Picky Picky Picky

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When I was about six, my family and I went on a trip to London. One of our last nights there, we were out to dinner and I ordered a cheese pizza. I (allegedly) proceeded to complain that it tasted funny and I couldn’t eat it. Now the UK isn’t known for its culinary greatness (please see beans on toast), but it’s pretty hard to mess up cheese pizza. My parents, being so over me, took a bite to prove there was nothing wrong with the pizza only to be met with the culprit: nutmeg. The pizza was covered in it and let me tell you – pizza and nutmeg is not a great combo.

Unfortunately for my parents, there were blessed with a picky eater – me. My diet consisted of cheese pizza (no nutmeg please), the right kind of chicken nuggets, and buttered noodles. I ate carrots but only raw (gotta get them nutrients). And just the slight deviation from what I wanted caused a hunger strike and/or a tantrum. (I’ve been teaching my family patience since 1995. What can I say it’s a talent.)

As I got older, my diet has expanded. I am still partial to a cheese pizza (hold the nutmeg) and my ultimate comfort food is still buttered noodles, but traveling as a picky eater isn’t easy. I’ve learned to love plenty of new foods, discovering new loves everywhere I go.

While traveling, I don’t always have the ability to only eat what I want. So I use a couple of tricks to not starve, which might be helpful to reassure fellow picky eaters or those traveling with picky eaters, young and old:

I implemented something we used to use with the three-year-olds at summer camp and I always try to do a “no thank you” bite – give it one bite to taste and say no thank you if I still don’t want to eat it. I can happily say I’ve tried escargot and crocodile meat, but I am happy to never eat them again. At the same time, I’ve gotten to try quite a few new foods that were a little tastier.

Especially when traveling with friends (and especially when traveling with less picky eaters), it’s a nice part of traveling to taste test the local cuisine, but maybe the picky eater in the group is concerned about trying something new. Solution: share a plate of the new and exciting food and give it at least one bite. Splitting a plate gives everyone a chance to try something new, but not feeling the pressure to miss out on your safer meal.

Speaking of safe meals, if you’re picky, bring a back-up. I always pack a Cliff bar or two in my bag. Better safe than starving. I also highly recommend stopping by a local grocery store (partially to skim what is and isn’t the same to your home) and grab some snacks. Maybe you’re scared of the local spice level or maybe you’re in a town where everything closes at 8:00 p.m., but having a bag of chips or some bread and jelly can keep a lot of hangry fights at bay. (This advice is also relevant to the vegans, the dairy-free, the allergy-prone amongst us…)

So much of travel is putting yourself out there and trying new things. But it can be overwhelming. Doing all of that adventuring while hungry won’t turn out well.

Been There, Done That

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Both of my parents had been to London before, so the simple entertainment of crossing off all the classic sites wasn’t available. We had plans to see a show or two, and obviously a graduation to attend, but there was still plenty of day light to fill. I had to think of little surprises to prove to them that I had in fact seen more of London in my year living there than the average tourist sees in a week-long trip. So here’s a few of the bits and bobs that entertained three folks who’d been there, done that:

Leave London

I know it’s an absolute shocker of an idea, but there’s more to the UK than London. Bonus points: the UK has a great train system that’ll get you to plenty of exciting sites in an hour or so for relatively cheap. We went to Salisbury and eventually Stonehenge via train, but other options include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Birmingham, Windsor, 

and Bath. If you’ve been to London before, you should spend a day of your vacation outside the city.50970752_2298766570359956_570854711880581120_n

For the History Buffs

We tried to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral, but only got to view a replica because of bad timing. For my father, who carries around historical biographical tomes for light reading, we were gonna find some old dusty important stuff.

So we went underground: if you haven’t already visited them, the Churchill War Rooms are incredible. London was right in the middle of the action for World War II (which is a strange thought for Americans who visit a modern and constantly under construction city). The War Rooms take you back, fill a morning with history, and pop you out right next to the classic history of Parliament and Westminster. (Another historical spot worth visiting is St. Dunstan’s in the East, where the remains of a bombed out church have been turned into a community garden.)50985910_391025211632427_4581915461205098496_n

For the Artists

If you can’t find art in London, you’re not looking hard enough. A personal favorite gallery is the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, but if you’re looking for something quick and cheap, you can pop in and out of the Queen’s House in Greenwich, the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Tate museums.

