I admit it. I travel for the food. Well, not just the food. I’m an art, culture and history geek, too, and I’m not a stranger to an occasional hike or a heart-thumping ski run. But above all, the promise of an enticing cuisine takes first place in the firmament of my traveling life.
But while I’m an adventurous eater – fried worms at a Cambodian restaurant in Berlin? Love ‘em – I confess to being skittish at breakfast.
Maybe it’s because I just woke up and my stomach hasn’t caught up with the rest of me. Or maybe it’s that the caffeine hasn’t hit my bloodstream yet or my brain is still in another time zone. Whatever the reason, hotel breakfast buffets in foreign lands often present some of the greatest challenges of my trips.
Just to clarify, we’re not talking about France. Be serious. How could a pain au chocolat and a café au lait present a challenge to anyone? Or Japan. Fresh fish, veggies, rice and fragrant tea? OK. I’ve even been known to tuck into black pudding and fried bread in a traditional Irish breakfast.
So what’s the problem? In a word: fleisch. German for meat, it often comes in the form of sausage, cold cuts, and weird slices of what my college friends and I used to call mystery meat. For lunch, maybe, but in my fragile state at breakfast, I just can’t do it.
So consider my dismay on a recent trip to Bremen, a lovely town in northern Germany, to find my breakfast companion slicing into what looked like a tiny – and shiny – little sausage. Picture a Vienna sausage in Saran Wrap, and you get the idea.
Noticing my horrified expression, he kindly explained that this unappetizing-looking item wasn’t so much a sausage as a wad of liverwurst piped into a sausage-shaped casing. This didn’t help. I watched, appalled, as he snipped off one end of the casing and piped out what looked like meat-colored toothpaste onto his toast.
Him: “Try some?”
Me (while pushing muesli around with my spoon and trying not to look at his plate): “Um. No, thanks.”
Him: “Really. It’s delicious. You should try it. Think of it as paté.”
Me: “Wait. Paté?”
I’d like to say that it was at that moment that the penny dropped, the scales fell from my eyes and the light dawned. But the truth is, it took a few minutes more. It took the scent of pseudo paté, a tiny, tentative bite and a change of perspective – and then, to my own astonishment I was kinda hooked. Mini liverwurst became my new best friend at breakfast for the next few days, proving what we all already know about travel. It exists, at least in part, to open us to new experiences.
So now I’m here to say that I no longer fear the fleisch.
Except for the weird baloney slices dotted with round circles of fat. As if. Open-minded or not, I’m not eating that.