Food o’clock

One thing that I find difficult to change, even when living in a different culture, is food habits. With that I do not only mean what I eat, but also, when I eat.

For me what the French eat for breakfast is what I would only eat for desert. The Irish again, eat a breakfast I would call lunch. I am brought up in a family where we eat a big lunch at 2 pm, and only something small for dinner. To eat something sweet for breakfast was definitely never acceptable. In the Netherlands I was faced with the local tradition of only eating some sandwiches or a small soup during the day, and then have the main meal in the evening. To the other extreme, I remember that in India the mornings started with a cup of tea at 7 am, and then the actual lunch was already at 10 am.

This cultural difference in food habits is also very clearly seen at my current work place. My fellow country men seem to have their proper lunch at 11 or latest at noon, whereas the Polish eat a few hours later. Polish people have a habit of eating a “second breakfast” before lunch, therefore they have the actual lunch much later. To compare, when I was living in Ireland with a bunch of Spanish people, they started cooking their dinner when I was ready to go to bed. I have observed that the more south you go on the map, the later people eat the main meal of the day.

Living abroad also introduces you to new flavors and food habits. I had for example not eaten Nutella or peanut-butter before I started traveling. It’s just not something you put on bread at home. Rather, stacking all kinds of vegetables on top of your bread is considered normal. Today I can easily debate if smooth or crunchy peanut-butter goes better with banana on toast. Smack on a bit of jam and you are good to go. 

Then again, in some countries I have been offered things that I couldn’t even describe what it was. Like for example in Nigeria I was offered something that wasn’t potato or rise, but something in between, but yet nothing close.  Another interesting observation from my travels in Africa was that people there seem to prefer bitter flavors over sweet. Did you know that Guinness is the big hit drink in African countries? I can’t tell you what a conflict it was in my head to have a warm pint of Guinness in a dusty pub in the Legosian suburb. The truth was that the Guinness tasted much better there than it did back in Ireland.

In Australia a normal Sunday barbeque consisted of crocodile, kangaroo and shark meat. The shark meat was brought straight from the sea by the fishermen (and women!) who lived in the same house as I did. I never came to ask them where they had caught the crocodile though… The thought of eating a kangaroo was weird, but as I told the Aussies that where I come from we eat Rudolf the reindeer, it might as well be acceptable to eat Skippy the Kangaroo. It is all about what you are used to, I suppose.

Traveler's breakfast

Travelers’ breakfast

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