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People always mention the pleasure of trying out new foods as one of the joys of travel, but have you ever noticed how food, just basic food without the local interpretations, tastes different from one country to another?
I mean, how the chicken in Chile has a different quality of chicken-ness than the chicken in, say, Croatia? I’m just citing random countries of course. Although I have tasted the chicken in Cuba and I admit it was very different from that in Canada. The surprise is that it was worse, not better. You expect foods to taste more delicious the further you get from mass production. But Cuba is a whole another story that doesn’t permit neat explanation of any of its aspects.
Growing up, I first became aware of these differences in the taste of foods when my mom returned to Ethiopia from a year in the U.S, having completely given up on sugar, since the sugar in America had turned out to be so tasteless. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how something as wonderful as sugar could have no taste. Now that I’ve done a few round trips between that continent and this one, I get it.
I first began to notice these differences in basic flavors for myself when I started to travel from Toronto to my parents’ home in Geneva during my school holidays. It started with fruit. One summer it hit me that the bananas and oranges of Switzerland packed more flavor punch than those of Canada. From that point forward, it was nonstop. I would return to Toronto from a holiday in the US and notice that the Canadian fruits and veggies were so much more juicy, so much more technicolor on the tongue than their American counterparts. I’m sorry to say that, on the flavor scale, American produce continues to rank the lowest. After my palate grew wise to these regional gradations on the flavorfulness of basic foods, I came to the conclusion that the food in Ethiopia, by far, is the best. Then comes Switzerland. Then Canada. And last/least…well, you already know that. Jamaica and Trinidad foods fall somewhere between Swiss and Ethiopian food.
I must hand it to the Americans when it comes to desserts, though. Maybe their sugar and their milk and their butter are nothing much taken separately, but when they toss them together miracles happen. I know, it’s the Viennese and Parisians that are supposed to be the heavyweights in this area. Having sampled both of their offerings, I must still say that no one does decadence like the Americans.
A European dessert is to an American dessert as a toutou is to a wedding gown.
But then again, I have always been partial to desserts. Take me to any country and that’s probably what I’m going to zone in on. Here’s an interesting blog post about global favorites from one of my own favorites.
Where in the world do you think food tastes best?