Being a picky pescetarian has its drawbacks when travelling. Waiters in some countries meet the news that I don't eat meat with a look of blank incomprehension. It doesn't always make for an easy or interesting life, as I am reminded whenever I'm served a plate of crudités in France, or when I disappointedly have to leave the dish containing meat I've been brought by the aforementioned uncomprehending waiter. But it does have one distinct advantage: it rules me out of trying all those unusual meats that strike fear into the heart of most Western travellers. No horse for me, thank you. No frog's legs, no kangaroo, no battered crickets. I can even feign full vegetarianism if I want to avoid some unappetising-sounding fish dish.
When it comes to 'wonderful' eating experiences, I'm lucky enough to be able to recall plenty from my travels. That 3 course Algerian meal (with improvised pescetarian option) cooked and served with a side of chat by the restaurant owner in Lyon. A divine melanzane parmigiana in Rome, that I'll forever be trying to recreate. The garlicky grilled squid in salsa verde they used to serve at the riverside shack outside my apartment in Seville. But weird? That's more difficult.
|Not what I expected|
As a vegetarian, I'm often prevented from trying local delicacies. Visiting a meze restaurant in Istanbul in February, I found myself able to try one of their national dishes, fava beans. Great, I thought, knowing from my experience in Lebanese restaurants that I like these rich- tasting pulses. I hadn't reckoned on the way they'd be served, though. Faced with a gelatinous-looking pale green slice of something swimming in oil, I couldn't equate it with the tasty brown beans I'd tried before. The dill-topped slab dominated its tiny plate, challenging me to dig in. I did. The texture was unexpected: at once slimy and solid, it was unusual but not entirely unpleasant. The dill dominated the innocuous taste of the bean mush. I ploughed on, trying to accustom myself to the sensation but ultimately couldn't. It may not have been the most appetising to me, but at least this national delicacy was vegetarian.
What are the weirdest and most wonderful things you've eaten while travelling? Head over to The Travel Belles to share your experiences or read some more. Who knows, some may even involve kangaroo...
For more on what and where I ate in Istanbul (most of it much more palatable), check out this post. More on city sightseeing coming up later this week.