It was on a trip to the Tate Modern, crossing the wibbly-wobbly bridge (properly known as the Millenium Bridge), that my mother stopped to look at the tiny designs drawn onto the gum dried between the ridges of the bridge. Fortunately, it’s a pedestrian bridge so no cars could take her out, but there was a whole new batch of mini art pieces created since our last visit in August. As we reached the end, we noticed a man laying on the ground with a tiny paint brush in hand. A fantastic conversation later, Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Man, may be my mother’s new favorite artist.51464800_341016886744046_5651513002541711360_n

View from the Top

When the view from the ground gets dull, go high. To beat the jet lag, I took my parents on a meandering walk to Primrose Hill, but the views from the Greenwich Observatory are pretty good too. If you’re looking for some history on your way up: St. Paul’s Cathedral (you’ll also get the added bonus of traumatizing your child while you’re at it, thanks mom and dad). We had nice views from the top of the Tate Modern, as well, to make up for the weird art inside.51176038_295319167723476_8234029172079460352_n

Eat

When in doubt, sit down and enjoy yourself with a nice pint and some chips. You’ve been here before, there’s no need to rush. Take the time to see the folks around you and chit chat. As much as I love a quick Pret for the road, you have time to eat a long meal, like my personal happy place Dishoom. (I mentioned some of my favorite places to eat around the world in a previous post here.) Other recommendations: Have a cup of tea at Fortnum and Mason. Eat like a local at Nando’s or Byron Burger. Grab a pint at Temple Brew House or Marquis Cornwallis or the Sugar Loaf. (Other mentions include the best pizza at Pizza Sophia, the post-show meal at Angus Steakhouse, and the off-the-main-road-surprise at Mike’s Cafe near the Portobello Road Market.) Does this make me a food blogger? Or am I just ready for lunch?

Nom Nom Noms

Five Favorites, london

Food is something that brings people together, tests your comfort zone, and can instantly remind you of times when you were safe and happy and loved.

In honor of the copious amounts of food I’m sure all of my American friends are about to consume this Thursday, I thought I would reminisce on the foods that remind me of home. And when I say home, I mean Stockholm, Indianapolis, London, Sydney, and DC. (Yes, this accidentally turned into a five favorites list, as well as a “travel the world through my favorite meals” kinda post.)

Stockholm

When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I remember being so flipping nervous about having to eat herring or some strange Swedish food for my six months there. But fortunately, Swedish grocery stores provided all the foods I could dream of. It was actually the first place where I had to cook for myself (and yes, I did have to google some very basic skills.)

46492677_177417226545719_7472823128842829824_nMy list of Swedish foods is six-months-worth-of-freezing-cold-and-dark-weather long. To start, I could rave about fika, the Swedish tradition of a daily (or thrice daily) coffee and pastry break. Or alternatively, I could chat your ear off about their kanelbullar, the yummiest treats equivalent to a cinnamon roll. Or hell, IKEA meatballs.

But instead I’ll talk about what I genuinely miss on a weekly basis: Max. Max is a Swedish fast food burger chain, like McDonald’s, etc. but better (and it’s more popular in Sweden than McDonalds and Burger King). Their food is fresh, their restaurants are clean, their staff is efficient. I’ve considered making a trip to Sweden just for their burgers and constantly think back fondly on my visits to the Max off of Kungsträdgården.

Fun fact: the first food my parents ate in Sweden was Max, which I fed them in the Arlanda Airport arrivals area.

Indianapolis

No one has ever said that the Midwest has the most delectable diet, what with the corn and the casseroles. But Indianapolis has plenty of really good spots for food, many of which I made trips to over my three years in the city.

Breadsticks fans should head to Hotbox Pizza (yes, that’s really its name…) or to Kilroy’s for their stuffed breadsticks. They’re the best drunk food, tried and tested. Fans of mediterranean food should head to Canal Bistro in Broad Ripple, while fans of Mexican food should head to La Piedad or grab a marg at Luciana’s.

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One place has a special spot in my heart: Patachou. It’s a little bit of a hipster’s dream and it’s a huge brunch spot for Butler students, but it’s so dang good. I have many a fond memory of breakfasts are Patachou with friends after a late night out or as a reunion after a service trip. With fresh, local ingredients and a mission to give back to the Indy community, it’s worth a trip.

P.S. everyone hypes up their coffee, but I’d also recommend you get the hot chocolate.

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London

I think I tried every (cheap) place on the must eat London list. I scarfed down waffles on the 40th floor of a skyscraper at Duck and Waffle. I pretended I was posh before splashing berry syrup all over myself, at Balthazar. I devoured a Crosstown Donut in Camden Markets. I explored a chain I saw all over London at Bill’s. I discovered disco fries at the Breakfast Club.

And a lot of it is delicious, but nothing gets close to my one true love: Dishoom. It’s Indian food with a twist. The bottomless chai helped me survive a dissertation and the naan rolls are making my mouth water at the thought. The restaurants have the best vibe and are filled with tiny touches that make it a memorable experience. It’s a really nice environment for working meals or catching up with friends.46508793_312174566047896_6370496265968418816_n

Pro tip: go for breakfast. It’s much cheaper and much less crowded than the lunch rush (plus, I’ve heard it’s much yummier).

