Countries I Have Been to With The Best Food So Far

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Countries I Have Been To With The Best Food So Far

“I was at this restaurant. The sign said “Breakfast Anytime.”So I ordered French toast n the Renaissance.” Steven Wright

My food experience when I am traveling totally impacts the experience I have  in the country. Sometimes I make trip destinations  based on food. Other times, it is a complete surprise how much I love the food. Here are my favorite countries for food so far.

Japan applies the same precision to their food as they do to their engineering. You can get a lavish multicourse kaiseki meal that presents the seasons in a spread of visual and culinary poetry..

I dream of the sushi bars in Tsukiji market and the tofu restaurants where everything is made from tofu.  You can eat something random in a train station or risk your life and try Fugu (poisonous blowfish – delicious). I love yuzu and green tea desserts. Cold soba noodles is my go to Japanese lunch. 

It is impossible to eat badly in Japan.  This country is officially one of the best culinary destinations in the world. 

Spain has long been characterized by eat, drink, sleep, work a little bit, eat, drink, sleep. They munch on snacks throughout the day (tapas, pinxtos) with intervals of big meals. The food is different from the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenees. 

Paella, churros and chocolate, gazpacho and anything from the Basque region (pinxto bars to Michelin starred restaurants)  show how much the Spanish love good food.It ranges from the Medieval Jamon Iberica  to the insane molecular gastronomy of Feran Adria and his followers.

The food is timeless and modern.

It’s impossible to write a short list of Turkish food. It is a combination of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine and any other conquering nations. It was a big surprise to me that Turkey turned out to be one of my favorite countries to eat in. Turkish food is about the freshest ingredients and technique. There are meze – small dishes that start the meal based on seasons and locale.

Some of my favorite foods are pide (boat shaped flatbread with fillings), pastirma (ancestor of pastrami), borek (small filled pastries),kabob, hummus, eggplant cooked many different ways, any dessert made from semolina, fresh halvah, pomegranate juice, fish cooked with olive oil and lemon, simit (Turkish bagels), ayram (drink made with yogurt ice and salt), fresh cheese ( beyaz peynir) and honey, kofta (meatballs), (mincemeat pizza) and just about anything  I have eaten in Turkey

I’m not even a huge fan of lamb but in Turkey it is delicious.

 The food in Israel is reason enough to visit the country. Israel is a young country, but its food goes back thousands of years. The cuisine is a melting pot of North Africa, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbors.

It is healthy and delicious. There is freshly made hummus with hot pita bread, falafel (made from fava beans or chick peas), tahini, schwarma, kebob, shakshouka, salads, and labneh,(yogurt cheese.)

The food tastes so much fresher than anything that I’ve eaten at home.  Israeli breakfast is one of the best things about Israel. It is usually served buffet style with an array of European, Israeli and Mediterranean dishes.- They are the biggest breakfast buffets I have ever seen.

This is the country that gave us pizza and cappuccino. Italy’s simple comfort food  has become the food of every country. Each region has specialties that they are very proud of. The best pizza is found in Naples and Spaghetti Bolognese does come from Bologna.  Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from Parma. Olive oil is the only real Italian condiment.Wine and coffee vie for being the national drink. Freshness of Ingredients is very important to the Italians.. Dining in Italy is always a delight for your taste buds. 

 Olive Oil is the most Greek of all the Greek food.  A Greek salad is very simple with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives. It will never taste the same  way here. I have it every day in Greece and it is always amazing. Greeks do it better. There are many high quality ingredients to choose from in Greece that we don’t seem to be able to recreate here. I have spent a few summers here and figs, honey, olives, lamb, seafood, fava beans, tiropita (cheese pastry), tzatziki  (yogurt dip) Avgolemono soup  (lemon chicken soup) and baklava are always delicious. 

I love seafood and except for Iceland, no one in Europe eats more of it, than the people of Portugal. If you love tuna and sea bass, this is the place. The national dish is bacalhau – dried, salted cod. The Portuguese have been obsessed with it since the early 16th century.  Sardines, mackerel, lobsters, shrimp, oysters and crabs are plentiful. The ‘arroz de marisco” is a delicious seafood rice.

Other national dishes are “cozido à portuguesa,” a thick stew of vegetables with various kinds of meat, “leitão assado” Roast suckling pig and tripe with beans. young Portuguese chefs are making a name for themselves with their more modern approach to the classics.  Pasteis de nata is my favorite dessert – Small custard tarts with cinnamon are found all over Portugal The most original recipe comes from Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon a pastelaria that dates back to 1837. I was lucky enough to go there.

