me an email and I will give you the name. They are also known for their fries, which I just found to be extremely salty and not anything special.
In Portugal, we tried their famous egg custard desert – absolutely DELICIOUS – and tried a Portuguese-style fish restaurant. I was not aware beforehand that our fish would essentially come straight from the ocean: head, scales, shells… everything. The fish was definitely some of the best I have ever had but was a huge culture shock, to say the least. With some research, I was also able to find and try a burger rated as one of the world’s top ten best burgers: was not bad at all.
Ultimately, I was able to try a wide variety of foods – none of which I regret. Even in Manchester, I ended up finding some foods within walking distance like a nice salad within one of the noodle bars. There were a wide variety of authentic Chinese food places around the UK as well, which fit my liking since I am a huge fan of Chinese food. Overall, I loved the food challenge and I would not have preferred it any other way.