My Favorite Meals in Europe and the Stories Behind Them
Written by andrewgippert November 17, 2022
When people ask me what major culture shocks I’ve experienced since coming to Europe, I struggle to come up with answers. However, one major difference between the United States and many European countries (especially Italy), is the genuine appreciation and care dedicated toward food. In Italy, rather than treating meals as a quick means to satisfy cravings, it’s viewed as a craft and way to both form a memory and bond with others. Because of this, I would love to share some of the favorite meals I’ve had in Europe and the stories behind them.
Pizza (made by yours truly) from Pizzeria Cornaro in Asolo
Earlier in the semester, our Cimba leaders organized a cultural immersion trip for us students to visit a local pizzeria and learn how to make authentic Italian pizza from a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, Saverio. This was an incredible experience, as we had the chance to learn about his family’s history in the restaurant while spreading the dough, applying the tomato sauce, and placing the toppings onto our own pizzas. I personally chose buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, pepperoni, and fresh basil from the garden. We then continued conversating with Saverio as we painstakingly waited for the pies to cook in the restaurant’s authentic wood-fired oven. Once the pizzas were ready, you could hear a pin drop in the room because there was absolutely no time to talk with pizza that good in front of us. I’ve had more than a few pizzas in my 22 years and can genuinely say that this was one of the top three pizzas I’ve ever had in my life – the fresh ingredients and crispy texture from the wood oven truly made a difference. And the memory of making it alongside a Southern Italian pizzaiolo is something I’ll remember forever.
Carcamusa and Chorizo from Taberna Skala in Toledo, Spain
If you were to search for the definition of “hole in the wall” on Google, I’d bet that a photo of Taberna Skala in Toledo, Spain would be the first result. During my travel week adventures, I took a day trip to the ancient Spanish city of Toledo to see more of the countryside and get an authentic experience outside of the large cities. As part of this trip, I sought the most authentic, home-made Spanish dish I could find – and this genuinely exceeded all of my expectations. I struggled to locate the small bar because it was tucked away in an alley, but once inside, I couldn’t hold back my excitement. The local Spainards seated at the bar and tables enjoyed conversation with each other and the staff as if they were old friends, and despite sticking out like a sore thumb, they welcomed me in and tried their best to explain the popular dishes in English. I decided on carcamusa (a spiced pork stew), local chorizo, and a glass of sangria. The tenderness of the pork combined with the spiced stew broth was mouth watering, and the juiciness of the chorizo sausage provided an incredible flavor that I’ve never experienced before. Overall, while the food was easily the best I had during my week in Spain, the hospitality of the staff made this experience amazing and taught me that despite a lack of apparent commonalities, people love sharing aspects of their culture with others.
Pulled Pork Sandwich from The Black Pig at London’s Borough Market
When travelers think of countries and cultures with the best cuisine, it’s fair to say that England and British food isn’t exactly at the top of the list. I don’t know about you, but personally, mushy peas, black pudding, and steak and kidney pie doesn’t sound appetizing. However, during my trip to London, I loved seeing how a diverse, global city incorporated pieces of different international cultures into its own food culture, and this is best exemplified at the Borough Market. This outdoor food market located in Central London hosts vendors from every corner of the globe selling high-quality food from their nation, so visitors can get everything from Japanese udon noodles to African peri-peri chicken. Deciding what to get was an excruciatingly difficult decision, but I ultimately went with a Sicilian pulled pork sandwich on ciabatta with parmesan, truffle mayo, apple slaw, and tomato sauce from The Black Pig. In life, there are a lot of foods that you’d call “really good”, and then there are the foods that you can’t stop smiling after biting into because you know it’s one of the best things you’ve ever tasted – this sandwich falls into the latter category. The warm, juicy pork combined with the cold, crunchy slaw and soft ciabatta bread created an incredibly unique texture and temperature combination. And after the initial bite, the parmesan and truffle mayo added a complimenting flavor that pulled each ingredient together. This was easily one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten and what I ultimately loved about this international market in London was that any two people could visit and enjoy a completely different experience with cuisines from different cultures.
Unfortunately, lack of space and time won’t allow for me to share about each of the amazing meals I’ve enjoyed in Italy and across Europe. But my ultimate takeaway from these experiences is that food is much more than a quick means to satisfy hunger or cravings – it’s a great vehicle for connecting with others and sharing cultures, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to achieve these feats all while filling my belly.