Portuguese cheeses are delicious and should be more well-known and for a small country, they  produce a number of varieties of very good wine. 

Mexico is a go to country for delicious cuisine. There are  moles, tacos, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, tostadas, flan and Mexican chocolate.

Lime and salt go with everything. 

You will not get bored with the food in this country. It is a fiesta in your mouth. 

Cambodian food is delicious and often overlooked but should not be. Insects are always on the menu in Cambodia. Beef with red tree ants should not be missed.

Tarantula and deep-fried scorpion are not my thing but you see a lot of people eating them. 

Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk, Khmer  spices, turmeric, garlic and ginger,

It is served in a banana leaf and is my favorite lunch with fresh coconut juice served in the coconut.

Khmer beef salad, Khmer noodles,  Khmer curry, fried crab and grilled squid are a must try in Cambodia. There is always rice. Try the pork and rice which is only served for breakfast. 

Street food is the attraction in Thailand. The complex  combination of spices and flavors  can  make your favorite dish be spicy, sour, salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy and slippery. With influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, ,Myanmar and a royal culinary tradition, Thai cuisine is the best of many worlds.. Thai coffee with condensed milk and mango with sticky  rice is my favorite dessert. The various curries, soups,  noodle dishes, rice and salads encompass the unique flavors of Thailand.

The food in Viet Nam is insanely good.Traditional Vietnamese food is all about the balance of fresh ingredients, intense flavors, and ease of cooking and preparation.

.Many of the dishes have  a rich history and represent a regional specialty.

The most famous street food is pho which is a bit different in the North and South.  It is rice noodles and slices of beef cooked in   a beef bone broth with complex flavors. It is the most popular food for breakfast and lunch.

Banh Mi is my favorite street food. This sandwich can also be traced back to the French colonial period, even through the roots of the name; Banh is pronounced similarly to the French word for bread, pain.Today the typical Vietnamese banh mi consists of mayonnaise, pate, sliced ham and pork, pickled vegetables, coriander, and hot sauce.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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New Years Eve

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  New Years Eve

“Rituals are the formula by which harmony is restored.” Terry Tempest Williams

I have a confession to make. I have always hated New Year’s Eve. Even when I was really young, I hated the exhaustive energy and resources spent on Dec 31. The overwhelming social pressure to go out and have the best night of your life in a skin tight, can’t breathe dress and painful heels in the freezing cold  (yes even in LA) was never my thing. 

For those of you who are thinking about becoming parents, having children is the best excuse to stay home on Dec 31. Throughout their childhood, I used my children as human shields to avoid what I considered the worst, most overpriced night of the year to go out. 

We created Family New Years and celebrated with champagne and caviar, movies, Chinese food, played celebrities, danced and watched the ball drop.  We kept that going for a long time.

 But the kids grew up and one Dec 31 morning my ex husband thought that would be a good day to leave. Talk about the pressure of making it the most memorable night of the year.  I was in shock and I didn’t know what to do so I did what we always did.

I went to Wally’s to buy caviar and champagne. I hate New Year’s  Eve but I love caviar and every year I buy a decadent one. I sat in the parking lot for a while before I went in.  I finally got out of the car and walked into the store wondering if everyone there would know that this time I would be buying it for myself. I went home and put a movie on. My children and my new therapist called at midnight (probably to make sure that I hadn’t killed myself). 

 I did the same thing for the next couple of years as I struggled to adjust to my new reality.  Being alone on holidays is difficult and scary.  One year I sat in the parking lot of Wally’s before I went in talking with my daughter. She was trying to decide whether to spend New Years with the boy she was obsessed with or the one she just met and would later marry. 

I learned not to rely on other people for happiness around the holidays. I scheduled me  days – massages, foreign films and art. I planned trips in early January so New Year’s Eve would never be too big of a deal and I could focus on caviar, champagne and packing.  I learned that just because you are alone one New Years Eve, doesn’t mean you will always be alone.  I didn’t spend many more New Year’s Eve’s alone.  But I always do the same thing. 

There is always caviar and champagne from Wally’s, Chinese food or pizza, this year – hot dogs and movies.  Every year I take a moment and reflect about the previous year in the parking lot before I go into the store.