Sydney

I’ll admit I didn’t go out to eat much in Sydney. My dorm had catering and when we did go out to eat, it was usually McDonald’s or Domino’s. The one food that still holds a special spot in my memory were the milkshakes.

Around the time I went to Sydney, decadent milkshakes were on the rise. One of my first Instagrams from my time abroad in Australia was of one of these sugar overloads at the Vogue Cafe. The Vogue Cafe and its counterpart, the Missing Piece, were both located in a shopping mall just next door to Macquarie University and my residence hall. So while I pushed past my introvert ways to befriend new people, we were able to bond over the sugar highs.

Later, we ended up making a pilgrimage to Erskineville for TellaBall Shakes at Foodcraft. We learned quickly that there is no clean way to drink a milkshake and then eat a Nutella donut.

The extravagant milkshake phase seems to have moved on, but those milkshakes left an impact.

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Washington, D.C.

Last, but not least, we’re heading home to DC.

If I was a good daughter, I’d say my favorite food in DC was my mother’s cooking. Nothing against her cooking, but I think it’d be rude of me to applaud her ability to perfectly cook Bagel Bites, keeping me from publicly praising her culinary skills.

The DC area has plenty of restaurants. In Old Town, there’s the classic chili of Hard Times Cafe, where my parents have been visiting for 20 something years, or for the hockey fans, there’s the Chicago-style pizza of Bugsy’s. If you’re in Woodley Park, you can hit up my Wisconsin Avenue high school haunts of 2Amys for pizza or Cactus Cantina for Mexican.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can stop by the White House on your way to Old Ebbitt Grill. For those pretending to adult, they can head to Ted’s Bulletin for homemade PopTarts. You can join the fight between Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake (although everyone in DC knows that Baked & Wired wins every time.) I’m currently working near Dupont Circle, where I’m munching on Happy Hours at Front Page, and enjoying lunches at Zorba’s Cafe, and experiencing all that is the Big Hunt.

If we’re honest, I don’t know if I have a favorite in DC. Maybe, I’ll just have to continue my searchAll recommendations are much appreciated. Though they are subject to ignorance in favor of Chipotle or Moby Dick’s.

Spontaneity

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Sometimes I plan and I plan and sometimes I am spontaneous. Recently, after discovering that a friend and I were both free on a random Thursday, we spent a day playing tourist in London. And let me tell you — it was fantastic.34814421_10214424243293773_1887582261952380928_n

Our day started with breakfast at Duck and Waffle. I’d read somewhere online that Duck and Waffle offered pretty good views of the city. Being a restaurant on the 40th floor of a building in a city that doesn’t frequently build that high, we got some views.

We made reservations, dressed up a little, and enjoyed a lovely breakfast. It’s pretty difficult to get reservations for lunch or dinner, but we’re students with next to no responsibilities, so middle of the week schmancy breakfasts were no problem. The food is surprisingly reasonably priced and quite tasty. (I can recommend the caramelized banana-nutella-peanut waffles with ice cream and the hot chocolate, for sure.)34909235_10214424243133769_1501864280029396992_n.jpg34985046_10214424243653782_3389102227338559488_n

Not wanting the party to stop, we hopped on the tube towards The London Eye and avoided all the tourists by visiting the aquarium. Sea Life London is a pretty sizable aquarium right in the center of London. The tickets weren’t horribly expensive and there was no line to get in. We wandered for two hours, watching the sharks and jellyfish and penguins and lobsters.

Although we were swarmed by a school group every once in a while, I found watching the fish to be so peaceful, (despite my leftover sugar rush from breakfast).

To round out our day, we grabbed an Uber to Covent Garden to eat at Flat Iron. They don’t take reservations, so it was a bit of a gamble, but we only had to wait fifteen minutes for a table (in Covent Garden, at lunch time). We grabbed drinks at the bar (because we’re students with next to no responsibilities) and I have to say their Strawberry Basil cocktail was so refreshing.34901665_10214424245893838_1910508690004246528_n.jpg

We had a couple of flat-iron steaks, which were delicious, and had a good laugh at the tourists around us, Instagramming each bite of their meals. (I will admit to taking a photo, but when you’re eating something other than cereal, you gotta share it with the world.) The best part of the meal was definitely the complimentary caramel ice cream for the road.

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To work off the calories we inhaled throughout the day, we walked home through Covent Garden, doing some quick window shopping. One of the many perks of living in central London was the ability to walk home passed the British Museum and plenty of green parks filled with people.

Each step of the day wasn’t planned further than a few hours in advance and it was absolutely lovely. (The nap when I got home was also superb, in case you were wondering.)