I have a vivid memory of sitting in a booth at my local Glory Days Grill, a few days before I was booked to leave for my term abroad in England, completely freaking out. As someone with high levels of anxiety about every diversion from my normal routine, I was having a mini meltdown almost every hour leading up to our flight. This particular attack was centered around one of my Biggest Worries I had about living abroad in Europe – food.
Take a moment and think about your idea of a “picky eater” – now multiply that by ten. That’s me. I have weirdly (and annoyingly) very sensitive taste buds. I think everything is spicy, even if it’s mild. I never grew out of it, and although I do find a few new things that I like every year… I don’t think it’s ever going to change. This is just the way I am, as impossibly frustrating as that is for people to wrap their minds around. People are always so annoyed with picky eaters. I get it… But try living as one.
It isn’t necessarily the taste of something that I hate. It’s that there’s too much taste. If it’s too strong, then I hate it. That’s the life of a super-taster. Something that tastes bland to you, probably tastes delicious to me.
For many, with traveling comes the excitement of trying new foods. If you have a versatile palate, then that’s definitely something I recommend. It’s a fantastic way to explore cultures! But for me, it’s just not an integral part of traveling. I’ve wanted to write this series for a long time… because I feel like food and travel tend to go hand in hand in the blogging world, but no one ever talks about how to survive as a picky/limited eater.
To kick off this series, I’m going to share an anecdote from my time abroad – the Bavarian Veal story.
Travel Tip #1 – If you know yourself and your palate well enough, chances are you can tell whether you’ll like a dish just by looking at it. Listen to those instincts. Otherwise, you’ll be dropping €30 on something you didn’t even eat. Plus the cost of whatever you can find to eat – or you just go hungry, which is not ideal when traveling all day.
I’ll start off by saying that out of all the places I traveled to, Germany was the hardest one for me food-wise. Pork makes me (and my sister) feel ill, and Germany runs on it.
We traveled there specifically to see Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s the beautiful, fairytale castle that everyone has definitely seen a photo of at some point in there life. It’s surrounded by a very, very small town that basically has one restaurant, so we were extremely limited when it came to food options. My sister, Laura, suggested that I try the veal because I like beef. Fast forward thirty minutes later, and I regretted it deeply. Laura took a bite, and her eyebrows immediately shot up. It wasn’t good. At all.
We had only taken a few tiny bites, so she suggested I send it back and just ask for a plate of fries – something light that would at least fill my stomach. We learned very quickly that the notion of sending something back is very much an American custom. I understood that might be the case, and I’d have to pay regardless. That was fine. I had been abroad long enough to recognize and respect that other cultures don’t deal with customer service the same way as we do in the USA. The part that really threw us off though, was the waiter remarked that if we hadn’t eaten a bite, the food could’ve been served to another customer. She was very German, and kind of scared me to be honest.
Personally, I wouldn’t care if my food was put in front of someone else – as long as they didn’t touch it. But I also know some people may feel very differently about that.
Funnily enough, I remember looking down at it and thinking ‘I’m not going to like this’. I could tell just by looking at it. And yet, I heard all the people who have ever harped at me about my food choices yelling in my head that I should at least try it. So, I did. But clearly I should’ve just sent it back the moment I saw it.
Luckily, the fries were cheap. And even better, Laura had ordered “a fresh cup of strawberries” off the appetizer menu. This turned out to be a very large sundae… with some strawberries at the bottom of the dish. She ate the strawberries and let me have the ice cream.
This was by far the weirdest meal experience I had abroad.
Interested in knowing more about traveling to Bavaria and Neuschwanstein castle? Check out my travel guide!
Coming Up Next:
In How To Survive Traveling Abroad As A Picky Eater – Part 2: I’ll cover general tips on traveling as a picky eater – the types of places/foods I ate in desperate times, foods that you can find at most places, and tips for surviving day trips with limited options.
In Part 3: I’ll be covering living in a new country and finding new things to eat on a daily basis and grocery shopping in England.
A quick disclaimer – I am not vegetarian, vegan, or allergic to gluten. I’m a super-taster, which is obviously very different. I understand there are people who have even more limited palates than me and for completely different reasons – whether it’s a a health condition or a lifestyle choice. Even though that’s not why my palate is limited, the tips in this series can still apply and help you while abroad. Although my specific “go-to” foods may not align with a vegan or gluten-free palate, the basic concepts behind my tips can easily be applied to someone who doesn’t eat meat, gluten, etc.