This year Wally’s closed their Westwood location ( https://www.wallywine.com Beverly Hills and Santa Monica)  and I didn’t know. I sat outside the parking lot for a few minutes and thought about how great my life is these days. Then I drove  to Wally’s In Beverly Hills and bought caviar. The boyfriend is bringing the champagne.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

Working On My Bucket List

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 Working On My Bucket List
 “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket.” unknown Truthfully, anywhere in the world that I have not been before is a bucket list place for me. Life is short and we have to remember to live it to the fullest. Sometimes I visit places that should have been on my list but I did not know till I got there. Most of them come from books I have read throughout my life. I want to experience a place in the way an author has. My list makes me stop and think of what I want to experience in this lifetime. Having a bucket list gives you hope. There are places on the list I may never go to but the goal of a bucket list is to never finish it. The best lists are constantly changing. So, start writing. Machu Picchu, Peru  Moia, Easter Island, Chile Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain  – soon Camino De Santiago, Basque region, France and Spain – soon Canary Islands, Spain Faroe Islands Grand Canyon, USA Angor Wat, Siem Reap,  Cambodia Ferry from Gibraltar to Morocco (which i think doesn’t go anymore)  Auschwitz, Poland Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey Pizza in Sicily and Naples, Italy The Algarve in Portugal Church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain Greenland Punta Del Este,Uruguay Bahia, Brazil Medellin, Colombia Ushuaia, Argentina Tigers Nest Temple, Bhutan Taj Mahal, India Terracotta Army, Xian, China Faukland Islands Boulder Beach, Capetown, South Africa Gorillas, Rwanda Viet Nam Borneo Sri Lanka, Nepal. Ethiopia Fly safe. JAZ  

Foods That I Grew Up Eating For Lunch In New York

Foods That I Grew Up Eating For Lunch In New York

“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?” Douglas Adams

When I was a kid, we did not have the lunch choices that are available to our children today. Lunch usually involved two pieces of bread. There were two or three small delis on a block. If you lived in an Italian or Chinese neighborhood, there were several of those restaurants on the block as well. New York’s wealth of immigrants honed our eating habits and favorite foods.

Coffee shops and luncheonettes were on every street. Coffee shops were what we now call casual dining restaurants. Despite that these places primarily sold sit-down meals and not just coffee, you were usually welcome to sit in one for hours while ordering nothing but coffee with free refills.They had a lunch counter in the front with round stools and small tables in the back. They served burgers, grilled cheese, BLTs, pancakes and scrambled eggs. No lattes, almond milk or farm to table eggs with a side of avocado and chicken sausage. If you wanted fresh fruit it was half a grapefruit or cantaloupe and cottage cheese. No smoothies or green juice.  Cottage cheese was the diet food of diners and luncheonettes.  If you didn’t want grease and carbs, the diet plates were cottage cheese and cantaloupe, cottage cheese and tuna or cottage cheese and a burger patty.No one there had ever heard of kale.The coffee shops were often owned by Greek immigrants and had Greek specialties on the menu.

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The egg cream is the iconic growing up in New York drink. Everyone has a best egg cream story from a lunch counter somewhere. There is no egg in it – only chocolate syrup, seltzer and milk. The seltzer should be fresh from a soda gun . The most important thing is the correct ratio of chocolate to seltzer to milk and the frothy head with flecks of chocolate syrup at the top of the glass. U- Bet is the chocolate syrup of choice for egg creams.

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The Hebrew National Deli in my neighborhood was part deli and part convenience/grocery store. I think it had a few tables in the back but we never sat there. We usually got  grilled frankfurters with mustard and sauerkraut to go and walked and ate them. Hot Dogs are the original street food in New York and sold out of carts on corners in Manhattan. I always found it odd to sit at a table in LA and eat a hot dog with my kids.

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The deli was located across the street from Mrs Stahls legendary, dingy knish store on Brighton Beach Avenue under the elevated train. A knish is baked dough with a filling. I remember cheese, kasha or potato. I’m not a knish fan. The smell would hit you when you got off the train and I would often find one in my hand from my mother who thought I should be eating more.

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Sometimes we rode our bikes on Sundays to Nathans in Coney Island. We had hot dogs and fries. The hot dog popped when you bit into it with a perfect blend of meat and spices. The fries were not thin but thick, crinkly cut and fried to perfection. Nathan’s was  located on the corner of Surf and Sillwell Avenues in a neighborhood where you stayed aware of your surroundings. My parents went as kids when the mobsters and film stars frequented the place. By the time we got there, Coney Island was a shabby version of its former splendor. We still rode the Cyclone and Ferris Wheel but it was before the hipsters and gentrification.

