You’re up, Europe!
May 5, 2011

What do Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon all have in common? In short, ME!

While we recognise how fortunate we are to travel, it has been an outrageously long two-year wait since my wife and I have stepped onto European soil. Once in your blood, travelling is a powerful self-indulgence, next to impossible to ignore. Needless to say, our next adventure was long overdue.

Many homebodies shutter at the very thought of: getting lost in winding cobblestone studded streets, zipping their way through over crowded streets on a scooter, pointing to a completely unrecognizable item on a menu, gazing straight up to admire hundreds of year old architecture while a city seems to revolve around them, or making over emphatic gestures while getting directions from a local who does not speak their language. But to an adventurous traveller this is a recipe for freedom, a chance to feel completely alive, to temporarily push aside any responsibilities and contrive an onslaught of selfish gratifications.

Six cities in seventeen days and a long list of local delicacies to indulge in. This trip is shaping up to be yet another amazing journey for the books, but a complete nightmare for the waistline. Say hello to six European cities and goodbye to Mr. Six-pack. The fact that much of our transportation involves getting around by foot, you would think this would offset any ill effects due to bad eating habits. But like every trip prior, I am expecting that loud SNAP from the switch in my brain, immediately causing me to devour everything in site.

It is the same story every time; while perusing the salad section on the menu of the very first restaurant all hell breaks loose! I suspect it has something to do with multiple overwhelming sensations constantly flooding my various senses at any given time. The eye catches sight of a local strolling by as he leans gently to the side, slightly tilting his head to better hear the whisper of his embraced female companion, as he smiles and pulls her closer. Behind you, you may hear the whooshing sound of small cylinder cars, tightly wound scooter engines zipping around like screaming bees, bicycles almost silently slipping by if were it not for the air they push aside, or the flapping sound of numerous wings lifting from a square in a hurry, as a flock of pigeons give way to a young child’s attempt to trample them through. The smell of dusty, damp, almost musky air, that could only be attributed to aged interiors of museums, palaces and churches, lingers in your nostrils as you imagine the greatness that once stood in that very spot. Little wonder why your sense of taste is dramatically heightened and honed as you touch different foods revealing their unique textures. This grand concerto of culminating sensations provokes a perfect storm of vivacious flavours.

Follow me as I tantalizingly savour many sinful cheats in Europe. But whatever you do, do not try this at home! I will be the one enjoying the flavours. Why? Frankly, because I worked my butt off for it.

“Good food is like music you can taste, colour you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only be aware to stop and savour it.” -Ratatouille-

*Photo provided by themed home decor


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They have… We have
November 12, 2010

For this week’s post, a more entertaining approach was taken; one that hopefully encourages us to think twice about what we put in our bodies. Please keep in mind that the following comparisons are made in good fun and not to be taken too seriously. Instead, think of it as a kindly reminder that our habits may have gone a little astray.

There is much to learn from other cultures that have had a healthy relationship with food for years. Europe is often a good example but no doubt there are others as well. Just how different are their habits from ours?

They have…


Whether it’s morning or afternoon, these costly machines serve non-stop espresso and espresso based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, providing Europeans with their daily dose of caffeine.

We have…


Free refills for everyone! Coke, Pepsi, Sprite… you name it. This self-serve fountain machine supplies us caffeine and sugar to no end.

They have…


This flakey piece of heaven might be loaded with butter but a croissant is primarily all-natural goodness, a satisfying way many Europeans start their day. Other than natural sugars in the milk, there is only a small quantity of added sugar, just enough to activate the yeast.

We have…


This sinful monster wreaks havoc on your insulin levels. These eye-popping donuts send signals straight to your brain and later to your fat cells, saying “this guy wants to store some fat”; not to mention the hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and processed white flour. DO-NUT make these a habit!

They have…


Gelato is typically made with milk (some with water) which differs from cream based North American ice cream. With less sugar and up to four and a half times less fat, Gelato is the healthier version of ice cream. Try it and you will be pleasantly surprised how the fruit and berry flavours hit your palate.

