When visiting a foreign country a way of understanding the culture, traditions and values of the inhabitants is by the food that they create and consume. Food is an important part of society and there are some great dishes throughout Europe that you simply must try.
Greece: Mediterranean flavours
The land of the Gods and famed for Hercules, Greek cuisine leans towards Mediterranean type food, sharing many food characteristics with countries like Italy, Spain and even Turkey. Most ingredients used in Greek food tend to be those of oils, bread, fish, herbs and vegetables with the meat being pork, rabbit and poultry. Greek cuisine tends to stay away from beef dishes due to the fact that the climate and terrain makes it difficult to breed cattle.
The signature dish for Greece is known as the meze and is one of the best social dishes that Europe has to offer. With different types of dishes such as moussaka and croquettes, this food is great to share between lots of people. Greek food is designed to enhance the taste of Greek drinks such as wine, ouzo and raki. The plentiful food definitely puts Greece on the map to visit and try what’s on offer. The service in Greece is good; the reason for this is that they just keep bringing more dishes out! You won’t be worrying about the service because you too busy thinking about what you’re going to have next.
Belgium: ‘Big cuisine’
Referred to as the nation of gourmands – this country is renowned for its ‘big cuisines’ rather than fine cuisine. It is a mix of the quality of French food but in German quantities.
We can’t forget the humble Brussels sprout which as the name suggests originated from Brussels, Belgium. A dish of Belgian frites will be the best fried potatoes that you will ever have and can be ordered everywhere from restaurants to specialist fast food frites outlets on street corners. One word of warning, Belgians love big food and will take the time to appreciate it. The service here is quite slow so if you want to eat and leave you may be disappointed, but the food is definitely worth the wait.
France: Stylish and diverse
French Cuisine can be characterized as stylish and diverse. This is mainly due to the fact that most of France’s regions all have their own signature food.
Due to this great range of food there is an abundance of plates that you could try.
France also offers wonderful sea food, Normandy’s sea bass, “moules” (mussels) and sole makes it a place that any seafood lover must go. The service in France is excellent, food and service is in their history the only problem that you will find is that you do pay for it, unlike most countries there will always be a 15% charge to your bill, this is however added on to all the food so if you’re a glass half full person you won’t think it matters too much.
Germany: North and South traditions
Another country influenced by its neighbours, Germany has two types of cuisines, one being the south where it is highly integrated with the Swiss and the Austrians. In the south meaty dishes have always been a great part of German ingredients with food such as bratwurst sausages, frankfurters, “schnitzels” and German dumplings also known as “knodels”.
The other cuisine in Germany is highly influenced by the French and the Belgians. These countries and the close proximity with the North Sea make it a region where a lot of fish dishes are found. Also typical for this region are hearty wurst potato and cabbage dishes, as well as casseroles, rye breads, and several different kinds of soups.
Now when it comes to service some of the customs are going to be very alien to others. Examples of this is that in Germany waiting for a table is very different because you are expected to find your own seat, you will not get any tap water and most German restaurants do not accept any credit cards. The service is astounding in Germany, it will be quick and thorough but here I advise you to tip heavily as in Germany they do rely largely on tips. I must stress though always pay it with the bill never leave it on the table as this can be very offensive to waiters in Germany.
Spain: Beautiful and simple
Spanish food is beautiful, why? This is because it is the most simple, down-to-earth food that relies on solely the countries amazing produce and ingredients. Like Italy it does rely on oils and garlic but it does have some mouth watering food throughout the country. Spanish take their ham or “jamón” very seriously and you will find that many cheese and ham dishes will be in restaurants. These are a must try!
For a country that is surrounded by three waters seafood has to be on the list, and it is. Seafood paella is something that you must try. Spain’s seafood is amazingly fresh and with the world renowned paella supporting it, you cannot go wrong.
Service in Spain is fairly standard however and can often disappoint.
Italy: Real food
Italy is a country that has got tremendous history in its food. When going to Italy there are definitely things that are a must try, and its not just pizza and pasta. For example when visiting Rome try the sheep cheeses, which has become a very popular dish, whilst in Tuscany there is a great selection of breads without salt, and various white beans dishes that are a great light dish. The regional differences in Italy are surprising as it is the type of fats used. In the north they tend to use richer and heavier fats like cream butter and cheese, whereas in the south they use olive oil. No visit to Italy however should go without trying a dish known as spinach ravioli.
Like France a service charge is always included on to the food. It depends on your location for tipping in Italy: in more rural areas it is not welcome, whereas in the main tourist areas it is good to put down around 5% (if your food was good).