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New York had such a large Italian immigrant population that pizza places were everywhere. Everyone had their favorite but they were all good. A New York pizza is traditionally hand tossed and I have memories of some seriously skilled pizza tossers. High gluten flour and NY water are credited with giving the crust its unique taste. It is made with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and traditionally cut into eight slices. The New York way to eat a slice of pizza is to pick it up and eat it flat to get the full flavor. You can fold it when it gets messy but a knife and fork will immediately peg you as an out of towner. The crust is not paper-thin. It’s not thick like Chicago. It is in between. There are no chicken and sweet sauce or pineapple toppings . It was sausage, pepperoni or red peppers.

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When I wasn’t having pizza for lunch, I would be eating a meatball hero sandwich. It was meatballs with tomato sauce topped with melted cheese between two slices of Italian bread. I have never seen meatballs served like that in Italy. It was a NY Italian American spaghetti joint meal. The Italian restaurants in my neighborhood were Sicilian. There was always a lot of red sauce, shellfish, pasta, bread, red wine and cannolis. We sat in restaurants with red and white checked tablecloths and posters of Italian tourist attractions eating those very messy sandwiches.

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Blimpies was the original submarine sandwich fast food chain. It was shredded lettuce with tomatoes on cold cuts with red wine vinegar and oil. A salad on a sandwich was unheard of in Brooklyn and people used to line up to get them.

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I still eat all these foods for lunch. Living in LA, it is more about turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs. I’m trying not to eat gluten – unless I’m eating pizza. I ate Subway sandwiches with my kids when they were young.  I wouldn’t attempt to find a good egg cream or cannoli in LA.  Your environment teaches you what comfort food is. Pizza is still my favorite food.  Every once in a while I will go to Carneys, wait on line at Pinks or order the meatballs at Jon and Vinnys for a taste of my childhood.

Fly safe,

JAZ

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit A Country

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit a Country

“Like I said before. Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”Anthony Bourdain

 Japan Sushi at Tsukiji Market, any dessert made with yuzu or green tea.

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 Turkey Pide, fresh pomegranate juice, anything with eggplant, and any dessert made with semolina.

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 Croatia Fresh tuna and bean salad, grilled calamari and swiss chard.

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Cambodia Fresh coconut water and amok (I loved Cambodian food).

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 Greece Avgolemono soup, baklava and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes and olive oil don’t taste the same anywhere else).

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 Italy Pizza, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  (My dream is to go to Sicily and eat pizza).

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South Africa Biltong (Im not even a meateater and I love it).

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Israel  Falafel and Hummus.

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Colombia Guanabana juice and Arepa con Quisito.

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Spain Churros, hot chocolate and real gazpacho.

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 Panama Sancocho soup.

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Netherlands Pofferjes and poached egg on brioche with smoked salmon, (first time that I have had that).

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Brazil Tacaca with shrimp and fresh acai ( not the watered down sugary stuff we get here) in the Amazon.

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 Thailand Thai iced coffee.

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 Peru Ceviche with giant corn.

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Argentina Alfajores from Havanna.

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Mexico Tacos, guacamole, mole or really anything in Oaxaca. (except not a fan of the crickets every day)

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USA When I come home I want a turkey burger from Golden State in LA.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

How To Tell If Someone You Know Was Born And Raised In New York

How To Tell If Someone You Know Was Born And Raised In New York

“The city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience – if they did they would live elsewhere.”  E.B. White

Nw Yorkers don’t wait for a street light to turn green to cross the street.

They don’t go to the corner to cross.

They don’t know what a cross walk is.

They walk fast and they walk everywhere. Unless it is raining, then try to get a taxi. You won’t.

New Yorkers talk fast. They might interject a comment if they overhear a stranger’s conversation and then walk on by.

They talk loud – sorry, they speak loudly.   Don’t judge them. Remember that  they grew up in the noisiest city in the world.

They don’t necessarily believe that one person needs to talk at a time. It is a cultural thing.

They honk their horns in traffic.

New Yorkers avoid eye contact when walking down the street.

They don’t smile on the street.

They appear rude but really they are assertive. Some are rude.

They immediately check for their wallet when someone bumps into them.

People from New York follow baseball and basketball.

They never give directions saying North, East, West and South. It is always street names or Uptown and Downtown.

They hail passing taxis with their hand instead of calling for one.

They think every city has cruising taxis and are very surprised when they don’t.

They never give an exact address in a taxi. They just say eighteenth and first.

