Blog: Eating like a Brit on foreign turf
The Jolly English Pirate, UK expat since 2008, lets her taste buds lead the way as she travels across Central and South America in search of foreign food to calm her voracious British appetite...
Stuffing your face with local dishes and traditional food favourites particular to the city, region or country you just happen to find yourself in, is one of the true delights of long-term travel and living abroad. I am more than happy to tuck into a whole host of local delights.
In particular, I could...
1.dine every day on a seemingly endless bowl of frijoles (black, refried beans in Mexico)
2.grab an arepa (corn-based sandwich in Venezuela/Colombia) or alfajor (sweet cake/biscuit in Argentina) whilst on the go,
3.opt for a healthy serving of ceviche (raw fish in Peru/Chile) as a real treat
4.binge shamelessly every lunchtime on the best feijoada in town (a kind of meat and bean stew in Brazil)
However, nothing beats a portion of fish and chips smothered in salt and vinegar and wrapped up in paper, or a Sunday roast with lashings of gravy, followed by a steaming hot serving of jam and suet pudding with custard. My British palate will be with me for life, no matter where I choose to leave.
So, what does a food-loving Brit do when she gets a hankering for some British on her plate? She has two options... She can fly home for a bit and get stuck into the good stuff, or she can have fun finding replacement products on the other side of the Atlantic as she travels. Here’s a little bit of Britain on foreign shores...
As I child, my Nan used to have what she called, “Madeleine Cakes” in her kitchen cupboards. Every afternoon, the possibility always existed that Nan would make us all a cup of tea and get out the Madeleine Cakes. The sponge, which looked to me like a small boat with a spherical cabin in the centre, was dense, buttery and very sweet. I was unable to control my excitement recently when visiting Morelia, a small colonial city in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. There, hanging in a packet of three, in a regular corner shop close to where I was staying, was my Nan’s Madeleines Cakes! Even the name was the same, but in Spanish, “Madalenas!” They were 10 Mexican pesos very well spent!
The closest I have ever come to a eating a real Full English Breakfast in South America was in Cusco, Peru. It was in the summer of 2009. The day before, I had completed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with a friend. We deserved a real treat and found an “Irish Pub” just off of the main plaza in Cusco (Irish pubs get everywhere!) which not only served a Full English, but was also showing a little bit of Premier League Football on the tele. Had the tea we were served been PG Tips, I would have deemed this breakfast a 100% replica of the original. If the food, the pub environment and the football coverage wasn’t enough, the pub entrance also came complete with a functioning, red, UK telephone box. Ha ha!
Empanadas are a pretty standard snack across The Americas in general, but in Venezuela and Colombia, for example, the empanada is made from corn flour. In Argentina, the empanada is made from wheat. Although available with a variety of fillings, the chopped meat empanada (empanada de carne a cuchillo) is a particularly good substitute for The Cornish Pasty. It doesn’t include potato and the empanada is a lot smaller than the traditional Cornish Pasty, but it’s a pretty effective replacement. You can get empanadas all over Argentina, but some of the best I tasted were in Salta in the north-west of Argentina.
No matter how hard I have looked, I am yet to find the parsnip in Latin America. If anyone out there can contradict this statement, please get in touch! How I love a good roast parsnip. There’s nothing quite like it. The potato, not even the sweet potato, is a credible substitute in any way. When I want to eat roast parsnips, I have to return home for a Christmas dinner.
Foreign Food in British Kitchen Cupboards
And now for the surprise addition.... Mate.
Mate is a hot beverage, traditionally enjoyed in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. I am completely addicted to it and actually have it here by my side as I am writing these words. There are four main components to the mate. The yerba (a plant, which is dried, and looks similar to a kind of loose tea), the mate (a kind of cup without handles which the yerba is poured into), the bombilla (a metal straw) and a thermos filled with hot - not boiling - water.
My mate goes with me on every trip I make, including the trips back to London which is why my family’s British cupboards are now also stocked with two or three kilos of my favourite yerba. Mate might not be British, but its certainly something I can now no longer live without.
The Jolly English Pirate is a freelance writer from London. She writes features on food, travel and culture for female-interest publications, food sites and travel blogs. She enjoys getting involved in the antics of female travel-communities. She also works with a number of organisations which offer internship programmes abroad. Feel free to tweet her or send her a message via Facebook.