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Guest Post: Tasting your way around the world

Greg SolomonWe are very excited to have Greg Solomon guest blogging for Mango Languages. Greg works in the fascinating world of structured finance, and gets to travel a lot. His frequent flyer mileage must have built up to the equivalent of the GDP of a small country by now. He has been blogging about his path towards Mandarin Chinese fluency at MandarinSegments.com. Come along for a taste.

Greg is pictured here eating … whaaaaat?

When I was young, I remember my late father used to collect matchboxes from his travels. At home he had a large plastic jar, filled with boxes of different sizes, styles & colours. I used to love playing with them (the boxes, not the matches!), reading the names of the places and countries, and imagining …

So when I began doing lots of travelling in my early 20s, I started my own collection: sugar sachets. I knew some others who were doing that, and it seemed like a good idea. Each hotel, each restaurant, each city – another sachet. Unfortunately, upon returning from a holiday some years later, I discovered my large plastic bowl was filled with ants – they had found the sugar. And that is when my sugar collecting ended.

Then, a few years ago, while planning a trip to Singapore, I found myself thinking that I should make a point of drinking a Singapore Sling cocktail while there. And I did. It was at the famous Raffles hotel, which opened back in 1887. The following day, not far from that hotel, at the Lao Pa Sat market, as I made a huge mess eating an amazingly tasty Singapore Chilli Crab, I realised that I had been collecting something without knowing it …

I had been collecting localised taste experiences, foods and drinks which (by name, anyway) had originated right where I was.

I’ve eaten Boston Cream doughnuts (not one, but two) in Boston USA, very near to where the original “Cheers” pub can be found. In New York I ate a New York Strip steak (the restaurant had a Park Avenue address, but was actually about 5 minutes walk from Park Avenue). Further north in Buffalo New York I ate BBQ Buffalo Wings at a friend’s BBQ. And to the west, in California I ate a California Roll – my first taste of sushi as a 13 year old.

I’ve eaten Swedish meatballs in the cobblestone old town of Stockholm, Sweden. (Which wasn’t as weird as the pickled herring I ate for breakfast that day, but that’s another story.)

In Beijing at the famous DaDong Roast Duck Restaurant I ate Peking Duck – then to prove a point to my host, I promptly ate both the tongue and the (very tiny) brain too.

I was in the South African town of Knysna as I tucked into a massive plate of the freshest Knysna Oysters (with a sprinking of tabasco), in Wales when I ate Welsh Rarebit, in Zürich Switzerland when I ate Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (a white wine mushroom veal dish, which on one trip I ate four meals in a row), in Germany’s Black Forest while devouring an extremely rich slice of Black Forest gateau, and I was in BoKaap (a small colourful suburb of Cape Town, at the base of Table Mountain) when I ate Cape Gooseberries. And, although this feels like a bit of a cheat, I will take credit for using English Mustard in England.

To wash it all down, while I Mumbai I had a gin & tonic, poured with Bombay Sapphire Gin. I drank a huge glass of Bergundy in the Bergundy region, although I didn’t get around to drinking Champagne in Champagne.

I have also not yet had a Danish pastry in Denmark, Feta cheese in Feta, drank port in Porto or Madeiran wine in Madeira. I’ve also not had Jerusalem artichoke in Jerusalem (although to be fair, I’m not even sure it’s available there!) And I am still thinking about the Baked Alaska and Mississippi Mudpie that might be out there, waiting for me.

I don’t think I will have achieved my life’s ambitions until I’ve eaten a frankfurter in Frankfurt, a hamburger in Hamburg, and Yorkshire pudding in Yorkshire. But right now, while I write this, I am sufficiently pleased to be drinking English Breakfast Tea. In England.

Additionally, when I travel – which I’m sure you’ve worked out I do quite a lot – I always like to learn how to say the following words in the local language: hello, goodbye, please, thanks. So while I do speak four languages (although my Mandarin isn’t quite where I’d like it to be!) – it’s amazing how much more fun I’ve had interacting with locals using only these four words, in about 20 different languages. (“hallo, hallo – bitte Black Forest cake, danke danke”)

What is the most unusual thing you have eaten in a foreign country?

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  • View 14 Comments
    • Yeah I remember well about the photo of Greg eating a chicken head. :-) Thank god that was a chicken head instead of anything worse. I remember seeing things way worse than the chicken head in SOMEONE’s photos. ^^

      I did taste around Europe last year, and I was really impressed by Italy and Greece. From then on whenever I put vinegar in my dish, I would instantly recall that supper in Athens which I believe contained lots of vinegar!

      I think to know the local culture, it is helpful to eat local food. Eating reflects and affects the culture and the way people views outside world. We Chinese people fancy eating so much that sometimes when we run into people on the streets, we would greet them by asking “Have you had your lunch/How was your lunch/…”. Do we really care how much and what other people eat for their lunch? Not really. But it is just so natural for us to ask people about eating rather than what they think about today’s weather. It has been an art to cook in Chinese culture, and gradually we have become so much into “food greetings”.

      Come to Guangdong Province in China, and they would show you the world and spirit in eating.


    • Your article reminded me of the legend that French fries were invented in Belgium and should hence be called Belgian fries. France – Belgium: 1 – 0.
      Well, from a linguistic standpoint, the adjective refers to the way they are cooked, potatoes cooked/fried in the French way, and not to who invented them first.

    • Thanks all for the comments.

      Terry, yes I have been to Hungary – although I ate so much there, I can’t claim to have been hungry at any time!

      Lilia, you reminded me that I have eaten French Fries in France, and Belgian Waffles in Belgium – I can’t believe I forgot those!

    • 哇哇 i thought the western people don’t bother those stuff, especially vegan or religious one. Anyway? i think yu didnt really “ate” it (did you) haha yu just hold it up to take a photo (: because chicken head doesn’t taste good to me at all.

    • I just wanted to add another update to my article above – and let you all know that I recently came back from THAIland, where I ate ‘Pad THAI’. I’m still on a mission to eat my way around the world :-)

    • Good blog. I got a lot of great information. I’ve been keeping an eye on this technology for awhile. It’s interesting how it keeps varying, yet some of the core components stay the same. Have you seen much change since Google made their latest acquisition in the domain?


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