New Yorkers ignore crazy behavior.  Homeless people, prostitutes, transvestites, cross dressers, lunatics and street performers are all part of the scenery.

They are surprised when restaurants close at ten.

Unless they are in Italy or New York, they complain about the pizza. They eat it while they are complaining.

They also complain about the Chinese Food and the bagels anywhere but New York. They eat it anyway .

People from New York avoid restrooms in parks and subways.

They don’t go to Central Park at night unless it is for a concert or performance in the park. They always leave with the crowd.

They know the difference between a bad neighborhood and a neighborhood that just looks bad.

They are surprised that  you didn’t know that the Empire State Building changes colors at night.

They are surprised that you didn’t know who won the Tony Awards.

New Yorkers avoid Times Square unless they are going to the theatre.

They use the letter R inappropriately or not at all.

They read the obituary column to find apartments.

They are not afraid of cockroaches. (They are afraid that the ones who live in their apartments know too much about their lives).

They always look for rats on a subway platform. They are afraid of rats.

They have a New York accent. Like New York garbage, it is always there. No matter how long you have been away or how much you try to disguise it, it always slips out so fuhgeddaboutit.

They are very proud to be from New York or “the city.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Food Rules I Have Learned While Traveling

Food  Rules I Have Learned While Traveling.

“Travelers never think that they are the foreigners.’  ~Mason Cooley

You can eat sushi with your hands.

Sashimi is always eaten as a first course before sushi. You can’t eat sashimi with your hands.

Don’t eat anything with your hands in Chile.

You can eat with your hands in Burma (Myanmar). People eat food with their hands in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. People eat with their hands in other countries in Africa and Asia also.

Always keep your hands above the table in Mexico.

Eat only with your right hand in Egypt. (This is true for many Middle Eastern countries) Salting your food is a huge insult.

In Germany, eat your meat with a fork. Use a knife only if it is necessary. If you eat meat with a fork, it lets the cook know the meat is tender.

Pad Thai is always eaten with a fork and a spoon. Thai people eat most of their food with a spoon in their dominant hand and a fork in the other. Chopsticks are only served for soup.

Mezze (small plates) come before a meal.

Pasta is not a main course.

In Uganda, eat fried grasshoppers with your hands like chips. In Mexico eat them on a taco with guacamole and cheese. In Thailand eat them on a stick. In Burma, peel off the head and wings and gulp.

In Burma, they say that anything that walks on the ground can be eaten.

Margherita Pizza is really the only thing Italians consider pizza and should  be eaten with a knife a fork.  The pies are usually served unsliced. It is not a hard and fast role like never cut your spaghetti with a knife and fork.

In Mexico, never eat tacos with a knife and fork.

In France, don’t eat the bread before the meal.

Never turn down vodka in Russia or tea in Turkey.

In France, eat frogs legs like you would eat fried chicken –with your hands in a casual setting, with a knife and fork in a formal restaurant.

In Kenya drinking cows blood mixed with milk is a special treat.

Chinese people do not eat fortune cookies for dessert but oranges for good luck.  It is illegal to eat an orange in a bathtub in California.

In China you are expected to leave a small amount of food uneaten on your plate. If you finish everything, you are sending the insulting message that not enough food was served to you.

It is rude to burp at a table in Japan. It is not rude to burp at a table in China.

In Singapore gum chewing is illegal.

In Mexico Men make toasts, women do not.

In Russia, Do not drink until a toast has been made.

In Armenia, if you empty a bottle into someone’s glass, it obliges them to buy the next bottle.

In restaurants in Portugal don’t ask for salt and pepper if it is not already on the table. Asking for any kind of seasoning or condiment is to cast aspersions on the cook. Cooks are highly respected people in Portugal.

Eating from individual plates strikes most people in Ethiopia as hilarious, bizarre, and wasteful. Food is always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery.

In Japan it is acceptable to loudly slurp noodles and similar foods. In fact, it is considered flattering to do so, because it indicates that you are enjoying the food.

Do not eat fugu from  an unlicensed chef. The Japanese pufferfish, or fugu, is a delicacy in Japan. It’s also potentially one of the most poisonous foods in the world, with no known antidote.  Japanese chefs train for years to remove the deadly portion of the fish before serving it, though generally the goal is not to fully remove it, but to leave just enough of a trace to generate a tingling sensation in the mouth, so the customer knows how close he came to the edge.  This was one of my best meals in Japan and I have lived to write this.

At this moment,  someone is making a food etiquette mistake.

Fly safe,

JAZ