We have…


When young and old consumers demand more fat and sugar concentrated flavours, this ice cream delivers. A ½ cup contains 22 grams of carbs (18 from sugar), and 9 grams total fat (6 saturated). You better not even think of finishing this tub in one sitting. At least put it back in the freezer for after your next meal.

They have…


This latte is actually on the larger side of most coffees served in Italy or France, while many opt for an itsy bitsy cup of espresso. If the espresso beans are delicately roasted, ground on the spot to the perfect consistency, nicely dosed, carefully groomed, tamped with the correct amount of pressure, evenly extracted under just the right temperature (using ice-cold filtered water), then crema-laden espresso will ooze out from your portafilter rewarding you with a sweet slightly acidic espresso, to which there is no need to add any sugar or milk. How’s that for getting your caffeine fix with virtually no extra calories?

We have…


Sure, we North Americans think we have a little slice of Italy now that Starbucks has taken over. However, there is something disturbing about the fact we can’t say no when they offer to smother our coffee with a mountain of wiped cream. If you order it hot, it’s up to 20 oz’s, but if you opt for a cold drink, surprise, you can have a whopping 30 oz cardboard goblet. This is great for you moms, because when you are done with it, your kids can cut out a door and windows and play house.

They have…


Wine is the perfect accompaniment to your meal. Swish your wonderfully aged wine of choice around your tongue coating your palette. You taste a bouquet of undergrowth, cherry pit and soft spices. The mouth, graced with ripe red fruit and woody notes, features great freshness and solid tannins. It can go perfectly with duck and mushroom ravioli or thyme rack of lamb.* Wine is the lifeblood of Europeans; cut them and they will bleed grape juices.

We have…


What is the beverage of choice to accompany a typical North American meal? It would have to be a soft drink! It’s perfect for cleansing the palate after fried chicken, a greasy hamburger or deep-fried french fries. A 44 oz Super Big Gulp is everyone’s ticket to high blood sugar and lifelong diabetes. Still thirsty? No worries, ask for his big brother the Double Gulp; he will grace you with a full 64 oz insulin spike. Good to know they also offer discounted refills!

They have…


The veil has been lifted on misconceptions about healthy fats. Finally olive oil is getting the recognition it truly deserves. Should not the fact that Europeans have been using it for thousands of years been a clue that it’s not all that bad for us? If any food could be labelled as a jack-of-all-trades, it would be olive oil. Cook, bake, fry, sprinkle, or pour it on many European inspired dishes to bring out wonderful rich flavours. In their kitchens, the back of restaurants and on their terrace tables, olive oil is a staple.

We have…


That’s right; it’s stocked in our cupboards, sitting in the refrigerator door, and at close reach in many restaurants. Our own jack-of-all-trades is good old Heinz Ketchup. This can be spooned, plopped, hit out from the bottom of an old-school glass bottle, squeezed and squirted onto almost any North American food. Thank goodness they make it in travel size to-go packets, because how would one ever go without. Deep-fried food just wouldn’t taste the same without it!

Depending how you came across this post, you can either submit your own comparisons by way of the “Leave a Response” link at the top of this post or “Submit a Comment” below. Come up with an amusing comparison of your own, and I just might add it to this post.

Help put our unhealthy stereotypes behind us. Eat better starting now!

*Quote provided by SAQ

1. “Espresso Machine” photo provided by Rancilio

2. “Fountain Machine” photo provided by Lancer

3. “Croissant” photo provided by Flickr user: alicehou

4. “Donut” photo provided by Flickr user: simon seljeflot

5. “Gelato” photo provided by Flickr user: su-lin

6. “Rolo Ice Cream” photo provided by Nestlé Canada

7. “Latte” photo provided by Flickr user: Kyle Johnson

8. “Starbucks” photo provided by Cake & Carrots

9. “Wine” photo provided by TripAdvisor

10. “Big Gulp” photo provided by Flickr user: Katrina Lou Samsin

11. “Olive Oil” photo provided by Health

12. “Heinz Ketchup” photo provided by Global Package Gallery


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